The beauty of paddling in the Saranac Lake area is the abundance of choices. But the sheer amount of Adirondacks on offer can be overwhelming! Here’s some Top 10 Paddling Spots to consider when it’s time to get out that canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard (SUP).
We have plenty of pristine and gorgeous places where the only human sound might be the whisper of our paddle in the clear water. There is a special kind of silence wilderness lovers understand. Being out there on a clear mountain lake, centered between the earth and the sky, centers ourselves, too.
Moose Pond is fairly easy to reach, yet its rugged shoreline and placement in the border of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area offers a lot of wild without a lot of effort. At the end of Moose Pond Road there is a small boat launch that is steep enough to keep larger watercraft out of the pond, so it tends to be a favorite for paddling. With 140 acres, it is what we call a "good sized" pond.
It is nestled in a mountainous area which makes for dramatic scenery and a rocky shore. Many of the birches and pines grow over and around the rocks for dramatic photo opportunities.
McKenzie Pond is part of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area. Getting there means committing to a 1.75 mile portage along a well-defined foot trail. But it helps to think of the delights which await the traveler. This pond is considered to be one of the more scenic offerings in a wilderness area which is one of the most untouched in the whole Adirondacks. With Baker Mountain to the West and Little McKenzie Mountain to the North, the pond is cradled by dramatic peaks. White Pine Island offers the adventure of disembarking for lunch, surrounded by water. Take a picture with the massive white pine which gives the island its name.
Little Clear Pond to Grass Pond is a lovely route in the Saint Regis Canoe Area. This 18,400 acre preserve allows only human powered craft, with no exceptions. Little Clear Pond raises landlocked salmon for the nearby fish hatchery, so it also does not allow fishing. This creates an even greater sense of seclusion and privacy at what is already a spectacular wilderness pond. Little Clear is one of the best places to spot some loons. It has a rugged peninsula and two islands, creating excellent nesting and fishing opportunities for this emblematic Adirondack waterbird. Grass Pond is reached by a very easy carry on the northeastern shore of Little Clear, so close it is almost visible from the path. It is well sheltered for a flat calm paddle.
Right in town
The Adirondacks is one of those rare places where we can simply walk outside and put our craft in the water. Saranac Lake has bodies of water bracketing the town's northwest and south sides, while a river runs through the center.
Lake Flower is a part of the village of Saranac Lake, and connected to the Saranac Lake chain. There's a large boat launch with ramps and ample parking. It is deservedly popular because it is the entrance to the "Saranac Chain of Lakes" which stretch all the way to Upper Saranac Lake and the cluster of ponds on its western side. It is also the finish line of the Adirondack Canoe Classic. This 90 mile race goes from Old Forge to Saranac Lake over three days.
But it's equally welcoming to those who just want a pretty paddle after breakfast or before dinner. It's easy to set out and turn back at any point, winding up at a favorite spot downtown, or our own hotel room.
Lake Colby is a gem of a lake on the other side of town, with a sandy boat launch and Little Colby pond beyond it. It is well positioned to have the sun set all the way into the lake, which is a great way to conclude any exploration of Colby.
The clover-shaped shoreline provides many more paddling possibilities than the lake's size would suggest. While much of the shore is inhabited, there are many wild places where it is difficult to tell we are only minutes from the center of town.
Room to stretch
Looking to expand those horizons? We have many routes which can be as short, or as long, as we wish. These picks have the added benefits of put-in/put-out flexibility, so that we can tailor the outing to the needs of the day.
Lake Kiwassa is a wonderful destination whether we are setting off from the Lake Flower boat docks downtown, or the sandy launch on the lake itself. By taking the downtown boat launch, we get a stunning trip down Lake Flower itself, explore stunning Oseetah Lake, and then arrive at Lake Kiwassa. It is 282 acres of one stunning vista after another. It is a summer recreational favorite, whether it is fishing, birding, photography, or just nature enjoyment which pulls us there. While the rugged shoreline and mix of state and private lands create barriers to finding a picnic spot, it's simple to extend the trip with a few miles of paddling up the Saranac River. By passing through the locks, we can explore Lower Saranac Lake. It has many tiny islands which beckon for lunch or exploration.
Middle Saranac Lake to Lake Flower is an all day paddle which covers 14 miles, a set of locks, and ends up in downtown Saranac Lake in time for a fine meal and live music. The best of both worlds. The route goes through some of our loveliest nature, where the mountains move to the background, and the vast stretches of the lakes come into focus. Abundant wildlife, from beavers and otters to eagles and hawks, can be spotted along the way.
Downtown Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale is a glorious paddle on the Saranac River which lets the current do most of the work. Drift right up to an egret and spot the hawks which circle along the river's path. Length can vary from "quick run" to "most of the day." There are places where the river meets the road for put-outs prior to the river reaching Bloomingdale.
Some paddles are simply unique in what they offer. These waters not only intrigue the paddler/explorer in us, they offer camping possibilities to extend the good times.
Long Pond to Slang Pond combines easy portaging with highly scenic destinations. There are options for Nellie and Bessie ponds or climbing Long Pond Mountain. Slang Pond has camping sites for excellent wilderness stays.
Jones Pond is popular despite its small size because it is big in features. Bald eagles have been sighted there, and also beaver dams. There's a sandy area for swimming. Much of the area is state land and open for exploration, and there are campsites available. Crossing a marsh leads to a river connecting to Osgood Pond and Church Pond.
Explore booking a stay on the water. Saranac Lake has even more paddling and tons of boating to choose from. Remember that most routes can end in the center of Saranac Lake, with delightful dining and fun, family-friendly events.