Thursday, August 29, 2013

Paddling Lower Saranac Lake: 08/17/2013

View from Bluff Island in Lower Saranac Lake.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
Looking across Lower Saranac Lake at Mount Baker and McKenzie Mountain

Without even realizing it, we made the decision to paddle Lower Saranac Lake while we were standing on the summit of Mount Baker earlier in the week. From the summit overlook it’s not necessarily the nearest or even the most prominent body of water, but its appeal for paddling is immediately obvious: numerous islands, miles of undeveloped shoreline, and easy access.

Plus, I’ve got some personal history with the Saranacs. My earliest introduction to the Adirondacks was as a camper (and then counselor) at a Boy Scout camp near Upper Saranac Lake. Canoe trips were a big part of the program, and for 10 summers straight I paddled the Saranacs, the Raquette River and the Saint Regis / Floodwood area on canoe trips up to a week long. So these waters are in my blood, so to speak.

Second Pond boat launch. The Penobscot was a nice family boat!

Daniel taking a fishing break on Bluff Island

Looking west from Bluff Island

Heron on First Pond.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
We haven’t done tons of family paddling, and Lower Saranac is well suited for families and beginners. We rented a 17-foot Old Towne Penobscot at Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake, car-topped it over to the DEC’s Second Pond boat launch, and were in the water minutes later. Paddling options aren’t limited to just families or beginners though, trips can range from an hour or two up to a week or more. We paddled for about 4 hours, out into Lower Saranac and around quite a few islands, stopping for 30 or 40 minutes on Bluff Island (we had it to ourselves), then back beyond the boat launch a mile or two towards the lower locks (interesting history of the locks here) before returning to our car. 4 hours seems about the right amount of time with kids the ages or ours (5 and 9).

Sylvie swimming at Bluff Island

View of the western High Peaks from Second Pond

The Saranac River, above the lower locks

Our trip had something of an exploratory purpose to it: we’d like to return for a family canoe camping trip, perhaps adding in a hike up another one of the Saranac 6ers - Ampersand Mountain (the trailhead is accessible by canoe). Between Lower and Middle Saranac Lakes there are nearly 100 island campsites. We won’t tell you exactly which ones we’ve got our eyes on, they all look pretty sweet.

Note: The Second Pond boat launch facility is expected to close for renovations this Fall. Check with the DEC or local outfitters for dates and details, including alternative launch sites, during the closure.

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