Section two questions

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    We are returning to do section two this May. (Did section 1 two years ago). We are looking at May 15-19. Can you tell us what this section is like? What are the portages like? Any ideas on temps or bugs? How many days to paddle? Suggestions on camping? Also, is there a camp ground we can pull in to and stay to get showers the night before put in Long Lake or take out (Saranac Lake).

    Also, we may add section three. My research indicates there is quite a bit of whitewater in this section. We are good canoe paddlers but have not really done much white water in canoes beyond class II. Any thoughts on this section?

    Thanks for all your help. You guys are great resources!

    Mark Roberts
    Crestwood Baptist Church Men’s Ministries


    Mark Canoe tripping in mid-May you are typically just ahead of the major black fly emergence. Temperatures are harder to predict. You could easily have a frost at night, or snow flurries, or a cold 40 degree rainy day – or a string of perfect days in the 70s… The water is still very cold in May – I am quite conservative about open water crossings and whitewater that early because of the danger of hypothermia if I take an inadvertent swim.

    Paddling in the Adirondacks before Memorial Day you’ll mostly have the lakes to yourselves, other than a few folks out fishing for the day. You will be camping on the Saranac Lakes for at least one night – it is possible to reserve those in advance. I do not know how popular they are in May. During the Summer they are booked far in advance. I’d advise you to make reservations before the trip to be safe.

    The Raquette Falls Carry and the Indian Carry are each over a mile long. They are well marked and well-trodden paths, although a bit rocky in places. There are a couple of shorter carries too, including my all-time favorite at the quaint hand-operated Upper Locks.

    Three nights is a typical trip length from Long Lake to Saranac lake. It would be easy to stretch that out by exploring more, (or spending more time in camp cooking, etc!). For an experienced and strong group with good weather Long lake to Union Falls Dam would be quite doable in five days, but that would not be a leisurely itinerary.

    The ten miles below Union Falls Dam are difficult, technical whitewater, and fun for skilled whitewater kayakers, but not practical as part of a canoe-camping expedition.

    Camping the first night on Long Lake, the next on the Raquette River somewhere, and the third and fourth nights on the lovely Saranac Lakes might make a real nice trip for your purposes!

    For campgrounds before and after your trip: Lake Eaton State Campground is a few minutes outside Long Lake – it has tent and RV sites, and hot showers, and opens May 15th this year. Fish Creek State Campground has similar amenities and is adjacent to Upper Saranac Lake – I think it opens in April.

    Happy trails! – Kalmia


    I would like to reinforce the beauty and remote feeling of this section. You’ll have lots of camping opportunities (including lean-tos) all along this route, but no other services. If you hit headwinds on Long Lake, there are several campsites sprinkled along the eastern shoreline. There is a popular, but nice campsite and lean-to at the end of the Raquette Falls Carry. In hot weather, there is a nice swimming hole at the put-in too. I’ve camped at both Middle Saranac Lake and Lower Saranac Lake state park assigned campsites. Middle Saranac Lake feels more remote and would be my first choice. Lower has an awesome bluff. Both lakes have numbered boat-accessible only sites. I suspect that you won’t have a problem getting a site at that time of year. However, what would be a problem is picking a site first, then paying. You won’t know what’s been reserved upon arrival. The park office is located AFTER passing through most of Lower Saranac Lake, making registering for an open site and then returning to it, really impractical for Middle Saranac. It’s less problematic for Lower, but you’ll still be adding at least two miles paddle to and from the office to a site. I recommend calling the office to discuss where the kind of site you are looking for and then booking it. There are only a handful of sites with lean-tos on either of these two lakes. Most are tent sites only.

