TUPPER LAKE NY – This year (2023) marks the 40th debut anniversary of the Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi.” The film introduced some of the series’ most famous and lovable characters: the short, furry, forest-dwelling Ewoks (at right). They were warriors who lived in tree houses, connected by walkways suspended high above the forest floor.
Those same kinds of structures, available to visit by the vacationing public, are found today near the Adirondack Mountain village of Tupper Lake NY. They’re part of The Wild Center, a non-profit organization officially known as the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks.
The Wild Center, its website notes, began as a dream of friends interested in determining how “people and nature can thrive together and offer an example for the world.” After years of planning and fund-raising, the museum opened to wide media acclaim in 2006.
Above the treetops
The center’s “Wild Walk” is where Star Wars fans begin making comparisons to the Ewoks.
Pedestrians can use what is described as “a trail of bridges” to reach “the treetops of the Adirondack forest.” They’ll discover a four-story wooden tree house (above). Adults and children alike can safely jump, climb, and play on a faux giant spider’s web (below).
A giant-sized bald eagle nest (above) is within reach, too.
Their purpose, creators acknowledge, is to have visitors experience the forest – and the natural world that surrounds them – from a different perspective.
Dozens of feet off the ground, guests can both see and get close to the treetops. They also can scan above and beyond, toward the majesty of the mountain-scape. That view is almost unimaginable for someone walking through the densely tree-trunked property below.
And the view is available to all. Families with strollers, those with disabilities, or who rely on a variety of mobility or other devices, have specifically designed access to the main structure and its platforms, according to the website.
Built on about 115 acres, the property features a boardwalk-like trail (at right) for self-guided exploration. It leads to a separate platform (below) overlooking the nearby Raquette River. River canoe trips are offered, led by New York state-licensed guides and Wild Center naturalists. There’s also a forest playground, called the “Pines Play Area,” where the center claims “children can connect to their inner Huck Finn.”
A science-based mission
Because it is a science-based organization, The Wild Center focuses in part on effects climate change is bringing to the Adirondacks, the nation, and the world. It produces multimedia materials, teacher toolkits, and other educational resources for high schools, colleges, and organizations who request them.
Additionally it hosts an Adirondack Youth Climate Summit every fall. This year’s edition is scheduled for Nov. 8 and 9 (Wednesday and Thursday), and is expected to involve more than 100 students from across Northern New York. Their goal: to develop a climate action plan for the communities in which they live.
The center provides exhibit halls for museum space, conferences and meetings, live shows, readings, and speaker-led topical forums.
It also encourages visitors to walk its unique Forest Music trail (watch the YouTube video above). Twenty-four separately mounted speakers project sound across the looping path, guiding walkers through the woods as they listen to animal and bird calls enhanced by musical compositions. The trail serves as a living sound garden.
Things to know if you go
The Wild Center is located at 45 Museum Dr., Tupper Lake NY. Getting there from Pottstown involves a 6-1/2-hour drive covering 384 miles. Travels With The Post last visited there in June 2021, during a trip that also included other destinations. It can be reached by car using Route 100; Interstates 78, 287, and 87; and New York route 28 and 30.
Through Oct. 9, The Wild Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning Oct. 10, its opening will be limited to only Fridays through Sundays. Winter weather varies in the Adirondacks, but it can at times be brutal. Wearing layers of clothing often makes good sense. The Champion Traveler website suggests ideal Adirondack weather for visits generally falls between May 21 and Sept. 9.
There’s plenty to see and do. Bring a picnic lunch and expect to spend a few hours.
Daily admission ticket prices are listed on The Wild Center website at $23 for adults (age 18 and older), $21 for seniors (age 65 and older) and members of the military, $13 for youths ages 5-17, and those age 4 and younger are admitted free. Tickets are non-refundable but in some cases can be re-scheduled. Safety measures to protect visitors from COVID-19 may be required.