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Old 06-29-2020, 01:53 PM   #1
PA Kayaker
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Week-long trip planning help needed!

I posted a few weeks ago about resources for planning my and wife's first paddling trip to ADK this summer. Hugely helpful responses so I'm coming here for another plea.

I've picked up several of the recommended guidebooks to try to soak up as much info as possible: Dave Cilley's Adirondack Paddler's Guide and map, Adirondack Paddling - 65 Great Flatwater Adventures by Phil Brown, and Adirondack Canoe Waters, both North Flow and South & West Flow.

At this point I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. The North Flow book is intricately detailed but almost too much and probably a better resource once I have my route determined. Adirondack Paddling describes mostly single-day trips, which again will be helpful if I have a better idea of how to piece a route together.

So maybe I can get some suggestions from this group. We are looking for a remote route that gets us away from crowds and civilization. (I like that the Paddler's Guide provides a Wilderness rating.) Here are some details:
  • Five or six-day trip in late July. Probably shoving off on either Sunday or Monday in an effort to avoid weekend crowds.
  • We will be kayaking and have sea-worthy boats (which we have mostly paddled in the Great Lakes). Therefore prefer bigger bodies of water over small ponds. But not afraid to explore small areas. Small rapids are OK, class II? On previous trips we have planned to cover 12-15 paddling miles per day but have done up to 22 (which stops becoming fun at that distance). Obviously portaging shortens that.
  • Keep the portaging/carrying to a minimum (two or three per day at most?) and wheelable if possible. (We done our fair share of carrying by hand/back/shoulders and it's kind of a drag, but often the price of greatness.)
  • Start/end at the same spot if possible. Could do a shuttle or bike but would need to figure that out.
  • The more remote/wild, the better.
I was looking at the Oswegatchie Traverse route, which the Adirondack Paddling book mentions can be done in a loop (although strangely the book leaves out the details on how to do this.) Also the Whitney loop looks good, but the 17-18 portages do not.

Suggestions/advice welcomed and appreciated.

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Old 06-29-2020, 02:41 PM   #2
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Tough - if you want to stick with the sea kayaks, I would think the west coast of Lake Champlain would be appropriate.

Tripping in the Adirondacks is best with lightweight canoes due to the carries.
Best wilderness trip would likely involve Little Tupper Lake>Lake Lila>Lows Lake>Oswegatchie River (I seem to remember a thread on this forum not too long ago) - you can pay an outfitter to shuttle you or your car.
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Old 06-29-2020, 04:51 PM   #3
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Oswegatchie Loop would be starting at lower dam on Hitchins Pd -> carry/wheel over upper dam to Lows lake, paddle Lows to Western end -> carry to Oswegatchie headwaters, paddle/carry/drag over/around dams and rapids closer to Cranberry down to Wanakena, paddle to Cranberry and to Chair Rock Flow -> carry back to Lows lake -> carry/wheel over upper dam to Hitchins Pd back to lower dam.

Since remoteness/wilderness is at the bottom of your list and portaging is above it, take a look at Raquette River route from namesake lake (or above) down to (Big) Tupper Lake - nearly all carries are wheelable.
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Old 06-29-2020, 05:08 PM   #4
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The biggest obstacle in this kind of trip is not the carries, it is the sea kayaks. Unless you have a fantastic proven robust carry system for them, you will be very frustrated and will miss out on most of the more remote and wilderness areas you seek.

The Oswegatchie Loop via Lows (not Lowes) requires a lot of long carries, not the best trails and not necessarily cart friendly on much of it. I once lost count at up to 70 beaver dams to negotiate going downriver on that trip. One difficult leg entrapping double log jam over deep fast flowing water with steep earth banks drowned a paddler a few years ago on that trip a short time after I made note of how difficult that pair of logs was.

The Raquette to Tupper carry around Raquette Falls involves one of the most difficult stair step jumbled rock carries of all, certainly for the first third mile of the one mile plus length, and the remainder being over many exposed rock washouts is not the friendliest trail either. I was there just two days ago, while transporting a C4 canoe.

If you don't mind paddling to a campsite and setting up a base camp for hiking to remote ponds with many trail-less options, you might consider looking to the Stillwater Reservoir and the adjacent pepperbox and Five Ponds wilderness areas to its north. You can't get much more into remote wilderness than that in the Adirondacks. Of course this is noted prime pack canoe country for bushwhack visiting into those ponds.
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Old 06-29-2020, 05:55 PM   #5
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It sounds to me like you would be better off with a sampling of various areas rather than spending a week in just one main area.

