This year’s Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Paddlers Freshet Festival takes place on June 10-11 in the town of Saranac Lake, New York. Located in the northern Adirondacks, Saranac Lake is one of the premier paddling destinations in the Northeast. The small village is literally surrounded by hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers, and small winding streams.
The goal of the festival is to bring together paddlers of differing skill levels, ranging from novices to NFCT thru-paddlers, to celebrate the start of the paddling season. Think of the event as a paddlers’ rendezvous.
The event will kick off Friday evening at Mount Pisgah ski lodge with a free slideshow and presentation from by Saranac Lake-area crew Mike Peabody, Jim Sausville, Chris Burnham and Nick Gowans who thru-paddled the trail in 2015.
Saturday is when the outdoor fun starts. In the morning there will be paddling clinics at Lake Colby and afternoon guided trips on nearby waters. (See descriptions for clinics and guided trips here.)
The event will then return to Mount Pisgah for evening presentations, including a paddlers’ panel and a keynote presentation by Doug Fitzgerald and Jack Drury about their journeys throughout North American. The two Adirondackers are accomplished outdoorsmen who have paddled extensively, trips ranging from the Boundary Waters in Minnesota to the remote Thelon River in northern Canada.
Space for clinics and guide trips is limited—register early to guarantee your spot! You can sign-up for just one event or for the entire day. Early registration takes place until May 25. After that, rates will go up.
Below are some questions-and-answers about the paddling festival and the Saranac Lake area:
How much experience do I need?
Whether you are a newcomer or experienced paddler, the clinics and guided trips are geared for people of all abilities, and will entail a few hours of moderate exercise. Most trips will be on lakes, ponds and and slow-moving rivers. Only the morning Moving Water clinic and afternoon Thru-Paddlers Bootcamp may take place on faster-moving water and will focus on skills specific for long-distance paddling trips.
Should I bring food and water?
Yes, you will need to bring your own water, paddling snacks and lunch. Food and meals can be purchased in downtown Saranac Lake. A list of stores and restaurants can be found at www.downtownsaranaclake.com.
Do I need to bring a boat and paddling gear?
If you register for an on-the-water event, you will be required to bring your own kayak or canoe, as well as a paddle, PFD (life jacket) and appropriate clothing and shoes. You can also rent a boat, paddle and PDF from a local outfitter listed below.
Participants will be responsible for their own snacks, water, and other gear. Participants should wear water shoes, or shoes they are willing to get wet. Closed-toe water shoes are recommended for all trips.
For the Moving Water clinic and Thru-Paddlers Bootcamp only, closed-toe shoes are required. Using a durable canoe or kayak is highly recommended for these two clinics.
Other recommended items: quick-dry clothing, extra wind layer, sunscreen and bug spray.
Is there a cost?
The Paddlers Freshet Fest is a fundraiser for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Registration fees help cover costs for the event and support the non-profit’s mission. NFCT members receive a 15% discount on all events (members will need to login—or one-time register—to receive their discount which will be applied at check-out). See prices here.
For clinics and guided trips, kids 12 and under are FREE with a paying adult! But please register them to save their spot.
Where can I stay?
The economy in the northern Adirondacks is driven by recreational tourism, and there are plenty of places to stay, ranging from hotels to free campsites. A long list of lodging options can be found at saranaclake.com/stay/lodging. Paid camping options include places like Fish Creek Campground, a 20-minute drive from Saranac Lake. Similar places can be found on the following website: saranaclake.com/stay/camping. Free camping options are also available in the area; inquire with local outfitters for those options.
For folks attending the Paddlers Freshet Fest, there are a few important addresses to know:
Evening presentations and Saturday’s dinner will be at Mount Pisgah is located at 92 Mt Pisgah Lane, Saranac Lake, NY 12983. There will also be volunteers at Mount Pisgah all day Saturday to answer questions.
Almost all Saturday morning clinics will happen on Lake Colby at the Saranac Lake Village Beach accessed by Moir Road just off State Route 86, Saranac Lake, NY 12983. The beach is just north of the village and across the street from the Adirondack Medical Center. The morning Moving Water clinic will take place at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters (see address below).
Afternoon guided trips will meet at various locations to shuttle to put-ins. See the event schedule for each trip’s starting point. Some trips will leave from one of these participating outfitters:
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, 73 Dorsey St, Saranac Lake, NY 12986
Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, 541 Lake Flower Ave, Saranac Lake, NY 12983
Where To Rent a Canoe or Kayak
Any further questions about the Paddlers Freshet Fest and the Saranac Lake area can be directed to the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s New York Outreach Coordinator Mike Lynch at [email protected].