Memories of Tug Hill

Kansans aren’t accustomed to 12- to 18-inch snowfalls!
Although I grew up in northern New York State, where heavy snowfalls and lake-effect snow are the norm, I’ve been a Kansan for most of my adult life. And one big plus for Kansas is the mild winters.
During the recent unusual snowstorms, I’ve been thinking back to how it was living at the foot of Tug Hill.
There was the beauty of the snow and days off from school. But on the other hand, there was the wind whipping snow around my father as he shovelled a path to the barn to care for our animals.
Our farm was on Route 12–the main highway to Canada. So our road always was the first to be plowed. But there were other problems.
There was a little rise on the highway just before our house, so we often had unexpected overnight guests. And we had to let them stay. No choice!
One memorable time, we had 10 people for three days. They slept in our beds and couches, ate our winter supply of food, sat in the best chairs around our potbellied stove–and never paid a cent!
My mother’s worst nightmare was what if the Greyhound bus would get stranded? Fortunately, that never happened.
So I grew up knowing about Tug Hill. I knew that the plateau was “pretty large” and “pretty tall,” and had lots and lots of snow. But I rarely travelled its roads.
One bit of lore I remember is that a driver of a very large truck lost his brakes at the top of the Hill and had to honk his way down for miles as he went faster and faster.
His truck finally stopped as he turned the corner into the Lowville village square, and legend has it that “he was as white as a sheet” when he finally got out of the truck!
What I didn’t know as a girl was that Tug Hill Plateau spanned four counties, covered 150,000 acres, and had an elevation of more than 2,000 feet at its highest point.
Located west of the Adirondack Mountains and east of Lake Ontario, Tug Hill is most famous for its snow and sports some impressive records. The record snowfall for a single day is 77 inches (six feet, five inches). And the record for a year is 466.9 inches (almost 39 feet) in the winter of 1976-77.
Some lodges on Tug Hill have second-storey outside doors just on top of the main door to provide access when the snow gets too deep.
All this snow makes the area a popular winter playground. But Tug Hill has much more to offer than snow.
Much of the plateau is controlled by New York State and is heavily-forested. Its forests are a haven for wildlife, including deer, bobcats, beavers, turkeys, and black bears. And its clear streams are home to Atlantic salmon, trout, and other prize fish.
But most important of all about Tug Hill is its beauty.
The Lewis County chamber says that, “The scenery from atop Tug Hill can create a memory to last a lifetime.”
So this winter, if you are one of the millions of people experiencing deep snows reminiscent of Tug Hill, savour the experience and enjoy the beauty.
Write Marie Snider at

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