For example:
3 days, 2 nights on Little Tupper Lake and Rock Pond, carries are almost nonexistent.
2 days, 1 night on the Essex Chain Lakes with a day trip down the Chain Drain to Rock River, easily wheelable initial carry, a very short carry between lakes, then a handful of easily traversed beaver dams. The Chain Drain is seldom visited.
2 or 3 days, 1 or 2 nights on Lows Lake and Grass Pond, remote and quiet but there is a scout camp that may or may not have activity levels a bit higher.

I won't recommend Stillwater Reservoir as there is motorboat traffic.
Same for a Raquette River trip, while beautiful, there is precious little remoteness, IMHO.
Whitney loop and Oswegatchie loops would be torture with your kayaks. Even a Lila to Bog River Flow trip would be unpleasant carrying.

https://adkforum.com/showthread.php?...ht=chain+drain

https://adkforum.com/showthread.php?...=little+tupper
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:08 PM   #6
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2 or 3 days, 1 or 2 nights on Lows Lake and Grass Pond, remote and quiet but there is a scout camp that may or may not have activity levels a bit higher.
If you go this year, there are no resident scout camps open at all during the 2020 season, due to you know what. But this is otherwise an extremely popular area for paddlers, although remoteness is possible if you get away from the lake and the many easily accessible campsites.

Note that in any of the public (free) campsites anywhere in NY, you may legally only stay for 3 consecutive nights at any one site without previously obtaining a permit to stay longer.
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:49 PM   #7
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I won't recommend Stillwater Reservoir as there is motorboat traffic.
Same for a Raquette River trip, while beautiful, there is precious little remoteness, IMHO.
Motorboats on Stillwater are the least of your worries, they mostly stay in the navigation channels (esp. in late July when water levels are typically somewhat low).
The partying and fireworks are likely to make it feel anything but remote...
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Old 06-29-2020, 07:47 PM   #8
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Motorboats on Stillwater are the least of your worries, they mostly stay in the navigation channels (esp. in late July when water levels are typically somewhat low).
The partying and fireworks are likely to make it feel anything but remote...
We were once half way up on Salmon Lake, and could still hear jet skis on Stillwater, nearly 1-1/2 miles away as the crow flies...which is another reason why I do not recommend Stillwater.

Mr Kayaker,
I would recommend you look at all these suggested routes/areas and then search here for trip reports of the same. That should give you a good idea if the suggested spots align with your expectations. My personal preference is for paddling in a designated wilderness area.
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Old 06-29-2020, 08:13 PM   #9
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We were once half way up on Salmon Lake, and could still hear jet skis on Stillwater, nearly 1-1/2 miles away as the crow flies...which is another reason why I do not recommend Stillwater.
Not surprising, as Salmon is barely 2K from Big Burnt where they roam and roar, not far enough. The leanto was burned to the ground at salmon a few years ago, so it is definitely not far enough . You would likely not have that problem if you go further north and seek remotness into Clear, Crooked and Oven. or northwest toward Sunshine, Muskrat, and Pepperbox, or any of the dozens of totally quiet ponds in between. Such is the nature of steps necessary for getting away from it all in this age. But I suspect the OP may not want to go to quite that much measure at this point anyway.

While I love Lows as a designated wilderness area, it is evermore crowded with all or nearly all designated sites often taken, even without BSA presence no matter the time during paddling season. There are off-lake remote ponds near there too, even including those going all the way through to Stillwater, as I have done. My fellow BSA trek guide instructors with the DEC began the wilderness leader training program there in 1979; I joined the team not long after that. We lived through the awful float plane invasion, the illegal introduction of black bass, the national magazine articles saying "come", and now the hoards of campers cutting live trees and leaving gardens of TP flowers at every site. Times have changed.
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:06 PM   #10
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Oh boy, after the July 4 holiday weekend I was considering a multi-day trip to Stillwater, camping in Big Burnt and doing the hike up the Red Horse Trail to Clear. I was hoping for some quiet - am I really going to be hearing motor boats and jet skis the entire time? I haven't been there in many years; back when I went it wasn't bad at all.
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:15 PM   #11
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Do Bog River to Grassy Pond portion of Lows Lake...feels very remote. Easy carry at upper dam. May be able to paddle around floating bog. In past trips there I have seen eagles, snapping turtles, bears, otters and deer. Go in on a Sunday and one of the great campsites on Grassy Pond will be available - I recommend the one all the way in the back near the carry to Cranberry Lake....or the one on the bluff in the pines on the right before you get to the far side of the bay.

