NFCT Maps 2 & 3: Rt 3 State Boat Launch to Union Falls Dam

Date(s): July 15th – 16th, 2009
Paddlers: Deb and JR

July 15th – Saranac River just before Permanent Rapids

Trail Notes:
(1) Portage in Saranac Lake Village goes through the police station parking lot.
(2) Portages on this section not always well marked where to get in or out, but we figured it out without too much trouble.

Paddle Report:
Link for pictures:

We managed to get away for a couple days and finish up this section that we skipped over last summer. It was a nice relaxing break; 2 days, only 29 miles, no 35 mph winds in our faces! After an interesting shuttle ride, we had dropped our truck at Union Falls Dam and were at the Rt 3 State Bridge Boat Launch below Saranac Lake Village. There were many more people out on a Wednesday morning than I had expected to see. It seemed like a Saturday!

We got out on the water around 10:30am. The weather was absolutely gorgeous! Right away we were enjoying the nice weather, lack of insane wind and the current floating us along effortlessly. Such a difference from our last trip! We paddled along the Saranac River and through the lock into Oseetah Lake. There were many boats out on the lake. Some fishing and some zooming around with water skiers behind them.

We paddled up to the dam in Saranac Lake Village and easily found the portage to get out. We pulled the boats up on shore and headed over to the picnic table there to have some lunch. After lunch there was a little bit of confusion where exactly the portage went from there. Once we figured out to go through the police station parking lot, we could see the sign for the Riverwalk that our portage follows. We made a slight deviation though, once we saw the entrance to the pedestrian bridge. The entrance had waist high walls and sharp turns. It would be quite tricky with a long, heavy boat. JR scouted out the path along the side of the river we were already on and found a fairly easy way back into the river.

From there we floated serenely down the Saranac River the rest of the day. Another mile or so took us through Saranac Lake Village and then out into a meandering marshy area. We goofed off for a while as the current was keeping us going at about 2+mph without any paddling. We saw many houses nearby and wondered what our campsite would be like. We paddled back and forth as the river meandered some more, took some pictures of the mountains in the background and looked for wildlife.

Shortly before our campsite we had a nice conversation with a woman sitting on the dock behind her house. She assured us there were a few campsites coming up before the Permanent Rapids. With JR up ahead, he found the campsite and pull off to scout it out. I could tell the meandering current was picking up again as it was harder to backpaddle and stay in the same spot while I was waiting for JR to okay the campsite. JR came back and said we might want to look at the other campsite that was supposed to be nearby because this one wasn’t the greatest.

I looked at the map again and realized this must already be the second site because the first one looks like it’s actually across the road that runs along the river. We both decided just to stay at this site. What a weird set-up! But it was someplace to sleep. The site was in between the road and the river and there really wasn’t a clearing to put your tent. It was more like a tractor path.

We set up the tent and got the fire started to get rid of some of the bugs. They were pretty vicious! We nibbled on some chips and realized we really weren’t that hungry. The fire was ready to cook on, but we decided just to throw some more logs on and maybe we’d cook later when we were hungry.

There wasn’t much of anywhere to sit and the bugs were terrible. We were both tired, probably from being in the sun all day. We didn’t really work that hard, compared to other trips, but still felt pretty tired. We decided just to go to bed. We had been lazy setting up the tent and didn’t stake out the rain fly or the side vents. During the night it started to rain so we had to close the rainfly. Only problem was that since we didn’t stake it out, it was directly on the mesh door and the side vents were flush against the tent as well. Later we both woke up because it was hard to breathe in there. There was one small vent at the top of the tent but everything else was sealed off from the rain and our laziness. We ended up opening the door and fanning air in during the lulls in the rain storms. Moral of the story: Stake the tent!! That’s what happens the one time you are lazy about setting up!

The next morning we were still alive and the rain had subsided. We got out and started making breakfast. Just as breakfast was ready, the rain started again. We sat in our rain jackets, under the trees, eating our breakfast burritos. JR played with the sap on a nearby tree to keep us entertained until the rain stopped again and we could pack up.

Back on the river for just a minute and then we got out to portage the Permanent Rapids. We probably would have been okay but decided not to chance it and just portage around. We found a couple more campsites along the portage that weren’t marked on the map. At the end of the portage there were a few campsites but they were already occupied. Got back into the river just as it opened up into Franklin Falls Pond.

