The state is opening up portions of two recently acquired former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands in the central Adirondacks to paddling, hiking and fishing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press release Wednesday that the public will be able to access 7,200 acres, including portions of the Hudson and Cedar rivers, for recreation via a pair of parking areas that have been established. The state recently bought the lands from The Nature Conservancy, which had bought them from Finch, Pruyn in 2007.
"I encourage everyone to come explore the many outdoor recreational activities that this breathtaking area has to offer," Cuomo said in the release.
The release said the 7,200 acres would be open starting Wednesday, but state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell told the Enterprise that the gates to the parking areas won't actually be opened until mid-day Friday.
"It will be available this weekend," Winchell said.
The first parking area is located in the Essex Chain of Lakes tract, roughly 0.9 miles west of where an iron bridge crosses the Hudson. It's accessed by taking the Goodnow Road, off Route 28N in Newcomb, about 5.5 miles south to the southeast corner of Goodnow Flow. From there, motorists can turn left onto an access road and drive another 2 miles to the parking area. DEC recommends only high-clearance pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles use the road at this time.
Paddlers will need to carry their canoes and kayaks between the parking area and the landing on the river. Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on a kiosk at the parking area.
Another parking area is located in the Indian River tract, at the end of the Chain Lakes Road, about 3 miles north of Route 28 in Indian Lake. The public will have to walk the final eight-tenths of a mile from the gate at the parking area to the landing above the confluence of the Hudson and Indian rivers. Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on a kiosk at the parking area.
The two access points will let paddlers travel nearly 12 miles on the Hudson River from the town of Newcomb's boat launch on Harris Lake to the takeout just above the confluence with the Indian River, upstream from the Hudson River Gorge. Some sections of the Hudson in this area contain rapids and shallow, rocky areas. When water levels are high, DEC said some of the rapids may rate as high as Class 3. During low water conditions, a considerable amount of portaging and dragging of kayaks and canoes will be required, especially in the lower portion of the river.
The state said less adventurous paddlers can take advantage of a long stretch of flatwater above and below 28N, as well as the Blackwell Stillwater section above and below the iron bridge landing, which also provides access to the lower Goodnow River. Inexperienced paddlers are advised to carry around all rapids or hire a licensed guide to lead their trips.
DEC says the flatwater sections also provide for good fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, northern pike and panfish. In the stretch just south of Route 28N, anglers may find walleye and an occasional largemouth bass. The Hudson River between the Cedar River and the Indian River also contains brown and rainbow trout.
In addition to providing a takeout on the Hudson, DEC says the second parking area at the end of the Chain Lakes Road also will provide public access to the Cedar River, Pine Lake, Mud Pond, Clear Pond, Corner Pond and surrounding lands. It's a roughly 3.5-mile walk from the parking area along a roadway to a landing on the Cedar River.
DEC says paddlers will be able to access the flatwater section of the Cedar River above and below the landing, although that would mean they'd have to haul their canoes and kayaks 3.5 miles. The department says rapids above and below the flatwater section and the lack of carries prevents paddlers from getting to the upper reaches of the Cedar River and the Hudson River from the landing.
Anglers will be able fish the Cedar River for brook and brown trout. Anglers can also fish for native lake trout and stocked rainbow trout on Clear Pond or stocked brook trout and panfish on Pine Lake, DEC said. Floatplanes that were previously restricted to landing only on the western portion of Pine Lake can now land anywhere on the lake.
Access to the 7,200 acres is temporary, part of an interim public access plan DEC has crafted. Large portions of the Essex Chain of Lakes tract are still off limits because they're under exclusive lease to a pair of hunting clubs until Oct. 1. By that time, it's expected that the state Adirondack Park Agency will have finished classifying 47,000 acres of state land in the area, including the first group of Finch lands acquired by the state. A series of public hearings are being held on the classification alternatives; the first took place Wednesday night at the APA headquarters in Ray Brook.
DEC says the temporary public access it's providing to the lands is in areas that have been cleared and where infrastructure is already in place. Recreation users will need to follow existing paths to carry around rapids when traveling down the Hudson River. Camping is allowed, but not within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or other body of water.
Marked trails, camping sites and portages will be designated and constructed once the DEC, in consultation with the APA, completes a stewardship plan later this summer. The stewardship plan will identify the location for a new trail for the public to safely access OK Slip Falls, designated camping sites along the Hudson and Cedar rivers, and the official locations of portages around challenging stretches of the Hudson River.
DEC's interim access plan, including a map that shows the lands that will open to the public this weekend, is posted online at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/91875.html.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.