Another great trip is going north on Long Lake, down the Raquette a few miles and then up the Cold River to that seldom visited leanto up there - forgot the name, you'll see it on a map. That's pretty dang remote. Another option is continuing all the way to Tupper Lake but I have never done the carry around the falls so I can't comment on it. Could be no fun. But if you accept that as part of it you can go many miles beyond.

In Wanakena you could paddle upstream on the Oswegatchie...a beautiful leanto site on the right a few miles up...you can paddle to High Falls...I've always wanted to paddle further up but I don't know if the beaver dams get really bad really fast above that.

Finally you can paddle up Cedar River Flow and up the Cedar River. A few very nice campsites up there in a remote area. There is the Carry leanto, which is nice, but I ran into a few entitled knuckledraggers back there a few years ago that didn't want to share the general area...and it was a real turn off seeing a small pine tree chopped down for seemingly no reason on the bank there....finally a quarter mile further up stream there is a pleasant campsite on your left and that will be about as far as you can get, but you can hike back into the wilderness if you wanted to do some kind of paddle / backpack combo.

That's all off the top of my head.
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:18 PM   #12
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Oh boy, after the July 4 holiday weekend I was considering a multi-day trip to Stillwater, camping in Big Burnt and doing the hike up the Red Horse Trail to Clear. I was hoping for some quiet - am I really going to be hearing motor boats and jet skis the entire time? I haven't been there in many years; back when I went it wasn't bad at all.
Be sure to let us know how it goes. i doubt you will hear anything that far north of Stillwater. Getting there may be another issue. Head toward Evergreen site #3 then hug the north shore eastward and paddle between the rocky shoals and drowned stumps where motors will not go without penalty.
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Old 06-29-2020, 09:47 PM   #13
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The biggest obstacle in this kind of trip is not the carries, it is the sea kayaks. Unless you have a fantastic proven robust carry system for them, you will be very frustrated and will miss out on most of the more remote and wilderness areas you seek.

The Oswegatchie Loop via Lows (not Lowes) requires a lot of long carries, not the best trails and not necessarily cart friendly on much of it. I once lost count at up to 70 beaver dams to negotiate going downriver on that trip. One difficult leg entrapping double log jam over deep fast flowing water with steep earth banks drowned a paddler a few years ago on that trip a short time after I made note of how difficult that pair of logs was.

The Raquette to Tupper carry around Raquette Falls involves one of the most difficult stair step jumbled rock carries of all, certainly for the first third mile of the one mile plus length, and the remainder being over many exposed rock washouts is not the friendliest trail either. I was there just two days ago, while transporting a C4 canoe.

If you don't mind paddling to a campsite and setting up a base camp for hiking to remote ponds with many trail-less options, you might consider looking to the Stillwater Reservoir and the adjacent pepperbox and Five Ponds wilderness areas to its north. You can't get much more into remote wilderness than that in the Adirondacks. Of course this is noted prime pack canoe country for bushwhack visiting into those ponds.
Well yes, but it can be done, and we've done it in multiple ways and over some pretty arduous trails. On some trips, we've done it like this:


But we'd much rather do it like this, at least when the terrain allows:





My wife's boat is pretty light for a 15-footer at 44 lbs. Mine is a 14.5-foot poly and is a bit heavier, around 55 lbs. So when we carry we end up doing a double (gear then boat), but when we wheel, we can usually get it done in one trip.