An uneventful but very delightful paddle brought us to the portage between Franklin Falls Pond and Union Falls Pond. We sat at the Franklin Falls Pond boat launch and had some more snacks while enjoying the mountain views. We then walked our boats across the bridge and along the side of the road. We found a couple paths that led back down to the river and took the one that seemed the easiest. Good thing we ate at the boat launch. This was a decent put-in but the bugs were pretty bad. Hurry up, get in the boat and off we go!

A small stream section then opened up into Union Falls Pond. A look over our right shoulder gave great views of Whiteface Mountain. You could even see the big tourist building on top of the mountain! That was pretty neat. Then we heard some thunder and figured we should get paddling.

The sky alternated with darker cloud cover and thunder to lighter skies and sun. We made it to Union Falls Dam without getting rained on. The road there looked like it had rained not too long ago, but we must have missed it. HURRAY! We pulled the boats up onto land and went to get the truck. We loaded the boats and proceeded to take some pictures of the spectacular falls! There was a man made dam at the top but you could see all the rocks at the middle to bottom that must have been the original Union Falls. A look downstream gave us a sneak peak at the class III and IV (even class V if you go over Tefft Pond Falls!) rapids on the next 15 miles of river from here to Clayburg. Not today and not in these long boats! But maybe we’ll be back with some smaller boats for a day trip! =)

NFCT Map 4: Enosburg Falls to Kings Bay, Lake Champlain

Date(s): June 20th – 22nd , 2008
Paddlers: Deb and JR

June 20th – Highgate Center Campsite
June 21st – Lake Champlain, ?? Cliffs Campsite

Trail Notes:
(1) The portage for Highgate Center Dam is right in front of the buoys, VERY close to the dam. The sign is almost hidden behind trees, but stick to the right shore and you will see the portage.
(2) The dam is not quite as obvious at Swanson. It is just before the bridge but there are no caution buoys or signs. Again the portage is quite close to the dam on the right shore.

Paddle Report:
Click Here for Pictures from the June 20th-22nd Trip

In Progress...

NFCT Map 2: Long Lake to Lower Saranac Lake

Date(s): May 24th - 26th, 2008
Paddlers: Deb and JR

May 24th- Lost Channel Lean-to on the Raquette River
May 25th- Stony Creek Ponds Campsite

Trail Info: No Updates.

Paddle Report:

Click here for a slide show of pix from this trip (using a waterproof camera bag).

After only a few hours of sleep we set out on Long Lake. (JR works night shift and we drove up after he got out of work to get an early morning start.) Before too long we heard an engine behind us. We turned around to see a seaplane! Wow! We pulled over to the side of the lake so he could go by and got out our cameras. He zoomed by and then we continued to paddle. The lake was calm until about 10:30 am. We were paddling with ease and talking when almost instantly the wind picked up and we were again paddling for every inch of progress. No more time to talk, just paddle! I saw the lean-tos at Plumleys and wanted to stop but JR was ahead of me and there was no way he'd hear me yelling through this wind. I was trying to figure out how to tell him to stop there when I noticed he was heading for the lean-tos anyway. Good thing because even though he was only a little ways ahead of me, with the wind I would never have been able to catch up to him to tell him to stop there. Good thing we think alike!

We got there and enjoyed some famous JR snacks and tried to enjoy the sunshine. The blackflies were ravenous on shore! We set back out and paddled most the rest of the day on Long Lake. When we finally came to the end of the lake, it almost didn't seem right to be leaving Long Lake. But we entered the Raquette River once again and enjoyed the different scenery. It was still windy but a little more sheltered than the open lake. We passed by the Lost Channel Lean-to on our way to Deep Hole. Just as we were coming around the corner to Deep Hole Lean-to we smelled campfire. JR paddled up ahead and when I saw him just sitting there in the middle of the river I knew someone else had the lean-to. So we started back to Lost Channel since no one was there when we went by. However, I started paddling fast because I didn't want to get back there just as someone else was taking it. We passed Cold River inlet and there were 2 paddlers there. I didn't know what their intentions were but I knew that if they were headed for Lost Channel I was going to make sure I got there first! We made it back there and pulled our boats in on the muddy shore. We set up camp, got the fire going, ate and then went back out on the river for an evening stroll. JR saw a couple beavers but they were gone by the time I got there. We saw a lot of birds but no loons this trip.

