July 2019 - CANOE, KAYAK & SUP
Second Edition of Adirondack Paddling
A Treat for Flatwater Adventurers
By Bill Ingersoll
Just in time for the 2019 paddling season, Phil Brown has published the second edition to his flatwater canoe guidebook, Adirondack Paddling. And just like the first edition, it is a treat for Adirondack adventurers.
Phil, the emeritus editor of the Adirondack Explorer magazine for 19 years, has certainly dipped his paddles in more than a few waterways. The original edition of this book included 60 trip recommendations scattered across the park. The new edition adds five new routes, all but one of which involve recently-acquired state lands. Color photos number in the dozens, making this guidebook a joy to thumb through.
Like any good guidebook, the route selections offer a variety of trip ideas, from the popular and relatively obvious – the Saranac Lakes – to the obscure and remote – Alder Bed Flow. Are these 65 routes the only places to paddle in the Adirondacks? Of course not. Are they a ranking of the 65 best? To some degree, perhaps, although in that regard I would quibble that a few choice routes have been omitted – but more on that in a minute.
The new routes described in the second edition are Boreas Ponds, County Line Flow, the Essex Chain, Blackwell Stillwater, and Jabe Pond. Generally speaking, the overall selection of routes highly favors the northern half of the park, but that should come as no surprise; that region is rich in waterways, and Phil lives at the heart of it all in Saranac Lake.
Reading through the new edition, I see that there is still plenty of water out there on which I have yet to launch my own canoe. Jabe Pond, for instance, may have to be a priority. I can confirm that places like the Cedar River Flow near Indian Lake (see page 7 of this issue), and County Line Flow near Newcomb, are superb places to visit.
There are a few trivial details where my experiences differ from Phil’s. For instance, although I’ve been to Boreas Ponds multiple times, I prefer to skip LaBier Flow because that waterway is excessively shallow – it’s faster to simply carry around it. Likewise, I had a poor experience on the section of the Hudson River below Sanford Lake in Newcomb, which I thought was a subpar paddling route.
In regards to an otherwise solid description of the Cedarlands property near Long Lake, Phil could have dispensed with the references to the Boy Scouts, which sold the property years ago. While this doesn’t change the paddling experience on McRorie Lake, it does mean that the unofficial toponyms that the scouts bestowed to the surrounding ridges – OA Mountain and Mount Masters – are now obsolete.
But this is nitpicking, because Phil’s book is otherwise excellent. This makes sense, considering his day job for nearly two decades included a healthy dose of exactly this kind of writing. There are also plenty of references sprinkled through Adirondack Paddling to one of this book’s direct predecessors: the late Paul Jamieson’s classic Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow.
Also noteworthy are the color photos, many of them provided by the author. The new edition includes some new professional-quality shots as well. Taking a good photo from a canoe can be challenging, but the images in this book are sure to get you in the paddling mood.
As I mentioned before, the route selections skewed toward the northern half of the Adirondack Park, with some significant gaps in the southern half. Therefore, if there will someday be a third edition – with five more routes added – I hereby propose the following:
Indian Lake – Like the Saranac Lakes, this gorgeous body of water in the central Adirondacks is dotted with islands and surrounded by mountains. The High Peak views are surprisingly good.
South Lake – Located at the headwaters of the Black River, this clearwater lake is mostly state-owned and very well-suited for paddling. Look for the rock bluff on the north shore – great swimming! – and the secluded bay at the far east end – great camping!
Thirteenth Lake – An excellent place to paddle on the edge of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
Garnet Lake – Located near Crane Mountain, this small lake is surrounded by small mountains. A profusion of stumps makes it virtually impassable to motorboats. Nearby Round Pond should not be missed, either.
Raven Lake – A series of canoe carry trails lead north from Stillwater Reservoir to Raven Lake, Lyon Lake, Bear Pond, and Diana Pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness. This is an underrated area that deserves more attention.
Adirondack Mountain Club publishes Adirondack Paddling in partnership with Phil Brown’s Lost Pond Press.
Bill Ingersoll of Barneveld is publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebook series (hiketheadirondacks.com).