Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canoe camping, Follensby Clear Pond: 06/26/2016

Canoe camping on Follensby Clear Pond, 06/26/2016.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

At 12 and 8, our kids are the perfect age for camping. After some island camping at Lake George last weekend, we headed north to one of my favorite parts of the Adirondacks for some canoe camping this weekend.

We started our paddling adventure on Floodwood Pond, adjacent to the Saint Regis Canoe Area. We paddled some of these same waters last year while camped at Rollins Pond, but in an aluminum (read "heavy") canoe. This year we splurged on two ultra lightweight kevlar beauties that we rented from Saint Regis Canoe Outfitters.

Light enough for 8-year-old Sylvie to lift

From Floodwood Pond there are any number of excellent paddling destinations, but I had my eye on Follensby Clear Pond, where I've camped many times before. Follensby's a reasonably short paddle from Floodwood, there are plenty of campsites, and the entire route can be paddled without any mandatory portages. It's also a scenic and interesting paddle, alternating between large ponds and small creeks.

Beth and Daniel setting out from Floodwood Pond

Rounding Floodwood Pond's island

Fish Creek

Wild blue flag irises

Water lilies

Fish Creek

"Shortcut" to Follensby

If there's a drawback to the route through Fish Creek and Square Pond to Follensby, it's passing through the huge Fish Creek campground on Square Pond. The motorboats and development are a contrast to the quiet wilderness of the rest of the route. As a kid at Scout camp years ago, I remember the campground as a highlight of many canoe trips - we'd always stop at Donaldson's Trading Post for candy, ice cream and soda - but this time the boat traffic and camping trailers seemed a bit of a buzz kill. No matter, in short order we were paddling up Spider Creek and on into Follensby's quiet waters.


Setting up camp

Great spot for swimming

Being a Sunday night, we scored a primo campsite on one of Follensby's islands. Loons paddled by just a few feet off shore, diving every time I reached for my camera. The kids gathered firewood and explored the island's sandy shore while Beth and I set up camp.

One of the luxuries of camping almost on the summer solstice is the late sunset. We lit a campfire and hung out while the sky slowly turned gold, gray and pink. The loons called out almost continuously from all around us. It finally got dark around 10pm.

Chef Daniel

Packed up and ready to go

It's not a real canoe trip without a little rain, and we got some the next morning. Luckily the rain never amounted to more than an occasional light shower, and the day stayed mostly dry for our return paddle to Floodwood. For the return trip we decided to bypass the campground by portaging from Follensby directly into Fish Creek. It's a short carry (less than a quarter mile), and even with all of our gear it went quickly and smoothly. The lightweight canoes were a joy to carry compared to the heavy aluminum boats we lugged through the woods when I was a kid. In fact, our kevlar canoes tipped the scale at exactly half the weight of the aluminum boat we rented last year. Worth every penny.

Guess who carried both boats

View from the business end of a portage

Cool pitcher plants at the portage put-in on Fish Creek

We were treated up-close views of more loons as we paddled Fish Creek back to Floodwood Pond, including two nesting pairs. It sure seems like loons are more numerous now than 20 or 30 years ago. Even if the common loon is becoming common in the Adirondacks, we get excited every time we see one. We must have seen two dozen on this trip.

Back in Fish Creek, almost to Floodwood Pond

I'll call the weekend a big success. The paddling, the portage and some rain Monday added a little bit of challenge to the trip, but we were rewarded with beautiful scenery, loons, and our own island on a quiet lake. That's a deal I'll take.


  1. Pretty extensive report, well played Jeff!

  2. Wow! I was in the same place doing the same thing last weekend. We did the little loop that encompasses Fish Creek Pond, Square Pond, and Follensby Clear pond, too, on Saturday morning. Saw the same nesting loons (and yes, I agree they are getting more numerous).

    Then we had enough paddling and used the powerboat for the rest of Saturday and I played golf on Sunday. I can't be in nature for too long, apparently. Nice report!

  3. @ Matt - it would have been cool to run into you on the route!

    @ ML - I lack the discipline to edit my photos down to a half dozen ;)