The next morning was so calm compared to the day before. The water looked like glass and it was so quiet we felt like we should be whispering. The sun was out and we started out real lazy. We just coasted down the river basking in the sun. Other paddlers passed us, including Eileen McCue and William Hafford on their through paddle. However, we caught up to and passed most of them on the portage. Even though it is difficult to just roll your kayak through this section, we still used our wheels. There were parts where we had to help each other list the boat over obstacles but we made it through in one trip. Most people were taking multiple trips to carry their boat and gear. After that rough bit it was time to get serious about paddling if we wanted to make it to camp. So we kept us a consistent pace and after the surprise of going upstream in Stony Creek, we made it to camp at the Stony Creek Ponds campsite. What a gorgeous little spot! Mark that down as one of my favorite campsites. And plenty of wood for camp fires too!

The next morning we had grasshopper pie for breakfast because we didn't eat it for dessert the night before. Then we got a late start on the water but just dashed across the pond to our first carry of the day. More uphill over rocks and roots but our homemade wheels are holding up well. We are amazed at what these wheels will drive over. We put in at Upper Saranac Lake and paddle for a bit until we get to the next portage just as it starts raining. We get our wheels back on and it stops raining for the most part, but then the bugs are relentless. Even multiple layers of 100% deet doesn't seem to keep them away. Lets hurry and get back in that water so we can paddle away from them!

Middle Saranac Lake was beautiful and the waves were going somewhat in the right direction. We had fun paddling to ride the waves. We weren't sure what to expect as we came up to the lock on the Saranac River between Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes. Just as we got there, a DEC boat came by and went into the lock so we followed behind him. What a weird experience being in a lock in a kayak! As we left we noticed the lock tender was leaving as well. Guess we got there just in time! I made sure to watch carefully though so if we have to operate one of these ourselves in the future I'll know what to do.

As the DEC boat and the lock tender got to the edge of Lower Saranac Lake it looked like they were trying to race. But the DEC boat was no match for the speed boat the lock tender had. We continued through Lower Saranac Lake and back into the Saranac River to the State Bridge Boat Launch where we took out, cleaned up and discussed where to get pizza and chicken wings from!

NFCT Map 1: Eighth Lake to Long Lake

Date(s): Sept 29th - 30th, 2007
Paddlers: Deb and JR

Sept 29th - Raquette Lake

Trail Info:
(1) Take caution on the floating bridge on the way out to Brown's Tract. Some sections sink when you step on them and they are slippery! I caught my toe between 2 boards when I slid on one.
(2) We found it hard to spot the carry from Raquette Lake to Forked Lake. It looks like someone's gravel driveway but there is a sign there.

Paddle Report:
After squashing my toe between the boards in the walkway to Browns Tract, I enjoyed the winding stream and the beaver dams we got to paddle over. We had a lot of fun paddling as hard as we could to get on top of the dam and then slide our way over. The best one was very close to Raquette Lake. That one had about a foot drop on the other side. Good thing we didn't try to do this section the other way!

Raquette Lake was amazing. I have been out there before in a motor boat - what a difference! The lake started out pretty calm as we paddled to the northern end where we would camp. It is a big lake so sometimes it doesn't feel like you're making any progress even when the lake is calm. We got about 2/3rds of the way up the lake and there is land on either side jutting into the water making a narrower channel. As we went through that, the wind picked up and the lake on the other side of that channel was not calm at all! There were some decent white caps that made the paddling quite exciting. The only problem is that the wind was against us (surprise, surprise) and then we really didn't feel like we made any progress. You couldn't stop paddling for an instant or you would get pushed backward. It was exciting and exhilarating for a little while and then it just got tiring. We hadn't really eaten anything all day and we couldn't wait to get to camp. It was right there, we could see it. But we just kept paddling and we still weren't there. Eventually we made it and boy was I glad to get out of that kayak and stop paddling for a minute!!

