The Saranac River: New Campsite, Safer Portage

031By Trail Director, Walter Opuszynski

There are 42 dams along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Treadwell Mills Dam on the Saranac River is owned and operated by Enel Green Power North America (EGP-NA). Thanks to their generosity, the combination of their property location and our desire to create a much-needed overnight accommodation for paddlers in this area has resulted in a new primitive campsite on the Saranac River.

EGP-NA is a multi-national power company that focuses on renewable energy and has a track record for giving back to the community. Back in 2013 a group of their employees volunteered to help us improve the Highgate Falls Portage in Vermont as part of their world-wide company volunteer day. We made a few good contacts and got to better learn how their dams on the Saranac River were managed.

Regional Field Coordinator, Noah Pollock, uses a GPS unit to mark a potential campsite location.
Regional Field Coordinator Noah Pollock uses a GPS unit to mark a potential campsite location.

Regional Field Coordinator Noah Pollock and I went on a scouting mission in 2013 taking GPS points of all potential campsites on a section of the Saranac River located between Union Falls Dam and Plattsburgh. At Treadwell Mills (about 7 miles upstream from Lake Champlain) we found a location that was a bit tucked away, but ideal for a primitive campsite location.

We also found a much more direct and safer portage trail. The next steps involved good communications, securing funding, and bringing people together in a grassroots effort to make the project happen.Next we reached out to EGP-NA to determine if we could receive landowner permission to perform the work. After their initial internal review of our proposal, we felt that there was enough potential of the project moving forward for us to begin to identify the funding mechanisms to make it all happen.

Because this work is on the Saranac River it opened up the opportunity for us to access a Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership grant funded by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) and managed by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP). LCBP grants are open to any work that affects Lake Champlain including its tributaries like the Saranac and Missisquoi Rivers.

After securing a grant we were able to accomplish the valuable stewardship work at Treadwell Mills Dam with intern and volunteer support as part of one of our Waterway Work Trip Program. (Read Stewardship Intern Megan Connolly’s post about the project for more details.)

As with all NFCT stewardship projects, there were multiple partners and good, solid, tangible outcomes that improve the safety and experience of the trail user. Here is a recap of primary outcomes of this project:

  • A roadside carry was rerouted to a non-traffic, safer corridor and shaved a 1/4 mile off the distance.
  • A primitive campsite was added in a stretch of trail corridor in need of more camping opportunities.
  • Three of tomorrow’s land and river management professionals were trained in leadership and on-the-ground stewardship techniques.



Read Trail Update: Treadwell Mills for more details about the improvements. Remember, before hitting the trail, be sure to check and see if there are any Trail Updates to compliment your Northern Forest Canoe Trail maps.

It is with great appreciation that the Northern Forest Canoe Trail thanks Enel Green Power North America, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, as well as our Stewardship Intern Crew, Regional Field Coordinator and the volunteers that continue to make the trail a better corridor.


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