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The Saranac Chain of Lakes packs a lot of special Adirondack fun into six lakes and two ponds. Launch from the town boat dock on Lake Flower and watch the Victorian homes and small family camps fade into the mostly uninhabited Oseetah Lake.

Paddlers here will find plenty of options for exploration. Follow the western shore of Oseetah to discover a river that leads to Kiwassa Lake, or paddle a little past that river and bear right to continue cruise the Saranac River as it skirts the edge of the Western High Peaks before reaching the boat launch between First and Second ponds. From Second Pond, you can follow the river to Lower Saranac Lake. For an extended journey, keep going and find out why Middle is still called Round Pond by some locals, then discover the vast reaches of Upper Saranac Lake.

Single decision

Lake Flower is a beautiful bookend to downtown Saranac Lake, but it wasn't always the pretty waterbody you see today. In fact, there were a lot of ripples from Captain Pliny Miller's decision to start his hydro-powered sawmill here in the 1820s. He chose a narrow section of the Saranac River that tumbled over a waterfall. Once his dam was built, two new ponds were formed, with the one adjacent to the dam called the mill pond.

The story of how this humble pond became Lake Flower is all about the power of flattery.

Lake Flower in 1890. Image courtesy Historic Saranac Lake.

In 1888, the renamed Riverside Inn was located on the shores of this mill pond, but the new owner was displeased with the view from his lovely, wide verandas because it was full of stumps which showed above the water line. So he planned a grand ball to be given at the Riverside in honor of then-Governor Roswell P. Flower.

The ball was a huge success since the governor actually attended, then he was made an offer any politician would find difficult to refuse. The state could put forth the funds to remove these ugly stumps and turn "this ugly duckling into a swan lake." So no one would forget who had done such a nice thing for his loyal voters in the North Country, it would be called Lake Flower.

Lake Flower from River Street near the Colbath Cottage, 1902. Photo courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake.

By the turn of the century, the mill pond was transformed into Lake Flower.

The sweep of the bay and the mountains in the background are now part of Saranac Lake's historic downtown.

What a makeover

It is difficult to imagine the Saranac Chain of Lakes without the familiar contours of Lake Flower forming the western side of town. The town's boat dock is a popular place to set out from, and around the corner is a busy marina. In between are docks that belong to lodging properties and private rentals.

When the fishing season opens April 1, the first boats are full of eager anglers. Oseetah is known for northern pike. The shoals are special favorites of smallmouth bass, with island pockets on Lower Saranac, and special spots near Shaw Island in Middle Saranac. Upper Saranac is stocked with browns, rainbows, and lake trout.

It's a scenic trip when the early leaves come out, too, with their pale green and deep gold lighting up the shoreline. This is when our spring canoe race takes place. Find out more with the blog post, Round the Mountain - For All Paddlers.

So much lake

With summer comes the height of the boating season, with water skiing and jetskis.

Going further down the chain will open up more nature adventure, with island camping and rocky cliffs.

Middle Saranac Beach is a favorite spot for sunning, picnicking, swimming, and even a hike to Ampersand Mountain. It's also a great place to watch the sunset.

With a rental boat from one of our marinas (or you can bring your own) there's miles and miles of exploration available.

Just be sure that island really is uninhabited. There are 87 water-access-only campsites in the Saranac Chain, but they need to be reserved in advance. The reservation fee is well worth it — some of these sites let you have an entire island to yourself. 

Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Paddling
Why I live in Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake 6er Ultra Challenge

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