Top 5 Fall Foliage Paddles (2019)
Hey Bob, with the trees starting to change here I think it’s about time to get out the scenic paddles. What do you think would be your top five fall foliage paddles in the Adirondacks?
Whoa, Ernest – you really know how to apply the pressure. I really have to limit this response to just 5 choices? OK, OK – I'll try my best.
Since you didn't specify whether I can include routes that involve portages (or carries as they are called in the Adirondacks) and one way, point A to point B trips, or have to stick with simple out and back trips I'll give you a mix. Obviously if you can manage a carry, or 7, or can set up some kind of shuttle (maybe your friendly inn keeper can help out with that !) you'll have a lot more options. None of these trips require anything more than a basic ability to maneuver a canoe or kayak. And maybe a bit of spirit of adventure at times.
#5 – Lake Clear and outlet to the dam
I'm partial to smaller bodies of water so that's why Lake Clear is relegated to 5th choice. (And there are quite a few options lower than #5 !) But once you get into the outlet it gets narrower and more interesting. And you can't beat the convenience and, for a larger lake, it amazingly quiet with much wild shoreline.
#4 – Upper Osgood River
This is another out and back trip. You start at a state launch site on Osgood Pond, paddle a portion of the pond and then enter Osgood River passing White Pond Camp, site of President Calvin Cooledge's summer whitehouse. The river feels very different from the large pond – wild and full of water lilies and pickerel weed.
#3 – Chubb River
This is the forgotten body of water in Lake Placid village. Everyone's attention is focused on Mirror Lake and Lake Placid where you'd be doing battle with motor boats or feel like you're paddling past downtown (and you are). You'll probably find no one on the Chubb. This is an out and back trip with wider sections and some extremely narrow parts where you brush up against encroaching alders. There is a ¼ mile carry if you want to get further up river. When paddling the upper Chubb you feel like your paddling into the mountains. And indeed you are as a couple of the high peaks get closer and closer.
#2 – Ponds off Floodwood Road
There is a slew of small and large ponds that are accessible from various points but Floodwood Road affords the most options. You can do various loops, starting and ending in the same spot, but these involves several short carries. If you want to avoid having your boat upside down over your head or, in the case of a heavy Tupperware kayak, adding to the length of your arm one great out and back, no carry option is to start at St Regis Canoe Outfitters site on Floodwood Pond. Paddle Floodwood and then down the very appealing Fish Creek to Little Square Pond. You can then return or extend the paddle a bit more by entering Copperas Pond. This trip offers a nice variety of paddling experiences.
#1 – Jones to Church Pond
This is an A to B trip so you'll need some means to get back to the put in. Two cars obviously will work or a bicycle, thumb or friend with a car. This trip has it all – ponds of all sizes, meandering creek, and historic dug canals. You start at Jones Pond then enter it's outlet which winds you down to Osgood Pond which seems huge compared to what you'd just been paddling. There is a nice beach where the outlet meets the pond – a nice spot for lunch and a swim. We spotted a bald eagle perched high in a tree here one year. After traversing most of Osgood you paddle through the first of two man made canals. These were created to enable people to get to church, on Church Pond obviously. There are a couple of small ponds and one more canal before you too get there. Church attendance optional.
One Truly Stellar Trip...With a Catch
I've left a truly stellar trip off this list because it necessitates both numerous carries and a car shuttle set up. If you can handle both these potential limitations the historic 7 Carries Route from Little Clear Pond to Upper St Regis Lake is a great choice. Obviously these are very cursory trip descriptions. You'll need a good map at a minimum. A guide book in addition is even better. The best option for these 2 items are the Adirondack Paddlers Map and Adirondack Paddlers Guide. Both are available at St Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake or at their outpost on Floodwood Road or likely at EMS in Lake Placid (if you can handle the heavy tourist scene there). Get out there and enjoy ! And remember these are just 5 of the many paddling opportunities nearby.