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Old 03-24-2021, 08:11 PM   #1
Zeebo
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Essex Chain Area

Hi All,
Wondering about some of the features around the Essex chain area. Looking to spend 3-4 nights, typically I would do this in an area or traverse of much greater size (lowes to O for example)

First, i'm unclear about some of the campsites and gates. Are the sites on Deer Pond and Fifth Lake Accessible by Car or is there a gate at Deer Pond Parking Lot? Anyone have preferences on water campsites (good swimming areas?)

Second, any interesting features to note on the trails and woods around the ponds. I suppose a hike to the Hudson would be reasonable for a day trip.

Third, are any of the inlet or outlets amongst the lakes /ponds navigable? from what I have read from stripperguy the chain drain is via first lake(?) to the cedar sounds promising for exploration.

Thanks all, appreciate any insights
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Old 03-24-2021, 10:21 PM   #2
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Deer Pond and Fifth Lake are not accessible by vehicle...there was (is?) some planned access to Fifth for disabled folks on a limited basis. Not sure if this has been implemented yet.
I've only camped on the legacy state lands way at the end of First, so I can't advise on other sites, but the few that I paddled past looked ok to me.
The Chain Drain is certainly worth the price of admission, my gang paddled it in October of a dry year and there was adequate water all the way to the falls.
The Chain Drain dumps into the Rock River, you can paddle a short ways upstream before some rapids. Downstream leads shortly to the Cedar River...I've been on that section of the Cedar to the rapids just beyond Pine Lake, I particularly enjoyed it.
I could envision a 3 or 4 day excursion that included a night on Pine Lake, it's a short carry up and over from the Cedar.
Depending on your boat and your ambitions, you might be able to pole upstream (or carry) on the Rock to explore more of that water. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to squeeze some sort of Rock Lake-Rock River-Essex Chain through trip, but the car shuttle is cumbersome.
All of those interior waters are very seldom visited, and there are no formal carries, but for me that's the attraction. Maybe the same for you?
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Old 03-24-2021, 11:09 PM   #3
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The closest that the general public can drive to Deer Pond is the gate that is about a quarter mile north of the pond itself. From there it's a relatively easy carry/wheel down to the pond itself.

Motor vehicle access beyond the Deer Pond gate to Fifth Lake is CP-3 only. In other words, it's only available to persons with a disability who obtain a permit from the DEC (and get the key to the gate). The site on the west end of Fifth Lake is designed to be an accessible site but I believe is open to use by anyone and everyone.

Many of the interior sites in the Essex Chain complex are honestly kind of "eh." Some of them are lacking in flat ground that is ideal for pitching tents. And I believe that the fire ban is still in place even though the DEC has announced plans to repeal it at some point in the future.

A lot of the trails in the area are logging roads that were in regular usage up until state acquisition of the property a few years ago. They are also kind of "eh." Nice enough if you're biking or horseback riding, I suppose, but if you're hiking it's a lot of green tunnels through forest with old log landings along the way that are slowly revegetating. The whole area was pretty obviously heavily cut over prior to state acquisition... the forest will recover in time, but it's going to be a decade or two before it truly feels as "wild" as much of the rest of the forest preserve.

If you're looking for roadside sites, there's 6 along the road into the Deer Pond Gate. Some of these sites receive very little use. Most aren't really roadside, but are a 100-200 feet or so off the road (so a relatively short walk to access). Fires are allowed at these sites.

Last edited by DSettahr; 03-25-2021 at 09:12 PM..
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Old 03-25-2021, 07:48 PM   #4
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Thank you both for the info, kinda confirms what I thought. Might do some recon in June and think about a trip in August. Let ya know the outcome. Best
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Old 03-25-2021, 08:12 PM   #5
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I spent a day in there last August, my third trip in since it opened. I also used to go in occasionally as a guest at the Gooley Club. Campsites on Third and Fourth Lake were occupied. Go around Deer Pond, unless you plan to spend time there. To me it's worth the trip if you fish. And, lots of loons. You could always fly into First and set up base camp there.
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Old 03-25-2021, 09:48 PM   #6
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Essex chain exploring

You can paddle the length of the six/seven lakes (ponds) in half a day. The water front campsites are OK, not as comfortable as many others in the Adirondacks. I have not seen good swimming spots, but have taken a dip in a few places.

