These small plates of metal are called survey markers, or benchmarks, and they are put in place by surveyors to mark important points on the Earth’s surface.
A mountain summit is a great location to place a marker as it allows a surveyor to have a panoramic view of the land around them and thus serves as a great reference point. You can learn a lot about where you are by spending a few minutes examining these small disks. Common information found on survey markers includes the name of the place, who installed the marker, when it was installed, and the elevation. These markers once played an important role locally and nationally, as they laid the groundwork for creating accurate maps we depend upon today.
In the Adirondacks, many of the first survey markers were installed by Verplanck Colvin (1847-1920), the namesake of Mount Colvin, and his surveying assistant Mills Blake, namesake of Mount Colvin’s neighboring peak, Blake. Born in Albany, Colvin spent many summers traveling north to explore and map the Adirondacks.
During his travels, Colvin witnessed many of the threats facing the region. His love for the land and appreciation that the Adirondacks could be destroyed without protection led him to become an early advocate for the Adirondack Park. He lobbied for the funds to survey the region.
Those surveys he made some of the first elevation measurements of many of the Adirondack High Peaks, and also helped to determine the boundaries of land owned by New York State, which laid the foundation for the delineation of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, the basis of the Adirondack Park.
This Conservation Minute was written by Carolyn Koestner, the Lake Placid Land Conservany’s PLC’s Strategic Conservation Planner and GIS professional. For more information on the Conservancy’s conservation efforts, visit their website.
Photos, from above: Catamount Survey Marker; and one of Colvin’s original markers.