The next day we paddled just a short distance to the carry. We were looking around trying to spot the take out location when a man out on his dock pointed us in the right direction. We got out next to someone's camp on what looked like a gravel driveway, got our wheels on and headed over to Forked Lake. That's where one of my wheels started coming loose. JR found a rock for a hammer and we had to periodically stop and tap the wheel back into place. We made it to Forked lake and it was beautiful and secluded. That was my favorite spot of this trip. Then JR discovered that it echoed really well there too!

Next came all the carries on the Raquette River. Not my favorite part. The water level was pretty low so even when we were in the water, we were scraping bottom quite a lot. Especially JR since he has all the heavy gear. The carry around Buttermilk falls was quite an interesting one. It's pretty short but took us a decent amount of time. A short walk uphill and then I looked down...way down. Hmmm...I see the river down there so I think we have to go all the way down there! So JR was the anchor and held the back of my kayak as I went ahead and "steered" the nose down the hill. We just slid it along the ground and got it down to the shore. Then we went back up the hill and did the same with his boat. We got back in the river and were trying to decide on the last carry. The map said to carry around or to scout the class II rapids. We were both tired on carries for the day and decided to run it. Again the water level was low so JR scratched bottom more than he floated. I had a couple good runs where I got enough speed to scoot my way over the scratchy parts. I was having a blast! I stopped to wait for JR to catch up. When he arrived, he went past and then I followed up behind him. Almost immediately he got stuck again. There were rocks across the river on either side and he had gotten himself stuck sideways, blocking the only possible route. As I back paddled to give him time to get free, the current grabbed my tail and pushed me over into a log where then I got stuck!! Since the log was sticking out into the river there was actually more water than a couple inches right here. As I pushed my weight down on the cockpit to get out, the water started rushing in. Ah! Thank goodness for the bilge pump! The water came in quicker than I could get out and the whole thing filled up. JR and I ended up taking turns on the bilge pump to empty it out. The water in that spot was still only about a foot deep so we were in no real danger but it sure was fun and I'll never forget it! Next time I'll remember not to wait for JR and if he gets stuck in front of me, I'll just have to ram him! Ha Ha!

Then we got out to Long Lake and had a relaxing paddle back to the boat launch.

NFCT Map 1: First Lake to Eighth Lake

Date(s): July 27th - 29th, 2007
Paddlers: Deb, JR, Rich B., Jeff F., Loretta G.

July 27th - Bald Mountain Colony (Third Lake) at a friend's camp
July 28th - Seventh Lake across from the Boat Launch

Trail Info: Good condition, no updates.

Paddle Report:

Click here for pictures from Rich's disposable waterproof camera.

Our first overnight trip with our kayaks. As we were trying to get our gear together and start off, it begain to pour rain as hard as you can imagine. Jeff, Loretta and Rich took cover under a nearby covered pedestrian bridge while JR and I continued to get everything ready to go. Finally the rain subsided and we set off. The whole trip was a mix of rain and sun but we enjoyed it none the less.

Jeff, Loretta and Rich all had smaller recreational boats so they had to paddle almost constantly to make progress. However, JR and I had 14' kayaks and we found the pace to be bit slow since our boats but through the water much faster with less effort. So we just stopped for lots of snack breaks! JR's infamous cracker, summer sausage, ring of yellow mustard and then Tabasco in the middle. Kind of weird but very yummy!

JR's homemade wheels worked well and came in very handy on the carries. While the others grumbled, we just wheeled our boats along! The second night we stayed on Seventh Lake. As we got set up it started to rain again. That's when we figured out another peice of gear to bring, a tarp! Being used to backpacking, JR and I had all this space left in out kayaks, so why not bring a tarp to put up in case it rained? (Although we have brought one since and not used it yet!!)

Later, after a wonderful dinner made by our gourmet chef (Jeff) we went out on the lake for an evening paddle. The saw a few loons and Rich almost got attacked by one as he unintentionally got between the mother and baby. We could hear the water still dripping in the trees onto our camp but it was not raining on the lake anymore.

The next morning Jeff, Loretta and Rich paddled over to the Seventh Lake boat launch and got out there to avoid a 1 mile carry without wheels. Rich met us back at Eighth Lake where he paddled around for a while with us. Jeff and Loretta started home. It was a great trip where we learned what ourselves and our boats could do as well as what "fun extras" to pack. Next time will be even better!