Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Paddling the Floodwood - Rollins loop: 08/01/2015
Before I was a hiker or a skier or a climber, I was a paddler. Granted, the term “paddler” may be overselling things a bit, but nonetheless my first introduction to the Adirondacks came as a kid at Scout camp, where paddling the lakes and ponds near Upper Saranac Lake on mulit-day canoe trips was an integral part of the program. I paddled those waters for 5 years as a camper, 5 more years on the camp staff, and have returned many times as an adult. In a way, those waters represent my Adirondack roots.
Located in the heart of the Saranac watershed, Rollins Pond is a paddler’s paradise. Hardly a “pond” at all (it’s more than 400 acres), Rollins connects to Floodwood Pond, Fish Creek, Upper Saranac Lake and beyond. Although motorboats of up to 25hp are allowed on Rollins and Floodwood, traffic is generally very light. Short portages open up trips through the adjacent motor-free Saint Regis Canoe Area.
We used the popular state campground at Rollins as our base last weekend and paddled the Floodwood – Rollins loop, one of several loop trips that are possible in the area. At approximately 7.5 miles, it’s a perfect half day paddle, allowing plenty of time for exploring and relaxing back at our campsite.
Rollins Pond is the largest body of water on the loop, and it’s where you’ll have the greatest chance of encountering wind and waves. We lucked out with a relatively light wind at our backs, but I remember plenty of times as a kid when just getting across Rollins was a significant challenge. The water flattens out behind the protection of a small island or two in the far northeastern corner, where a small stream leads to Floodwood Pond.
Floodwood’s a large pond too, but its orientation seems prevent it from getting too choppy. Floodwood empties into Fish Creek at its eastern end, a shallow and winding course that our kids loved. All of nature is close at hand, and every turn brings a new scene.
Fish Creek opens into Little Square Pond and continues on towards Upper Saranac, but we turned into Copperas Pond, a tiny gem hidden away from the main route. At the far end of Copperas a 0.3 mile portage leads to Whey Pond. No Adirondack paddling experience is complete without at least a short portage, and we enjoyed our 15 minutes of misery on the Whey Pond carry. Of course the kids thought it was great fun skipping down the trail with the paddles and preservers, laughing at Beth and me struggling with the (very heavy) canoe.
Whey Pond may have been our favorite pond on the loop. Isolated from other waterways, Whey sees minimal traffic. A pair of loons dove and surfaced at the far end. A very short carry from Whey Pond back to Rollins completed our loop.
Using Rollins as our base allowed us to camp without carrying our gear in the canoe. Loons called to us all night. We counted nine of them as we paddled the smooth-as-glass water the next morning. Here are a bunch of shots from Sunday morning, all taken on Rollins Pond:
If you go: make reservations at the Rollins Pond campground here. Almost every site is on the water. Keep in mind that weekends are often sold out in advance. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the campground boat launch. Next time we’ll canoe with our camping gear and use one of the many free campsites throughout the area, renting a canoe from Saint Regis Outfitters (located directly on Floodwood Pond) or Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters back in Saranac Lake. There are a number of guidebooks available, but my favorite remains the classic Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow by Paul Jamieson, sadly now out of print.