It was the spring of 1854 when a young 23-year-old Jim Wardner and his brother Seth, set out from Keesville for an extended hunting trip and exploration into the Adirondack Mountains. Accompanied by a dear friend Alonzo Rand, the three traveled by horse and wagon, across the Old Military Road to the town of Black Brook and from there to Bloomingdale. Spurred on by tales from others of the abundance of game and stories from the Abenaka Indians of a beautiful lake called “Arcenciel”, where fish were so plentiful that “they would jump into your canoe”. Stories at Armand’s Tavern in Bloomingdale told of a young man named ‘Osgood who had built a cabin on a pond to the Northwest following the war of 1812 but abandoned it when he found the soil was too poor to grow a crop. This seemed like a good place to start and following a two day journey (there was no road across the swamp from Gabriels to Bloomingdale) the cabin was located on the shore of a small pond which they named Osgood Pond after the cabin’s long lost builder. Using this as their home the three hunted with great success, fulfilling a contract they had taken to provide sides of venison to the Army. The soil however was as described and too poor for farming, and Jim Wardner had dreamed of farming, just as his family did back in Keeseville. Jim was convinced that if he could locate a stand of hardwood, he would find good soil nearby.

Following the brook which flowed out of Osgood pond, Jim came to a ‘tamarack swamp’ bordered by a thin strip of high ground, which extended southeast for miles. Jim recognized this as a ‘glacial moraine’ or ‘Esker’ left as the ice age glacier retreated. On the far side of the swamp was a rise with a beautiful stand of virgin hardwood and on inspection, he found the soil was rich with eons of leaf mold and a perfect mixture of sand to afford excellent drainage. Between the rise and the esker ran the ‘Osgood Brook’ fed as it ran south by adjoining streams and springs. The picture was there, almost from the moment he saw the spot. In his mind, Jim could see his homestead high on the rise where the hardwoods stood and he knew that if he followed the brook, he would find the perfect place to build a dam and flood the tamarack swamp, bringing the water closer to his new home.

It was many months before he and his companions would canoe down the brook that wound and twisted to the south as they did one warm fall day. They found the brook emptied into a beautiful lake with a solitary island rising from the end. The lake was teeming with fish and a small shiner on a hook and string netted them a 30” lake trout in just minutes, more than enough for supper for the three. At the far end, the land rose on both sides with a small outlet, the perfect place for Jim’s dam. The boys had found the Abenaka’s ‘Arcenciel’, (Bow in the Sky) and from that moment on, it became Rainbow Lake. Climbing the esker to get a better view of the lake they were amazed to find another body of water on the other side. This water was crystal clear and the bottom could be seen many feet down. They called this ‘Clear Pond” which retained it’s clarity because it was almost entirely fed by underwater springs and not compromised by the inflow of streams and brooks bearing plant life which deteriorate and remain suspended in soft Adirondack water like ‘Tea’.

Years passed before the dam was built but when it was, water covered the tamarack swamp and the prominent point which once formed the beginning of the lake, was partially covered and created a new island closer to the center of the now expanded lake. Much of the newly flooded area was covered with trees and after the water level had stabilized in the late fall, the boards which formed the dam were removed and the water dropped to it’s original level, leaving a high water mark on each of the trees. After the winter froze the swamp and brook areas, Jim brought teams of men and horses out on the frozen lakebed and cut each of the trees, well below the watermark. The trunks were left to float up when the lake was refilled and be pulled out in the summer, the stumps remained to rot beneath the water. Rainbow had achieved its final size, the one we know today. Although the level is now controlled by the Kushaqua Dam, it remains close to where Jim originally set it. The stumps? After 150 years many are still there, actually preserved by the very waters intended to cause them to rot. This is an excellent reason for slowing down as you go through close areas in your powerboat. Stumps and propellers are natural enemies and the stump always wins.

Submitted by Bill Richards