Submitted by guest bloggers Adam and Tom Niziol
The St. Regis Canoe Area is one of the most enjoyable back-country locations in the entire northeast. Easy to access, it gives you the most “bang for the buck” when it comes to a true wild experience. At 18,400-acres, the Saint Regis Canoe Area is the largest Canoe Area in the entire northeastern United States, and the only Canoe Area in New York. Essentially, a Canoe Area is managed as wilderness, but the abundance of water makes paddling (canoeing, kayaking, etc.) the most attractive activity. For those of you who don’t want to be bothered by the noisier modes of recreation and transportation, the entire region of waterways and trails are closed to motor vehicles and motorboats; the only sounds you might regularly hear are the sounds of nature.
Into the Canoe Area
The Canoe Area encompasses over 50 bodies of water, each with its own personality. My dad and I have been regular visitors on an annual basis since the 1990s. The trip never gets old and it's always exhilarating to get to our parking area and step out at Little Clear Pond. We like to canoe the route referred to as the Seven Carries.
The original Seven Carries was a historic canoe route from Paul Smith's Hotel to the Saranac Inn through the Saint Regis Canoe Area. Today, the Seven Carries Route refers to our trip from Little Clear Pond to Lower Saint Regis Lake, via St. Regis Pond, Green Pond, Little Long Pond, Bear Pond, and Bog Pond. We begin our adventure each year by parking our vehicle at the Little Clear Pond boat launch. Of course, as is always the case when you are new to an area, it is wise to get a good map to familiarize yourself with the area. After signing in, it’s time to pack the canoe and start off across Little Clear Pond. You can’t fish or camp on this body of water, but it’s always such a joy to see and hear the loons welcoming us into this paddler’s paradise.
Between each body of water one must “carry” or portage their canoes or kayaks. Carries are marked by signs. Sometimes though the signs are a little hard to spot (another reason why maps are your friend!). On our first couple trips we ended up canoeing along the shore for a few minutes at the end of the pond until we found the first carry. The carry from Little Clear Pond to St. Regis Pond is about 0.6 of a mile in length. It’s relatively wide and although we have seen some people take “bicycle tire” canoe carriers along the trail, we prefer the old tried-and-true method of portaging our boats on our shoulders.
As we complete the portage, the entrance to St. Regis Pond is like coming into the gates of some magic kingdom. Here, we get a chance to pack our gear once more into the canoes and head to our base camp on St. Regis Pond. The area is really a bog ecosystem with all sorts of interesting plants. I think I could spend half a day just drifting along photographing the flora.
Day trips and exploring
St. Regis Pond is the biggest body of water within the boundaries of the Canoe Area and offers several primitive campsites, as well as a lean-to. A couple of the campsites also have a “privy,” which can take the sting out of wilderness camping. We have even tagged names to some of our favorite camping spots like “The Point,” “Flat Rock,” and “The Knoll.” They all offer wonderful views of the pond and a few look out to the summit of the majestic St. Regis Mountain.
St. Regis Pond is a great base camp to make several day trips through the region. One of our favorites takes us on a trek through a series of 4 unique ponds that end at expansive Upper St. Regis Lake, home to one of the most historic Great Camps of the Adirondacks. This is an ideal day trip, with several short portages that take us from Green Pond, to Little Long, Bear, and finally, tiny Bog Pond.
We usually start out mid-morning after a hearty breakfast. The portage to Green Pond is only a couple hundred yards or so and as its name implies, the shallow water is shaded green, reflecting the green growth at the bottom of the pond. This tiny pond allows for a very serene little paddle and if you are lucky, there will be a loon or two to serenade you on your way. After Green Pond you take another relatively short portage to Little Long Pond. We like this pond because it feels like two separate ponds, linked by a strait about half way through. There are also some great campsites here.
Next, on to Bear Pond where the portage is a bit longer as you climb several yards up then back down to Bear Pond. On Bear Pond, there are some private campsites and lean-tos, in addition to a couple public campsites; we always make it a point to respect the local property owners. Finally, if there is enough water, we like to “negotiate” tiny Bog Pond, which leads us to a very short carry out to Upper St. Regis Lake. Here, we feel we are back out in civilization again, because Upper St. Regis Lake allows motorboats and is also home to many “camps” that have, in many cases, been passed down through the generations. It also is home to Camp Topridge, one of the Great Adirondack Camps, owned at one time by Marjorie Merriweather Post, founder of General Foods and the daughter of C.W. Post. Now it's owned by a Texas real estate mogul. This is always on our sight-seeing list because of the amazing architecture of the camp, including the original and new boat houses.
After the day exploring the area, it’s time to get back for a well-deserved dinner and a beautiful sunset on St. Regis Pond.
Finally, after our camping trip is complete, we canoe out, back to Little Clear Pond. We often end our trip with a short drive to the trailhead for St Regis Mountain, which overlooks the entire Canoe Area. The 3.3-mile hike has a beautiful reward.
We look forward to this father and son trip each year, and plan to continue the tradition as long as our legs can carry us over trails and our arms can canoe the waters.
All photos were submitted by Adam and Tom Niziol. Header image by Tom Niziol.