Noah John Rondeau
“There isn’t a more bona fide hermit in the whole United States – including Sharktooth
Shoal – than Noah John Rondeau, who has occupied a hole in the woodpile way the hell
and gone back in the Adirondack wilderness for 33 years,” wrote New York Conservation
Department educator Clayt Seagers in a 1946 edition of Conservationist magazine.
Noah John made his first trip into Cold River in 1902 for the purpose of reconnoitering
the hunting and trapping, and for the next two decades made seasonal trips in the fall
and spring guiding hunters and fishermen. In 1929, he took up more or less permanent
residence in a scenic spot overlooking the Cold River Flow, a location about midway as
the crow flies between Lake Placid and Newcomb and surrounded by High Peaks like
Panther, Seward, and Santanoni. With materials salvaged from a long-abandoned Santa
Clara Lumber Company camp, he built two small huts just tall enough for him to navigate
with his five-foot, two-inch frame. One hut was named the Town Hall and the other the
According to his biographer Maitland DeSormo, Rondeau had a dim view of government:
big business, welfare, economic and political systems in general “infuriated” him. He had
a long-simmering dispute with the Conservation Department that began with a small
brush fire they accused him of starting in 1910. He refused to pay the nine dollar fine for
damages the state said he had caused. After that, forest rangers were on his case for a long list
of infractions, including guiding without a license, illegal venison, and camping and cutting
trees on the forest preserve. While Rondeau eventually befriended several forest rangers, he
still liked to demonstrate his prowess with a bow to High Peaks hikers by putting an arrow
through a diagram of a ranger’s hat. He would shrug it off with, “Too bad,” if he missed a little
low. A small sign on his Town Hall camp read, “NO GAME PROTECTORS ALLOWED.”
In 1947, the Conservation Department dropped Rondeau a note, asking him to appear at
a sportsmen’s show in New York City. The department’s idea was to use him to promote the
wild character of the region. Rondeau went along, appearing in a muskrat hat and buckskin
suit. He went on to do a series of shows, including one I witnessed firsthand in Amsterdam,
New York, later that year.
The Big Blowdown of November 25, 1950, affected over 400,000 acres of Adirondack
timber, and the state closed the woods for several years. Rondeau’s hermitage near Cold
River was hard hit, and he was unable to return. He found some menial work, which
included playing Santa Claus at an Adirondack Christmas theme park, but struggled
financially; according to his Wikipedia entry, he eventually went on welfare. His desire
when he died was to be buried back in his Cold River bailiwick, but instead he was
buried in August 1967 at the North Elba cemetery, within a stone’s throw of a group of his
favorite white pines. It marked the end of an era for the Adirondacks.
Don Wharton has written three books and numerous articles on the Adirondacks. He spent many years hunting in French
Louie’s and Foxy Brown’s territories.
Noah John Rondeau’s rustic teepees served as a shelter, and an easily accessible source of firewood in the winter.
Inset: The State of New York used this staged photo of Rondeau to market the wild character of the Adirondacks.