Some of the best paddling in the Adirondacks can be found in Tupper Lake, and the oxbow of the Raquette River headlines a long list of beautiful, accessible trips for paddlers of all skill levels.
A river’s oxbow is a winding, u-shaped stretch that can sometimes be separated from a river’s natural flow — the Raquette’s oxbow takes some big bends, but never quite deviates from the main river. There’s a few ways to paddle this stretch, but the two most popular routes are from upstream, starting at The Crusher boat launch just outside Tupper Lake, or from downstream, starting at either the Route 30 state boat launch or the smaller launch across from Raquette River Outfitters.
My most recent oxbow trip was a community paddle the NFCT co-hosted with Anne Fleck from Raquette River Outfitters, part of a series of fall foliage paddles with our Adirondack outfitter partners. For this trip, a small group joined us and put in at the RRO launch.
From the launch, we paddled in a northeasterly direction across Simon Pond, then started upstream on the Raquette. Almost immediately, the water turned to glass, with silver maples in peak fall form reflecting off the surface. I love paddling with Anne from RRO — she has decades of experience and stories from outfitting paddlers and guiding trips, and she’s just an all around great person. We had a couple from Pennsylvania with us for this trip and they had a lot of questions about the surrounding landscape and Tupper Lake’s history — Anne was the perfect tour guide.
After about 20 minutes, we passed under a private bridge, part of an access road to Follensby Pond — not to be confused with Follensby Clear, which is open to the public. Follensby Pond is a private water body, owned by The Nature Conservancy, that was once home to the famed Philosopher’s Camp. The paddle continues upstream past The Wild Center, which also offers guided kayak tours of the Raquette.
We eventually loop around the oxbow and start back downstream, paddling past The Wild Center again, under the Follensby bridge, and then continue down the Raquette instead of veering left the way we came. The final stretch runs parallel to Raquette River Drive before emptying into Simon Pond once again. At this point, you’re facing south, with spectacular views of Big Tupper and its surrounding mountains.
The oxbow loop from RRO is perfect for beginners who want to try a short, beautiful trip. More experienced paddlers can turn this into a half or full day trip by continuing upstream past The Crusher all the way to Axton Landing or Raquette Falls, but be warned: that’s a lot of upstream work.
Other options in this area include paddling over into Raquette Pond along the shoreline of the Tupper Lake Municipal Park, or out onto Tupper Lake itself. There is motorboat activity on all of these water bodies, including the Raquette River itself, so pay attention to your surroundings!