Since biking is allowed, it opens up miles of recreation adventures to the Hudson and Cedar rivers (good swimming at both) on hardened logging roads. One can easily combine a few days biking & paddling. With wheels, you can easily tow a boat to Deer or 5th behind a bike. Returning uphill to west side parking may include some walking. Views limited.

This area does not have a strong wilderness feel. 3 days enough unless you get well off beaten path. Car camping with a fire and access to extended biking & pond hopping is how I've come to most enjoy it. Have seen several very impressive beaver dams away from the ponds so have water shoes evening biking.
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Old 03-26-2021, 08:45 PM   #7
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Buckladd and Bob K, thanks for the info.

Reading on DEC: "Two tent sites are located on the north shore of First Lake and may only be used by float plane customers."

Gotta say, not a fan of this arrangement -- sounds like these sites might be nicer for such a privilege?

Anyone have an idea about the frequency of the use by float planes or what outfit provide services to Essex area? -maybe a phone call and planning could serve as a way to access these? -Just a thought.
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Old 03-26-2021, 10:28 PM   #8
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Old 03-27-2021, 05:40 AM   #9
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Cool trip reports. Thank you!
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Old 03-29-2021, 09:38 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Zeebo View Post
Buckladd and Bob K, thanks for the info.

Reading on DEC: "Two tent sites are located on the north shore of First Lake and may only be used by float plane customers."

Gotta say, not a fan of this arrangement -- sounds like these sites might be nicer for such a privilege?

Anyone have an idea about the frequency of the use by float planes or what outfit provide services to Essex area? -maybe a phone call and planning could serve as a way to access these? -Just a thought.
No, not really "nice" they have been used a lot in the past. Picked over and nailed and built up "things", built and placed more for convenience rather than any particularly pretty vantage or placement- in fact if I recall, kind of muddy. . There is ( or was) a dock and a bunch of stashed aluminum canoes. . Not the sort of sites I prefer.

Don't fret about them too much- you have the rest of the lakes and shoreline.

I just ran across a close up of the same 1st lake site. So i added it to this post.There is another, with less architecture and more canoes
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Screen Shot 2021-03-29 at 9.31.56 PM.jpg (76.4 KB, 430 views)
File Type: jpg Screen Shot 2021-05-10 at 1.29.34 PM.jpg (85.8 KB, 307 views)

Last edited by RichieC; 05-10-2021 at 01:34 PM..
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Old 04-01-2021, 08:01 PM   #11
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Thanks RichieC and Nehasane -- nice trip report. Certainly wish I could get up there more than once or twice a year to check out all these spots....maybe some day
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Old 05-09-2021, 11:09 PM   #12
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My only visit there was several years ago in the first month of public access (day use only). Took a long time to drive back there in my little Toyota while carefully avoiding the numerous rocks in the road. Has the road been improved since then? Might go back and camp next time.
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Old 05-13-2021, 04:54 AM   #13
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I've driven back there a few times and don't recall having to dodge more than the occasional rock, so I'd say it's been improved (but can't say with 100% certainty as I did not visit the area for the first time until 2018).
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Old 05-13-2021, 04:27 PM   #14
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I ventured in there last summer. The road requires some maneuvering, but not nothing extreme. I have a Forester and I kept the speed down; an unexpected discovery: despite the masses last year, the Essex chain was not at all crowded, and I was there on July 7th. I wouldn't want to go there with a low clearance vehicle.
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Old 05-26-2021, 07:15 AM   #15
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Does anyone know the status of the planned bridge over the Cedar River? With that in place, you could park in Indian Lake and bike all the way through to the North side. If no bridge, is there a decent place to wade across?

Camped at Site #3 on Third Lake Last Weekend. It was adequate for a couple of small tents.

Fire rings are being installed at the waterfront sites. Once these are in place the no fire signs will be taken down and fires allowed. The UMP was amended in January of this year to allow campfires on a trial basis for three years.

There is a pile of lumber and logs at the former Club building site on Third Lake, that will be the new lean to, I assume sometime this summer.
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Old 05-26-2021, 06:13 PM   #16
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Does anyone know the status of the planned bridge over the Cedar River? With that in place, you could park in Indian Lake and bike all the way through to the North side. If no bridge, is there a decent place to wade across?

...
Mr bridge,
Here's a look at the Cedar, at the Big Bend, proposed site of the new bridge.
You're probably not gonna do much wading...