So depending on where we decide to go, it will determine how we portage our boats. I kind of like the idea of setting up the base camp -- avoids needing to pack up to move each day...
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:02 PM   #14
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If you like the base camp idea, that opens up a lot of possibilities in several places. You should see how TrailBlaser does on the Red Horse trail this weekend, paying attention to the condition of the trail with a base camp on the main reservoir, which other then possible frequent daytime motors, may not be bad later in the season after the holiday, especially if people start to go back to work during weekdays. On Lows you will totally avoid motors, but it will be crowded anyway especially if you include weekends. Even if you don't do the 3 mile carry to the Oswegatchie headwaters, I can tell you of some fascinating places to see with relatively short (or longer) trail walks.
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:15 PM   #15
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Be sure to let us know how it goes. i doubt you will hear anything that far north of Stillwater. Getting there may be another issue. Head toward Evergreen site #3 then hug the north shore eastward and paddle between the rocky shoals and drowned stumps where motors will not go without penalty.
I figured a route something like that. From what I remember, in a canoe, hugging the north shore is the way to go. I was hoping Big Burnt would provide some peace and quiet, it being off the main part of the reservoir. Also, the sites in there are close to the start of the RH trail. I'll probably just go, talk to the ranger if he is around and give it a shot if it looks good. If it turns out to be too noisy, I'll just bail and head for one of my regular destinations. Because of Covid, this is my first major trip this year so some quiet and solitude is more important than going someplace I haven't been to recently.
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:20 PM   #16
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If you like the base camp idea, that opens up a lot of possibilities in several places. You should see how TrailBlaser does on the Red Horse trail this weekend, paying attention to the condition of the trail with a base camp on the main reservoir, which other then possible frequent daytime motors, may not be bad later in the season after the holiday, especially if people start to go back to work during weekdays. On Lows you will totally avoid motors, but it will be crowded anyway especially if you include weekends. Even if you don't do the 3 mile carry to the Oswegatchie headwaters, I can tell you of some fascinating places to see with relatively short (or longer) trail walks.
If all goes as planned, I will be heading up there on Tuesday the 7th and spending 5-6 days.
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:31 PM   #17
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The caveat with getting an open available camp site takes on a different tone on Stillwater vs Lows. On Lows, like most other free designated campsites in the Adirondacks, they are first come first serve. (as an aside, you cannot exclusively occupy a leanto if it is not filled to capacity, but there are no leantos on Lows or Stillwater). If you cannot find an open designated tent site on Lows, you may be in a frustrated paddling mode from site to site until you find an open one, unless you want to revert to the 150 foot rule for a primitive camp away from the water (ask if you don't know what that means).

On the other hand, that site occupancy model is not the way it is done on Stillwater. At the launch sign-in you must select an available campsite on a selection board showing currently unoccupied sites. They are all free of charge and you cannot reserve in advance of arrival at the launch. You then move a site number to the occupied side of the board and it is yours for up to three nights. The system was set up years ago because the wind often kicks up on Stillwater and paddlers got themselves into trouble looking for an available open site. It seems to work uniquely fairly well, given an occasional jerk who does not know the rules and squats at the wrong site. The DEC Ranger's cabin and home is right there at the launch if you have questions.
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:41 PM   #18
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I'll probably just go, talk to the ranger if he is around and give it a shot if it looks good.
Always a good idea. The ranger's name is Matthew Savarie, who is a young guy, relatively new but energetic. If Matt is not on duty you may see Ranger Luke Evans, who has a bit more experience in the area. Their phone numbers can be found on the ranger roster in the DEC web site.
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Old 06-29-2020, 10:47 PM   #19
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Always a good idea. The ranger's name is Matthew Savarie, who is a young guy, relatively new but energetic. If Matt is not on duty you may see Ranger Luke Evans, who has a bit more experience in the area. Their phone numbers can be found on the ranger roster in the DEC web site.
I appreciate the information Wldrns. I was thinking of giving them a call later this week before heading there. I have never been disappointed on the CRF and Little Tupper, so I can always go back to them if Stillwater doesn't sound good.
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Old 07-03-2020, 08:00 AM   #20
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Oswegatchie Loop would be starting at lower dam on Hitchins Pd -> carry/wheel over upper dam to Lows lake, paddle Lows to Western end -> carry to Oswegatchie headwaters, paddle/carry/drag over/around dams and rapids closer to Cranberry down to Wanakena, paddle to Cranberry and to Chair Rock Flow -> carry back to Lows lake -> carry/wheel over upper dam to Hitchins Pd back to lower dam.
So I am thinking of doing this loop, but starting/ending at Inlet rather than Lower Dam. And actually, we'd drop off our boats at Wanakena, drive over to Inlet and leave the car there, then walk the portage trail back to Wanakena. That way, we avoid a few extra carries while ending at Inlet.

This route does have a few longer carries, particularly the Chair Rock trail from Cranberry to Low's. I've been searching and reading a few descriptions of that trail and it varies from "not too bad" to "won't do that again." Also the length seems to be described as short as 3.25 miles and as long as 4 miles. Interestingly, I wasn't able to find any mention of this trail in the North Flow book.

I am working on a new portage system for our kayaks, so this decision is dependent on how well that works out. Will know in a few days.
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