Franklin County has a canoe vacation tradition that leaves a life-long impression. Teddy Roosevelt as a young boy of 14 had his first introduction to a true wilderness while vacationing with his parents at Paul Smiths. Setting out by canoe, he spent three days with an Adirondack guide canoeing and camping in the world famous St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area. That same experience awaits today's canoeist.
Franklin County's interconnected waterways allow for canoe trips ranging from a day to two weeks. Visitors can canoe the St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area, the only specially designated canoe management area in New York state. This special area is made up of a series of unique ponds ranging in color from jet black to Caribbean blue connected by portages (sections of land between waterways where you carry boat and equipment).
The classic is the "seven carries route," a nine-mile trek from Little Clear Pond to Paul Smiths. A loop around the St. Regis Lakes offers the opportunity to view several Adirondack Great Camps.
Other canoe trips include the Raquette River to Tupper Lake route. This 18-mile leisurely winding paddle meanders between sandy wooded banks and affords quality time for bird watching and fishing. In addition, visitors can canoe the Saranac Lakes Chain consisting of Upper Saranac, Middle Saranac and Lower Saranac lakes. Lower Saranac Lake is dotted with islands available for camping and operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Middle Saranac Lake is known for its great south shore beach. Upper Saranac Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the area, also has some excellent examples of Adirondack Great Camp architecture. In fact, paddling the waters is the best way to view these truly unique architectural marvels.
Local Adirondack guides and outfitters are a tradition dating back to Thomas Jefferson's time. Guides can supply you with the latest canoes, equipment, food, itineraries, livery service and most importantly a safe and pleasurable trip. Steeped in knowledge of the Adirondack landscape, its waterways, flora and fauna, the guides know the backcountry better than anyone. Calling upon the services of a guide for your canoe or kayak outing could be the best decision you make when planning your trip.
Saranac Lakes Chain
This nearly continuous waterway - from the top of Upper Saranac Lake to the boat launch site on Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake - traverses a series of beautiful lakes, several narrow channels, two locks, and historic Bartlett's Carry. Great mountain views from around the region can be enjoyed from all the lakes; for a birds-eye view of the lakes, climb Ampersand Mountain. The trailhead is located on state Route 3.
There are several lean-tos and many campsites along the shores and on islands. A fee is charged for camping on Lower and Middle Saranac lakes; reservations are suggested due to their popularity. Call (800) 456-CAMP for the state campsite reservation system.
St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area
Home to several historic routes and some truly remote backcountry lakes. The classic "Seven Carries Route" is a 9-mile trek with mostly short carries that traverses 10 lakes and ponds.
The longer "Nine Carries Route" visits at least nine ponds and includes several long, demanding carries. Bring strong backs and lightweight canoes. Both of these trips can be extended or connected to any number of other routes. The traverse from Long Pond to Hoel Pond visits four ponds and has two carries.
Headwaters of the Saranac
More than 37 lakes and ponds make up the actual headwaters of the Saranac River. This is a pond-hoppers paradise where most of the carries are short and loops can be done as an unencumbered day trip. Trips start from Follensby Clear, Floodwood and Fish Creek ponds. Extend the routes by including the St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area to the north and the Saranac Lakes Chain to the east.
The Saranac River is a very pleasant downstream float in any season. Starting from below the dam, in town (ask for directions), the river flows through the village of Saranac Lake; mild rapids are encountered as you pass beneath the final two bridges.
To avoid the rapids, start your trip at the Pine Street bridge, on the northeast side of town. The river winds gently through a picturesque valley with mountain views and few signs of settlement in spite of its close proximity to Route 3.
End your trip at the Moose Pond Road bridge, or continue for another 1.5 miles to a spot where the river winds close to the road. Below this point you'll become involved in Permanent Rapids, rated class II-III, which empties into Franklin Falls Pond.
(Information courtesy of Franklin County Tourism, (518) 481-1704, on the Web at www.adirondacklakes.org.)