What are the coolest paddling routes in the Saranac Lake area? That's a tough question, because we are the Lake Country, a paddler's paradise. Canoe, kayak, or even innertube, we have an adventure to fall in love with.
To help with this question, I asked some local guide services about their favorite places. What do they recommend most often? Where are the places that are extra scenic, or offer interesting choices, or are just places they love to go? They were quick to share.
Follensby Clear Pond
This 491-acre pond was named after a famous hermit of mysterious origin who lived there for many years. There is a boat ramp to easily launch boats, which can be hand-carried. It has a long shoreline that stretches past the bulk of the pond into a longer, narrower body of water. There are several islands for exploring.
Follensby Clear Pond should not be mistaken for Follensby Pond, the site of the famous Philosopher's Camp. But it is worth mentioning in its own right.
This camp was convened in the summer of 1858. Despite the Philosopher's nickname, these were men who actually had varied professions and talents. There were poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Russell Lowell; scientists Louis Agassiz and Jeffries Wyman; the lawyers Ebenezer Hoar and Horatio Woodman; Dr. Estes Howe and Dr. Amos Binney; John Holmes who was the younger brother of writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the inspiration for the trip: William James Stillman, the artist, writer, and skilled woodsman.
Together they found the spot so conducive to creative work and unfettered thinking that they helped popularize the Adirondacks as a destination, and to become part of the movement to make sure it was preserved in its original state.
Paddling on a gorgeous Adirondack pond simply continues this grand tradition.
For a small loop, paddle around the shore of the pond itself. To expand the trip, follow the carry paths to Polliwog Pond, Middle Pond, Floodwood Pond, Little Square Pond, and back to the Follensby Clear Pond launch site.
This route has various sized ponds and short, clearly defined, carry paths. It totals approximately 8 miles of paddling, and a bit over a mile (1.2 miles) of portage.
Follensby Clear Pond has 20 campsites scattered along its shores, tucked away so their presence barely dents the tranquil forest wrapped around it. They are primitive sites, all waterfront, that are first-come and cannot be reserved.
Because of its size and placement, Follensby Clear can have some wave action. Motorboats are allowed, so be watchful of them. A side trip to informally named Round Pond offers a sweet paddle down a short carry.
There are more advanced campsites available at Fish Creek State Campground, which has many more launching sites and pond access.
This trip can be combined with a hike up Ampersand Mountain, which is one of the more popular hikes near Saranac Lake. Read our blog post about such a trip, An Apt Pair: Ampersand Mountain & Follensby Clear Pond.
A charming thing about the Floodwood Loop is how many guides said it was their favorite!
Don Perryman, an experienced guide in the area, says this is a delightful, multi-day paddling and camping trip. It has a loop which does not need a shuttle, plenty of wild forest and wilderness areas, and a Floodwood Road launch area serviced by St. Regis Canoe Outfitters staff, who can also offer boat repair, cold drinks, supplies, and rations for the trip ahead.
A complete trip can be set up with gear and gourmet meals included. Don particularly mentioned the filet mignon. It's the best of all worlds.
This is a protected route of small lakes and ponds with six portages. There are numerous campsites to choose from, great swimming spots, and some of the trip moves through the St. Regis Canoe Area. This 18,400-acre wilderness tract has 50 ponds. Motorboats are not allowed on any of them. This creates the possibility of even more wilderness side trips if desired, making the trip able to expand to as much adventure as one desires.
It begins and ends at Floodwood Pond.
These remote areas in the very heart of the Lake Country, surrounded by wild mountains, offer an extraordinary experience. The full immersion that comes from the combination of untouched wilderness and overnight stays successfully removes us from the bustle of civilization.
This is where the support and expertise of one of our Adirondack guides becomes invaluable. They take care of the planning, equipment, and food. But it's more than that; these Renaissance men (and women) of the woods hark back to a long tradition. From the development of the Adirondacks as a destination, these guides not only took people to the places to fish and camp, they cooked the meals, taught the woodcraft, and told the marvelous stories that added up to enchantment for so many visitors.
All we need do is relax, and have the most incredible experience in some of the loveliest areas in the world.
There's a possible side trip of a hike up Long Pond Mountain, which is 3.2 miles round trip, but much of the path is unmarked. Bushwhacking skills, or the services of a guide, is a must. A layover day is recommended for this addition.
At the other end of the ease scale, there's the trip from Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale via the Saranac River. The current can carry boats all the way to Lake Champlain, if we wish to venture so far.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters has a great little package that provides the canoes or kayaks, and adds a hike to Moose Pond. They launch from behind the town hall in Saranac Lake, and then pick up people and equipment at the end.
I loved this trip. There's something really epic about floating through much of Saranac Lake, right through downtown, under the bridges and past the park as we leave town. This route goes through many flat plains, so the scenery is different from ponds nestled in forests.
There are marshes, rocky shorelines, and abundant wildlife, especially birds. I floated within six feet of a great blue heron feeding in the shallows.
It takes 2-3 hours of moving with the current to arrive at the Moose Pond footbridge. There's a beautiful walk to Moose Pond for a round trip hike of 3 miles. Part of the trail is an old woods trail and is mostly level.
It is a pleasant place to have a picnic sitting on a rock. Moose Pond is also really nice for swimming. It all adds up to a marvelous day trip that is suitable for almost any skill level or age group.
And it's a doggie favorite. The scope of the trip and the areas we move through make it really easy to bring our dog along. Remember to keep close track of them, and have the leash handy if needed.
For an account of this trip via innertube, see our blog post, Free Water Park Ride In Our Backyard.
There's something really special about getting together, as a couple or as a group, and taking to the water. Paddling gives us the ability to move much faster than hiking, reaching inaccessible areas with more ease, and seeing the many different ecosystems from a different vantage point.
Floating on the water, between earth and sky, moves us closer to both.