Editor's note: As the cold-water season quickly descends, our blogger highlights a few favorite fall paddling destinations - perfect for leaf peeping! Happy paddling!
Blog originally posted in 2014.
Below you will get a small taste of paddling the Adirondacks and the Saranac Lake region during the fall foliage season. With peak season coming fast, you don’t want to waste time planning — just get out there. I have selected four locations of the many available to recommend, so take a gander. There's a backcountry lake, a backcountry pond, a big water lake, and an Adirondack river.
Oseetah Lake: Backcountry Lake
To reach Oseetah Lake, paddle across Lake Flower from the state boat launch site located in the center of town on Route 86. Then paddle through the narrows to reach Oseetah Lake, a rather sizable waterbody with a ton of shoreline, bays, and islands. Not only are the colors fantastic on this lake, but bald eagles and other large birds of prey are regularly seen here. On the other side of Oseetah, the Saranac River comes in from the west. You can follow it to eventually access Lower Saranac Lake. Expect motor boats to be using the Saranac lakes, but there won’t be as many in the fall.
Little Clear Pond: Backcountry Pond
This backcountry gem isn’t fully backcountry, but you will have that feel as soon as you hit the water. Little Clear Pond is a habitat for fish and protected by the DEC, so no fishing is allowed. Many portage trails leave the shore to access other ponds deeper in the backcountry. Be sure to take time to explore what else the area has to offer. Loons nest along the shore and sometimes on the islands of Little Clear Pond every year; please never approach a nest.
Lower Saranac Lake: Big Water
One of the three Saranac lakes, Lower has some of the best scenery. Dotted with an enormous number of islands you won’t be lacking for unique views and blinding color. Mountains covered in hardwoods line the shores and loons call out around almost every corner. This is a popular boating area, so be aware that motor boats will be around. During the open season the state campground — Saranac Lake Islands — is a popular destination and often packed with visitors. During the fall this area is much less populated. Remember, this is big water and the whitecaps can become rather large. If this happens take shelter in the calmer waters near the islands.
Raquette River to Stony Creek: Adirondack Rivers and Streams
I chose more than one waterway because you need to use the Raquette River to access Stony Creek. The oxbows of this lake will be a sure memory maker. The slow current of the two waterways also makes for an easy, relaxing paddling, where it’s easy to take hundreds of pictures and not have to worry about which direction your boat is facing.
Put in at Axton Landing off Coreys Road, located between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake off of Route 3. The road to the landing is a bit rough so it should be driven carefully. The put in is a nice, sandy beach with shallow water. Once you get out on the water head left and upstream. Trees seem to grow right out of the water; their resilience is amazing. It won’t be too long before Stony Creek comes in on the left, which will also be upstream. Following Stony Creek, pass under Coreys Road and you'll eventually come to Stony Creek Ponds. Travel as far as you wish, because the paddle back is much easier as you head downstream all the way back to your car — one stroke of your paddle produces the power of four.
Need to rent or buy a boat? Check out a local outfitter for pricing and details. This time of year, many outfitters are selling off their rental boats to make room for newer models for next season. Jump on the good deals and you will never have to worry about renting or borrowing one again. Try before you buy as well. Most outfitters will put your rental fees toward the purchase of the boat if you like it, so you can’t lose.