Paddling Upper St. Regis Lake

The Adirondacks are steeped in history. And the best place to visualize historic “great camps” is right close by on Upper St Regis Lake.

Idem Sailboat on Upper St. Regis Lake (Photo by Bob Brand)

Editor's note

Bob Brand is a neighbor of the Lake Clear Lodge. He's enthusiastic about the multitude of outdoor opportunities available in the Lake Clear area. Bob wants to enlighten potential visitors to the hiking, paddling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing day trips that are easily accessed from here.

It is great fun to paddle around the lake and drool over these incredible examples of classic rustic luxury estates. Many camps have cute, tiny guest cabins, each with its own fireplace, hanging over the lake shore. You can peek into the large boat houses and see wooden guide boats and old varnished wood inboard power boats. “Idem” class sailboats sit on their moorings. These long, sleek, gaff rigged beauties are only found on Upper St Regis. One sunny weekend day we were paddling around the lake showing the sights to friends when we spotted one of the Idems heading out for a sail. Then there was another and another. Turns out everyone was heading out for one of the scheduled weekend races so we pulled over next to an island and watched the whole fleet sail close by. Pretty cool! Thank heaven for digital cameras. A few years later I had the opportunity to crew on an Idem in a race - incredibly cool!

Another memorable time we paddled past the several boathouses of Camp Topridge at the far northwestern end of the lake (once owned by Margaret Maryweather Post of Post cereals fame) and there were probably 20 wooden canoes and guide boats on saw horses spread out along the waterfront. No person was to be seen. It's like they put all their boats out on display just for us. We were duly impressed as we paddled past in our plastic fantastic canoes. 

Upper St Regis is just a bit longer than Lake Clear but it has interesting islands, bays, and narrow sections. It's easy to lose track of where you started out. So, as you leave the put in, turn around and remember what it looks like. (It is a really good idea to invest in a map and by far the best is the “Adirondack Paddlers Map” which you can purchase at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake or at their backwoods location on Floodwood Road. All the paddling routes I blog about will be covered by this map. For some trips the map is essential.)

Accessing Upper St. Regis Lake

Access USRL off route 30 about 3 miles north of the Lodge. Look for the “Lake Clear Camp” sign on the left. This is the Girl Scout camp access road. Take the next left onto a wide dirt road which leaves 30 at an angle when 30 is on a downhill grade. The good dirt road leads to the put-in about 3/10 mile. The public launch is to the right of the property owners launch. There is usually a manned boat wash station where you will be requested to wash your boat out to keep invasive plant and animal species out of the lake. I don't know if Upper St. Regis has a problem or not but Lake Clear does not – yet. I'd wash out your boat after your trip before putting it into Lake Clear. Invasives are a huge, expensive problem and the best solution to protect what we all love is prevention. 

Extending Your Trip

You can extend your trip by paddling into Spitfire Lake (more great camps and boats to die for). If you have 2 cars or a bicycle an “A” to “B” trip can be done from Upper through Spitfire to Lower St. Regis Lake which has no camps but hosts the hulking presence of Paul Smiths College. You can take out at PSC or continue down the West Branch of the St. Regis River to the dam at Keese Mill. (Look at your MAP!!) Access the PSC take out by turning into the college's main entrance, taking a sharp right at the stop sign and looping around the buildings to the water. Look for the canoe racks by the water. That's the spot. The Keese Mill take out is opposite the start of the Black and Long Pond trail explained in a previous blog.

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