Upstream view



Downstream view

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Old 08-16-2021, 08:28 PM   #17
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No, not really "nice" they have been used a lot in the past. Picked over and nailed and built up "things", built and placed more for convenience rather than any particularly pretty vantage or placement- in fact if I recall, kind of muddy. . There is ( or was) a dock and a bunch of stashed aluminum canoes. . Not the sort of sites I prefer.
I finally made it back into first lake. The framework shown in your second picture has been taken down- it looked like all of the poles had been piled up on the side of the site. Someone had taken an old "Posted" sign and written in sharpie on the back, "NYSDEC Emergency Tent Poles Do Not Remove," and placed it atop the pile of poles. Safe to say whoever it was that made that sign certainly does not work for the DEC.

I agree with the general assessment of those two float plane sites- they are pretty lackluster at best. It appears that neither has gotten a whole lot of use in recent years; both were covered in knee deep grass.

The Grassy Pond site was somewhat nice, although by far the buggiest out of all of the sites I visited on this trip.

Third Lake site #2 has been relocated- this site was formerly located in a neat spot between rock outcrops on the north side of the lake, but the access to and from the site from the water was downright horrible. This site was closed, and a new site on the south shore (just about due south of the old site) has been designated.

The new Third Lake Lean-to is pretty nice. I spent a night there (and was serenaded by flamboyant loons all night long).

Every site that I visited has a fire pit. The fire pits are all on the smaller side, I'm sure as the use picks up that will change.

There were also more folks out and about in the area, both by boat and bicycle, than I've ever seen (although I never made it into the area back during it's initial popularity, when the permit camping system was in place). I also saw hoof prints indicating recent use by horseback riders. I think the repeal of the fire ban especially has increased interest in the area and what it has to offer.
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Old 08-16-2021, 09:31 PM   #18
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Essex Chain Lakes

Last month I spent five days there. I went in on a Thursday and came out the following Wednesday. I spent most of the time on Sixth Lake and some time on Third. With the exception of the Sixth Lake campsite (#2), I thought most of the campsites were substandard compared to other places I have camped in the Adirondacks (however, I did not go to First or Second). I had no problem with the carry to Deer Pond or to Third Lake. Although the water level was high, I was still able to go through the culvert between Fourth and Fifth. However, after two days of heavy rain, that was not the case on the way back towards Third; I had to carry over the roadbed. There was only one vehicle in the lot when I went in. I only saw one canoe with two paddlers in it the entire time - they paddled into Sixth, around Seventh and then out. There were no other vehicles in the lot when I came out. Here are a couple of photos:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Hornbeck on shore.jpg (146.9 KB, 166 views)
File Type: jpg Essex Chain Lakes 148.jpg (147.4 KB, 166 views)
File Type: jpg Essex Chain Lakes 132.jpg (124.1 KB, 167 views)
File Type: jpg Sixth Lake Campsite 1.jpg (146.7 KB, 170 views)
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Old 09-10-2021, 01:00 PM   #19
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Essex Chain North update

Spent two nights there recently. Updates from being there & a conversation with a very reliable source:

The new lean-to on 3rd lake is nice (set back from water a bit) and getting use. Saw party of 2 there. One of the campsites (#2) on 3rd lake has been closed/relocated (to S shore), and #1 on 6th lake has been closed (it was bad). The map at the Kiosk has been marked up to reflect the changes. The DEC web site now has the current site locations accurately shown here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/91888.html

All campsites have fire rings now & campfires are legal at designated waterside sites. I did not see this info yet on any DEC website.

Only saw one other person wheeling into 3rd lake.

Beaver activity down a bit and I did the Deer Pond loop without getting my feet wet. Made it again to Cedar river for a dip. Road/trail section close to former bridge site flooded as usual. Saw a float plane headed for likely landing on Pine lake.

For those wondering, no apparent activity on replacing the bridge over the Cedar river (saw flagging on S side a few years ago). Curiously, the DEC map shows a hand launch in this area. This surely not legally reachable by motorized vehicle (locked gates and at least one washout on N side above new lean-to). That would be long tough carry/wheel and a very short paddle unless you were committed to white water.

Camp 6 road heading S (from E end of Goodnow Flow) has a 14" tree across rd .7 mi S of locked gate and not hospitable to pass further than 1 mile.

Some increased signage at key intersections (thanks DEC) will help navigating for some. Could use a sign at N access from E side at locked gate. That too is a nice bike ride on the former logging roads.
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Old 09-11-2021, 09:14 AM   #20
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Great info and thanks to all as usual. Does anyone know what fish are in first lake and grassy pond?
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