For generations, residents and visitors have happily, blissfully, adventurously explored the Saranac Lake region by water. Well before Europeans arrived, the Iroquois traveled these waters via canoe en route to seasonal hunting areas and settlements. Later, the Adirondack guideboat was created and played a key role in the opening of this wilderness to tourists and adventurers. From poets to presidents, the waters of the Adirondacks have been paddled by many and paddling continues to be one of the area's most beloved activities. Here, some of our best reasons why you should paddle here.
1. You don't have to leave town
One of the fun aspects of paddling in the Saranac Lake area is that you don't have to go far out of town to hit the water. In fact, the water runs right through town! The Saranac River makes for a fun, leisurely paddle downstream from downtown with plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing. Launch from a few spots in town, or start with a rental at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters. They'll even pick you up downriver so you don't have to paddle upstream if you don't want to.
Paddlers can also enjoy the views from Lake Flower, accessible from a state boat launch as well as lakeside marinas and motels. Paddle around the lake, enjoying views and being part of the summer fun. Lake Flower always has something going on. There's even an ice cream stand you can paddle to for a cold, creamy treat.
2. Rivers, lakes, and ponds...we have plenty of options
For paddling where it's a bit quieter, more remote, and tranquil, a seemingly countless number of lakes and ponds are just a short drive from downtown. From small bodies of water like Little Clear Pond and Moose Pond to the larger expanses of Lower Saranac Lake and Upper Saranac Lake, paddlers will find many options surrounded by the wild beauty of pine forests, mountains, and resident wildlife. This is peaceful paddling at its very finest.
3. Great gear is right here
Every piece of gear you could possibly imagine is right here. Rent or buy a canoe or kayak. Buy maps and guides for canoe trails, pick up a sweet new PFD (please wear one, always) or a waterproof case for your phone. Saranac Lake has paddling shops that are bursting with fantastic gear that will ensure your adventure is as safe and as fun as can be. Even better, staff at these shops are experienced paddlers and guides who are always happy to share their wisdom and advice on cool spots you don't want to miss.
4. Paddling here is kid-friendly
To be totally honest, kids love the Adirondacks. What's not to love? We have six million acres of room to run, play, hike, bike, and get super dirty. Of all the kid-friendly activities here, paddling is one of the best. It's a wonderful way to get kids out on the water, seeing the world — and wildlife — from a different perspective. Plus, Saranac Lake has plenty of paddling spots that are small, calm, and quiet, so you don't have to worry as much about wind-driven waves and can focus on the fun. It's the best classroom you will ever find.
5. Forget hiking trails, we have a canoe trail!
Road trips — meandering drives along winding scenic roads with stops for ice cream and glorious views — are classic American adventures. But you know what's even better than a road trip? A multi-state, 740-mile paddling trip through some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in the Northeast! The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a flatwater adventure that extends from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. Fort Kent is one of the northernmost towns in Maine. Paddlers completing the entire trail in one trip generally take at least a month to reach Fort Kent from Old Forge (the trail is one way). Luckily, paddlers can explore a portion of it in the Adirondacks, for a day or two or just an afternoon. The segment of trail that travels through Saranac Lake includes the three Saranac lakes, Kiwassa Lake, Lake Flower, and the Saranac River. Do a little paddling, brag to your friends back home!
6. We LOVE to paddle
With so many lakes, ponds, and rivers in the area, it's not surprising that so many of us paddle and love it immensely. We love to get out on the water, to breathe in the fresh air, look for loons and eagles, and feel the sun on our faces. We love paddling so much that we hold annual celebrations of paddling, including the epic, famous 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic, an annual event that sees entrants paddle all the way from Old Forge to Lake Flower over three days. Join the excitement as a paddler or to watch. The celebrations at the finish in Saranac Lake are worth joining!
In Saranac Lake, there's also an entire month dedicated to celebrating all things paddle-related! June is Celebrate Paddling ADK month, a time when we can all reflect on the abundance of paddling opportunities right outside our doors here in Saranac Lake.
7. Paddle to an island camping paradise
Paddling is super fun. Camping is super fun. Paddling to a campsite on an island? Epic, amazing fun that will make you want to switch to island life forever. The Saranac Lake Islands state campground offers beautiful campsites accessible only by boat, including canoe and kayak. This is a spectacular adventure and a great way to truly get away from it all. Spend your days swimming and paddling, birdwatching, and grilling with views that are beyond compare. I promise you won't miss your car, phone, or wifi. It's all pure bliss.
8. We have loons!
No matter how many times you see a loon, it always feels like a treat, a magical, special moment in nature when you're in the exact right place at the exact right time. The Common Loon is a diving bird which lives on secluded lakes in the US and Canada. In the Adirondacks, they're universally adored. Loons return to the same nesting area year after year, and they mate for life. Getting a chance to observe them swim, dive, and above all, hear their extraordinary calls is enjoyable and adds to the peaceful awesomeness of the Adirondack wilderness. Paddlers in the Saranac Lake area just might see a single loon, pair, or even family — the chicks are the cutest things ever — while out on the water. Keep your distance and don't scare them. Enjoy the experience.
If you don't happen to see a loon on your paddling excursions, you can still stop by the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, located in downtown Saranac Lake. It's a cool place with great information and a neat gift shop. The ACLC works year-round studying loons and advocating for preservation of their habitats.
9. Be like the loon...go fishing!
Love paddling and fishing? Want to do them both at the same time? The Saranac Lake area has excellent fishing opportunities accessible by canoe and kayak. Visit quiet rivers, streams, brooks, ponds, and lakes, where the only noise is you talking to your friends about the brook trout or smallmouth bass you just reeled in, with the call of birds for accompaniment. Sure, you can fish the larger lakes, like Lower Saranac, but there's something special about being alone on a quiet pond amid water lilies and pickerelweed, trolling for the next best fish you've ever caught.
10. Because the views are extraordinary and the memories even better
Dipping your paddle into waters surrounded by wide expanses of forest, hearing the call of loons, watching the mountains glide by. It's a time for fun, for reflection — literally and figuratively — and enjoying the beauty and splendor of the outdoors. Paddle Saranac Lake because you can, because it's amazing, and because you'll never forget it.