Lower Saranac Lake

Lower Saranac Lake: State Bridge to Ampersand Bay

Beginning Sept. 12, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) contractors will be conducting maintenance washing of the bridge on State Route 3 over the waterway between First Pond and Second Pond on the Saranac River. The bridge has previously been cleaned to remove solid materials. Inert wash water of similar temperature as the water in the waterway will be raining down from the bridge during these activities. The bridge is adjacent to DEC's Second Pond Boat Launch and the water provides boaters access to Lower Saranac Lake from the boat launch. The operation is expected to last three to five days. The contractor will be using geotextiles to protect the waterway and will avoid operations during heavy boat traffic.

The Lowdown

The paddling route from State Bridge to Ampersand Bay offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the area.  Lower Saranac Lake was referred to by the Native Americans as the “Lake of the Clustered Stars,” which may have referred to the abundance of islands.  This is a fun trip for people wanting to stay close to town, but get out on the water.  Lower Saranac Lake is rich with history as well as wildlife.  You may have the opportunity to observe common loons, eagles, seagulls, great blue herons and other birds.  

Fact Check

  • Total Distance:  @4 miles one way
  • Length of Time:  3-5 hours (depending on stops)
  • No portages
  • Flat Water
  • One way
  • Motor boat access is available at State Bridge Boat Launch  (Second Pond/Saranac Islands Public Campgrounds)


  • Public parking is available at State Bridge Boat Launch & Ampersand Bay Boat Launch
  • Put in at State Bridge Boat Landing.  Take out at Ampersand Bay Access.  Note that St. Regis Canoe Outfitters offers day packages and shuttles.

The Paddle

Put in at State Bridge Boat Launch at the beach to the right of the motor boat ramp.  Paddle to the left passing under State Bridge into First Pond.  Follow the waterway as it curves around to the right and then the left before coming out into Lower Saranac Lake.  Stay to the right out of the way of jet skis and motor boats, which can be especially active on weekends.  Paddle east towards Ampersand Bay.  It is fun to explore the numerous islands.  Feel free to stop for a picnic at any of the unoccupied islands.  Bluff, Little Twins, and the Sister Islands are popular islands set aside for day use only.  

The private lands on the shores approaching Ampersand Bay are historically worth noting.  Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) spent the summer of 1901 at a cabin on Lower Saranac Lake with his family.   Martin’s Hotel, the Algonquin Hotel, and the Ampersand Hotel were once bustling with visitors including famous authors, scientists and other forward thinking people came to socialize.  

Algonquin Hotel property eventually fell into the hands of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau who built the Institutes scientific laboratories and offices on the site in 1964.  On the eastern and western shore were camps owned by the Guggenheims and other wealthy families from New York City. Knollwood Camp was owned by a group of six Jewish families including Louis MarshallDaniel GuggenheimGeorge Blumenthal, Elias Asiel, Max Nathan, and A.N. Stein.  Albert Einstein was a frequent visitor at Knollwood Camp.  Louis Marshall’s sons George & Bob are famous for being the first to climb all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks and initiated climbing the high peaks.  

Recommended Resource:  Adirondack Paddler’s Map:  The Saranac Lakes and SRCO Lower Saranac Lake Paddling History Tour brochure found at: http://www.historicsaranaclake.org/uploads/1/1/2/1/11219947/lower_saranac_lake_bro_2018.pdf

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