    St. Regis Outfitters, located along the Saranac River after portaging around the dam, has a single shower at their store that is available to patrons of their services. If you use them for shuttling, you’d probably be able to use their shower at the end of your trip.Depending how far you’d want to go, you could add the Saranac River section from Saranac Village to Permanent Rapids–about a 3 hour trip with no rapids (until reaching Permanent Rapids.) It meanders through flood plans and a deciduous forest. You could take out here leaving a car here for a few hours; or portage around the rapids and camp at the put-in–where a large, pretty and somewhat popular campsite exists; or paddle to the Franklin Falls take-out where a car can also be left. Saranac Lake to Franklin Falls, with the wheelable portage around Permanent Rapids, would be a day trip. St. Regis can help out with shuttles in this area. Paddling all the way to Union Falls is a VERY long day. Phone service is very sketchy in this area (or was as of two years ago), so I’d make sure I’d have my shuttle plans set before heading out.

    Another thing to keep in mind for your next section paddle is still consider using shuttles to get around the next section. Save Saranac Village to Union Falls for a two-day trip. Yes, the next section of the Saranac River between Union Falls and Clayburg is technical. You can shuttle (or portage) this 9 mile section following roads and resume from Clayburg. Water levels will determine how technical the next section is between here and Plattsburg, but you have several options of where and how far to paddle. Clayburg to Treadwell Mills Dam, just outside of Plattsburg is an interesting stretch of river with some faster sections and some portaging. I could see you checking off the river as another trip over a few days too. But yes, you’ll most likely want to consider cobbling this section together with the use of some shuttling help. Paddling through Plattsburg is another topic altogether best left for another time.

    But I digress! You are certain to enjoy section two. Interesting scenery and good campsites are to be found throughout your trip.


    Thanks for your comments. I think we will do just section two this time and enjoy it. I am looking at driveing up on Saturday May 16 and paddling Sunday-Tuesday, driving back Wednesday morning May 20. We are used to colder weather as we go to the Boundary Waters each year in mid to late September. Just trying to stay away from the black flies. When we did Section 1 we paddled May 17, 18 and 19. Pretty much paddled all day on the 17th to eighth lake campground, then paddled all day the 19th to Forked Lake state park. I think we were at the takout on the 19th around noon. (had the help of a scout group with a canoe trailer for that last 2 mile portage). This time I would like to take it a little slower. Bugs started coming out the second day and were out full force by May 18 and 19 to the point we had to stay in the bug suits until after dark to eat. Temps had risen in to the 70’s at that point.

    Would you suggest stretching section two out to four days? Also, on the camping.. .the state parks were the worst we have stayed in at any state (we have camped in MANY states). Basically just a camp site, and table. Bathrooms were not open yet mid May either. This time we might go the lean to route. We hammock camp vs tents as well. Thanks again for your help


    I’m really surprised about your state park comment. I too have stayed in many state parks and found the NYDEC ones to be equivalent to other experiences. Maybe not hot showers, but everything else was on par. Perhaps because you are pre-season? Personally, also being a BWCA camper, I was shocked to find outhouse on the water-accessible campsite on Lower Saranac Lake stocked with toilet paper! I didn’t camp on Forked Lake, but I thought it seemed like a great campground. I would say to expect the same number of “conveniences” or lack there-of on the Saranac Lakes. With the exception of motorboats, these lakes felt like a mini BWCA to me. I’d say it compares to the BWCA, but with picnic tables. I’ve posted a few pics from 2011 and 2012. First one is the lean to at the end of Raquette Carry. Second is the tent site where you turn off to head up Stoney Creek. There is also an adjacent lean-to at this site. As you can see, no picnic table. The overcast sky ones are from Middle Saranac, there is a picnic table at that site, but this just shows the terrain. The last is at Lower Saranac.

    I don’t have an opinion about how much to stretch out the trip. It certainly is scenic and no need to rush through it. The hand-operated locks are in this stretch too, which are a novelty. Fishing might be good?



    My comment on the parks is mainly the bathrooms. We have camped throughout Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, north and south Carolinas, Main, Wisconsin and Minnesota. I have yet to find a state park . ..other then New York. . .that operates everything as basically primitive. I called before leaving last time to confirm all parks and all facilities would be open and was told everything was open and operational by May 15. When we camped at both parks, in each case only one bathhouse was unlocked and usable. No hot water or showers. All the other parks mentioned above had bathrooms with showers and most with heat. If I had know that the state parks basically offered only spartan amenities, I would have opted for the lean twos.

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