SARANAC LAKE — A new guide to flatwater paddling in the Adirondack Park offers canoeists and kayakers a diverse selection of adventures, from remote, winding streams to broad lakes reflecting spectacular mountain vistas.
“Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures” will be available early this month from Lost Pond Press and the Adirondack Mountain Club. It describes day trips and multiday backcountry camping excursions for paddlers of all abilities, from beginners to seasoned explorers. It was written by Phil Brown, editor of the Adirondack Explorer news magazine and avid canoeist, hiker and rock climber.
“We asked Phil to do this book because we felt there was a need for a guide to the best paddling opportunities from every corner of the Adirondack Park,” said Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “We also wanted to update Paul Jamieson’s wonderful classic, ‘Adirondack Canoe Waters.’ Jamieson’s book had more of a river-running emphasis, though; we wanted a purely flatwater guide.”
In the years since Jamieson’s guide book was last updated in 1988, many new canoeing areas and new waterway access points have been added to the 2.6-million-acre state-owned Forest Preserve within the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, through acquisitions of large tracts from timber companies and other private landowners.
“There’s been a big increase in paddling in the Adirondack Park over the last decade,” Woodworth said. “I attribute that partly to people from the Baby Boom generation shifting from backpacking to canoe camping. Also, in terms of day paddling, we’ve seen kayaking skyrocket.”
Dave Cilley, who runs St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake, said he’s seen a trend over the years of more people paddling but taking shorter trips, although that’s starting to swing back as more young people and overseas visitors take canoe trips in the Adirondacks.
“It’s been a very exciting time to be in the paddlesports business in the Adirondacks, with all the land acquisitions by the state,” Cilley said. The opening of new areas like Little Tupper Lake, Lake Lila, the Bog River and Hitchens Pond has really spread the use out.
Cilley’s “Adirondack Paddler’s Map,” a waterproof map that’s become the mainstay of paddling in the region, was updated with a fifth edition this spring, and his new map, covering southern and western Adirondack waterways, came out in June.
“This area is unique because you can take a round trip through a series of lakes and camp on a different one every night,” said Gary Ungar of Dumont, N.J., as he hefted a backpack from an aluminum canoe on the shore of Floodwood Pond in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest on a recent afternoon. Ungar, his wife Linda, three sons and two other men had just finished a seven-night canoe camping trip.
“I love the variety; you never know what’s around the next corner,” said Bruce Nelson of Albany, who was launching his 20-year-old homemade redwood canoe for a three-day camping trip in the 19,000-acre, 58-pond St. Regis Canoe Wilderness.
While Brown’s new guide includes a sampling of the St. Regis, it doesn’t focus on any one area or type of paddling, instead providing a sampler of the great variety of destinations within the Adirondack Park. For example:
Middle Branch of the Moose River in Old Forge, where you can buy a ticket for a scenic railroad train to return you and your kayak to your launch site after a leisurely six-mile downstream paddle through spruce-fir forest with some sandy beaches and rocky rapids along the way.
Little Tupper Lake, one of the jewels of the conservation legacy of former Gov. George Pataki, who preserved a million acres during his three terms in office. Little Tupper is a popular canoe area where all motors are banned. Numerous primitive campsites are secluded on its islands and wooded shores.
▶ Upper Hudson and Opalescent Rivers in the High Peaks region near Lake Placid, where you can paddle downriver on the infant Hudson from Henderson Lake, another recent state Forest Preserve acquisition, past an abandoned strip mine and stunning views of the mountains.