October 2017 - KAYAKING & CANOEING
A Lake for All Seasons
By Rich Macha
The 740-acre Round Lake and surrounding lands was purchased by New York from The Nature Conservancy in 2005, and in 2006 designated the area as the 11,430 acre Round Lake Wilderness Area. This motor-less area is located between Long Lake and Tupper Lake.
The Nature Conservancy had purchased the tract from International Paper. Previous to that it was owned and logged over by Whitney Industries. International Paper did not do much logging but instead leased portions for hunting camps, several of which were located on the shores of Round Lake. Therefore, the forest is a bit more mature here than around Little Tupper Lake to the south, which Whitney logged heavily. After the state’s purchase, the hunting camps were removed and some of those sites were made into designated campsites.
The inlet of Round Lake is the outlet of Little Tupper Lake. This offers the potential for long paddles over the two lakes and many folks make a camping trip of it. See the June 2017 issue of Adirondack Sports (adksports.com/2017) for an article and more information on Little Tupper Lake.
Round Lake in itself is a lovely destination for a day trip or an easy weekend camping trip. To find the put-in, drive about three miles west of NY Route 30 on Sabattis Road (County Route 10) – the parking area is on the right just past a three-way intersection. The kiosk and waterway access site is just beyond.
The 0.9-mile paddle to the lake through a fairly wide channel is as delightful as can be. Water lilies are everywhere and there is much pickerelweed too. The shores have some boggy vegetation and tamaracks are the dominant tree, but swamp maples show off their presence in September, when their leaves turn a fiery red. The lake is not round at all. It’s actually triangular in shape.
Once at the lake you will notice two islands to your left. The south shore has several coves with piney points and boggy shores to explore. Two campsites, #10 and #11, can be found on dry upland areas. A shallow, mucky inlet enters through a wetland area at the lake’s southwest corner. This may not seem too appetizing to you until one mentions that moose have been seen here. Looking to the northeast you can see Mount Morris (Big Tupper) and the top of Coney Mountain.
The west shore has three more campsites. Look for families of common mergansers cruising along the shadows of the rocky shoreline. Near the north end of the lake are bedrock islands, which may tempt you to make a landing, but watch out for shallow rocks.
The outlet at the north end has dams on twin channels left over from logging days when logs were sent down to mills in Tupper Lake. On the east side of the lake, next to campsite #5, is an inviting sand beach – a great spot for a swim as well as the start of an interesting hike. An old woods road passes behind the beach – take a left on it and walk north to the dam area. The old road soon narrows to just a path and an old sluice gate is seen.
Soon after, there is a faint side-path that leads in 100 feet to a five-foot waterfall. The main unmarked path continues for 1.5 miles until it reaches an old logging road. The path has excellent views of the many rocky cascades and flumes of Round Lake Stream, and is used as a carry trail by folks going between Round Lake and the Bog River. You might feel you’re deep in the wilderness, since there are no trail markers or signs along the obvious path. For a short but scenic hike, walk about a mile, then head back to the lake.
For a longer hike, walk 1.5 miles on the unmarked path, take a left on the old logging road and soon cross Round Lake Stream on a decent bridge. Continue on the old road for about two miles, bearing right and going uphill at first. Cross a not-so-good bridge over the Bog River, and follow the shoreline downstream to Pa’s Falls (aka Winding Falls), where the river drops 30 feet between vertical rock walls. The falls can also be quite spectacular in winter, when rime ice clings to nearby trees. The round-trip from the lake is about eight miles.
Back at the lake, the piney east shore features several coves to explore. South of campsite #4, a rock peninsula juts well out from shore – this can be a pleasant spot for a scenic break. Further south, campsite #3 has a splendid sand beach good for a refreshing swim – I’ve seen moose tracks in the sand here. An old woods road links this site with campsite #2. The woods road connects with a logging road, where you can hike – or in the winter ski – 1.8 miles to a gate on Circle Road (CR 10A) near Hedgehog Pond. The gate is 0.6 miles from the three-way junction at Sabattis Road.
Paddling the channel back to the put-in, you see the fire tower on Buck Mountain (private) to the southeast. A paddle from the access, around the perimeter of the lake and back, is about eight miles – if you want more, there is always Little Tupper Lake. A camping trip, though, will offer more time to savor the sounds of loons and owls calling through the night.
Another old woods road that may be of interest to hikers and skiers is west of the lake and starts at a gate on Sabattis Road. This hilly trail leads 2.8 miles to campsite #7 near the north end of the lake. Along the way, you don’t see the lake most of the time unless you make a short detour east.
A general map of the Round Lake Wilderness Area with campsite locations can be found at NYSDEC (dec.ny.gov), but you may want to seek out better maps for travel on the old roads.
Before or after your trip, if you have an extra couple of hours to spare, drive a few miles north on Route 30 and take a 1.1-mile hike up Coney Mountain. The trail gains over 500 feet in elevation and rewards the hiker with views in all directions. Parts of Round Lake, Little Tupper Lake and Tupper Lake can be seen. The High Peaks are to the east, Mount Morris to the north, and to the west the ridges above the Bog River stand out.
A lover of wild places, Rich Macha (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Albany has led many trips for the Adirondack Mountain Club and has spent 20 years in the paddlesport and Nordic ski business.