April 15, 2019
For paddlers, the arrival of spring means the ice is moving out and we can start planning new adventures on the water. Paddling doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience, so if you are new to it or lack in experience, a little planning can help you have a fun and stress-free Adirondack adventure. There are several enjoyable, easy paddles close to Saranac Lake, including through downtown, as well as affordable ways to access all the gear you’ll need.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters and Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake and Mac’s Canoe Livery in Lake Clear are excellent outfitters with daily rental packages. Their knowledgeable staff will help you select the right canoe or kayak for any budget and group size, as well as plan your outing.
Rentals include a personal flotation device, paddles, straps and padding for car roof transport, and assistance with loading. If you aren’t comfortable transporting your canoe or kayak, both outfitters will deliver your craft and gear to your selected paddling spot (and pick up) for an extra fee.
What to wear
As with any outdoor adventure, wearing the right clothing is important. In spring, the rule of thumb is to dress for the temperature of the water, not the temperature of the air. Wear pants with breathability, comfort, and warmth, such as hiking pants. Light layers on top are the best option, so you can be prepared for anything, plus a windbreaker, as spring breezes can be pleasant, but not necessarily warm. Non-cotton clothing is always useful for adventures that may involve rain or the occasional splash. A brimmed hat and/or sunglasses are a must on a sunny day. Wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting a little wet. You should be able to get in and out without getting wet, but I’ve never successfully put in a kayak without a bit of a slosh. Above all, please wear your PFD; if your cat or dog tips the canoe, you don’t want the extra hassle of staying afloat without a little help, especially as the water may still be very cold.
Where to paddle
For a fun river experience in the heart of Saranac Lake, start from the launch on Dorsey Street. You’ll head downriver for two to three hours, passing through downtown before reaching a more naturally scenic stretch with views of the McKenzie Range. The current helps make this paddle less strenuous and more leisurely, with plenty of opportunities to rest your paddle and take in the sights. Watch for red-winged blackbirds perched on tall plants along the shore, or great blue herons gracefully taking flight. After about two hours paddling downriver, watch for a footbridge which crosses the river and is a good spot to end your journey. This paddle gives you a unique view of the area’s natural beauty that most people don’t get to experience.
Just a few miles from the river, Moose Pond is a small but scenic spot that is great for a relaxing paddle, especially for families or new paddlers who want calm waters that are easy to explore. Even though motorboats are allowed, there are many larger lakes nearby that are a big draw for boaters, making Moose Pond a quiet spot that is fairly secluded. You won’t hear sounds from the road, as you might in other locations in the Adirondacks, but you might hear — and see — the occasional loon.
Adjacent to the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, the pond’s shoreline is densely packed with pine trees, as well as a few pretty, low rock outcroppings, ideal for camping or a picnic. As you paddle along the eastern shore, a panoramic view of Whiteface appears, perhaps inspiring your next hike. In the summer, enjoy an after-paddle dip in the fresh, clear water.
Little Clear Pond
A little farther afield is Little Clear Pond, 13 miles from Saranac Lake, between Lake Clear and Saranac Inn. Located off Fish Hatchery Road, Little Clear Pond is the site of several secluded, first come, first served campsites, plus a broad, shallow boat launch that is easy to launch from. From there, enjoy the scenery close to shore, watch for ducks, or venture out into the middle of the pond, where two small islands are especially picturesque. This is a very popular site for families of loons, so keep an eye out and ears open.
To the north, you’ll find a nice view of St. Regis Mountain and, if you look closely, you’ll see the fire tower on top. Sunsets are especially attractive at Little Clear Pond; if the moon is rising at the same time, you’ll be in for a great treat. Bear in mind that at 385 acres, the pond has plenty of room to paddle and you don’t have to cover all of it to have a great time. As an added bonus, enjoy a post-paddle sweet treat at nearby hot spot Donnelly’s Ice Cream.