The Route Stuff
Grab your paddle and head for the St. Regis Canoe Area in Adirondack Park, N.Y.
By Larry Rice
Mention New York and most people think of the city, with urban sprawl, gridlock traffic, and chronic pollution. But far from Manhattan’s concrete canyons lies some of the best backcountry in the East: upstate New York’s Adirondack Lake Country.
Surrounded by the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, a unique mosaic of public and private land, the area consists of mountains to 5,344 feet (Mount Marcy, the highest point in the state), mixed forests, bare mountaintops and rock outcrops, and a maze of interconnected scenic lakes and rushing streams. This diverse water network makes the region a great choice for a Scouting canoe trip.
There are many favorite canoe routes here, but one standout is in the 18,400-acre St. Regis Canoe Area, the largest wilderness canoe area in the northeast United States. Located in the north-central part of the park, no motorized vehicles of any type are allowed on the area’s 58 ponds.
The most convenient way to sample St. Regis is via Long Pond, attainable by a pathetically easy quarter-mile portage from the trailhead. With eight miles of sinuous shoreline, Long Pond’s 338 acres provide privacy and a slew of tempting campsites that users can nab on a “first-come” basis. Two campsites worth mentioning lie on jutting points of land at the lake’s southeastern end. Breezes help keep down early summer’s bugs and there’s knock-dead views of Long Pond Mountain.
Canoeing routes extend in every direction from Long Pond, giving you trip options of a few days to more than a week. My personal favorite is the “Nine Carries Route.” With nine or 10 demanding portages, or “carries,” this 13-mile, one-way tour (which can also be done as a 20-mile loop) weaves through the heart of the St. Regis Canoe Area. Allow two to five days to make the journey.
Or, to keep things simple, you may just want to hang out at Long Pond and get in a good workout from there. A great trek for a layover day is to hike the trail up 2,530-foot-high Long Pond Mountain, a three- to four-hour round trip that can only be reached by water. The bald summit makes for excellent panoramic views of the wilderness area and the Adirondack High Peaks.
However, if Nine Carries and climbing a mountain seem like too much effort (after all, you are on vacation!), consider a less-strenuous activity—like casting a line. Fishing is good for lake and brook trout in May, June, and September; smallmouth bass are plentiful in summer. The lakes are fed by springs, and their waters are of crystalline purity and are all exceedingly cold.
No matter what you do, keep your eyes peeled for furry creatures in the brush. Because what you see might not be your canoeing buds. The woodlands shelter black bears, deer, and moose, while closer to the water are river otters, beavers, loons, and bald eagles.
Access: In southern Franklin County, N.Y., about 18 miles northeast of Tupper Lake and southwest of Paul Smiths, N.Y.
Contact/Permits: St. Regis Area and Upper Saranac Lake Forest Ranger, 518-327-3132; firstname.lastname@example.org. Parties larger than eight must split into separate groups, which requires a permit.
Outfitter services, maps, canoe/kayak rentals, trip planning: St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, 518-891-1838 or 888-775-2925, www.canoeoutfitters.com.
Local Lore: Here’s a piece of Adirondack Park trivia to stump your know-it-all canoeing friends: What’s the source of the mighty Hudson River that empties into New York Harbor? Answer: A small, gleaming body of water known as Lake Tear of the Clouds on Mount Marcy.