Paddling gem worth the wait

The High Peaks dominate the view from Boreas Ponds on Monday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

NEWCOMB – Boreas Ponds was long sought after due to its remote location, largely untouched shoreline and stunning views of the High Peaks. But even after the state bought the 20,000-acre tract in 2016, it remained hard to reach.

However, that changed earlier this month as the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced it had (mostly) completed work on the Gulf Brook Road, allowing access into the heart of the property, which is now part of the High Peaks and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.

While the road has been open on weekends, it was in rough shape. Now, however, the gravel road is easily traveled and leads to a new cartop boat launch at LaBier Flow and a parking area at the Four Corners.

I unloaded my kayak and camera at the new put-in and parked at the Four Corners, determined to ply the waters of Boreas Ponds – so named because it used to be a couple of separate ponds which are now one big body of water since it was dammed by a logging company that used to own the tract.

The put-in at LaBier Flow – another impoundment on the Boreas River – has a crushed gravel path with a wooden handrail that leads to the water.

Sliding into the water, the shallow pond’s surface is choked with lily pads, creating an instance where it felt like paddling through them was a form of aquatic bushwhacking. With no obvious channel, paddlers can head generally east for about two-tenths of a mile before bearing north toward an unmarked take out near the end of LaBier Flow.

The take-out is another new gravel path, though with no classic white “canoe carry” sign, it’s hard to spot. On a bright and sunny day, I picked it out because the gray of the gravel stood in contrast to the brown and green of the shoreline. However, early in the morning or on a wet day it may be hard to spot.

This take-out leads up to the Boreas Road, which starts where the Four Corners parking lot is. Paddlers can choose to walk a mile from the Four Corners along the road, but if you’re out to paddle, then cut off a half-mile of walking by taking the LaBier Flow route.

After taking out at the end of the Flow, a long canoe carry begins. It’s almost exactly a half-mile, but on the relatively flat road it’s not bad. At the 0.97-mile mark, another new parking area is reached, but it’s not open for the public just yet. That second lot will be open for parking by permits obtained through Reserve America, with two spots reserved for disabled people.

After carrying through the parking area, bear right and walk about 0.1 miles to the dam at Boreas Pond, with the put-in on the left just before the bridge.

Even before you get out on the water, you’ll see why Boreas was so sought after by The Nature Conservancy, the state and local leaders and environmental groups. The rocky sides of Gothics are clear as day from the bridge, but that’s just a taste of what is to come.

Boreas Ponds is another shallow body of water, so people with delicate boats should be careful as there are submerged stumps and logs in some areas of the pond. I opted to paddle up the east shore of the pond, and even with a stiff breeze in my face, it was one of the nicest bodies of water I’ve ever been on.

Dotted with islands and ringed by wetlands, Boreas offers a sense of solitude few Adirondack waterbodies can. Moving north, I passed between islands and the shore, saw an adult loon showing a juvenile how to fish, and kept my eyes peeled for a moose (didn’t see one, though it’s hard to believe they’re not frequent visitors). And of course, views of Mount Marcy, Gothics and Haystack, along with the changing leaves, made it hard to put the camera down.

Going through a narrow channel at the 2.75-mile mark of the trip, I entered the upper part of the pond. Again, the views are hard to match, and a series of bog islands makes for interesting paddling and bird watching. A circumnavigation of the upper pond totaled just over a half-mile, and soon I was heading south along the western shore.

Reaching the dam, I chatted with a couple of women who had ridden their bikes from the start of Gulf Brook Road, and another couple who had walked in from the Four Corners. There were horse prints in the dirt and about a dozen other paddlers enjoying the increased access.

I carried my kayak back to LaBier Flow, earning a couple of bruises on my shoulder, and paddled through the field of lily pads back to where I started. After bringing the boat up to the Four Corners lot, I walked about 100 yards toward Boreas Ponds on the Boreas Road to check out the old log cabin. The DEC obviously doesn’t want anyone to go into the cabin, but just checking out the construction from the outside was well worth the two minute walk.

While not the most expansive paddling destination within the Blue Line, Boreas Ponds and LaBier Flow are perhaps the “newest” of Adirondack flat-water opportunities. And since access is now easier, there’s no good reason not to get out and explore this gem.