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Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Discussion in 'Annual Assembly' started by Rob Stevens, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Here comes summer, and the early holiday longweekends (July 1st is Canada Day, July 4th is, well, the Fourth of July)!

    Following this early Assembly at Paul Smith's College, a friend and I are going to take advantage of the time and proximity to canoe a nearby portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

    Section 3 Saranac Lake to Lake Champlain
  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker


    Perhaps you already know this stretch but on the chance that you don't, the lower section is not particularly pleasant, especially if the water is down.
    Most folks would shy away from it in a nice wooden boat.
  3. Mark Z.

    Mark Z. LOVES Wooden Canoes

    What boat are you planning on taking?
    Mark Z.
  4. Alaomega

    Alaomega Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So, if one was going to spend an extra day in the are, what would / where would a good one day outing be? If I hauled a tupperware canoe up there instead of a wood boat, would that trip be acceptable?
  5. OP
    Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I think an extra day could be well spent at the 50th annual Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race & Parade, Flower Lake, Town of Saranac Lake, Sunday, July 1st
    Parade@ 9:30 AM Races@11AM
    That leaves lots of time for a paddle around the lake.

    We're taking a Royalex boat for the NFCT section 3. Lots of folks have told us the water is low and the end towards Lake Champlain is virtually impassable in a wood canvas boat.
  6. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    There are lot's of options but if you want to run a nice piece of river (in a rubber boat) you could shoot up to Piercefield and put in at the canoe access off of route 3. You will follow a meandering stream to the river.
    Expect to pull out within 1/2 mile for a big drop and then it's smooth sailing more or less from there. Don't run the drop.
    There is a carry around a falls farther down the river and depending on water levels some good rapids in stretches.
    If you don't lollygag and get an early start you can do this in a day.
    There are no takes outs that I can recall so bring what you need.
    You can take your boat out at Carry Falls Reservoir.

    Or you can paddle Blue Mountain to Racquette lake and pull out on the lake (or sooner). There is a short carry at Marion Stream.
    Lot's of other options.
  7. Alaomega

    Alaomega Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks to both of you. I hope this makes the 10 character limit. Apparently a simple thank you does not work...
  8. kayamedic

    kayamedic Kim Gass

    Rob, the section of the Saranac River along Rt 3 is NOT scenic. Unless you have other reasons for wanting to do this stretch.. Section 2 is far prettier. And just fine in wood canvas. You will have to portage at Raquette Falls and its not cartable. The other carries are.

    I have seen way too much of Section 3 by car. I have no desire at all to run it.
  9. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    That section three from Saranac to Plattsburgh is fifty miles and I see only one campsite. Where to people pull out and camp inbetween? Is it allowed to just camp on the bank?
  10. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Most folks that run that stretch run it as part of the NFC on their way through. I'm not sure where there are campsights (I'm in Europe at present and don't have access to my maps) along the way. The NFC maps have all of the camping options listed in detail.

    I think others have tried to say, unless you really need to run this stretch, there are not too many reasons to do it. The scarcity of camping along the way is not a coincidence. There are some real funky carry's, snags etc. It's simply not on anyone's "A" or even "B" list as a place to run. There are so many better options in Northern NY.

    On the chance that anyone does the Piercefield route I suggested, bring a rod to take a few casts along the way. Also, pull out for the first drop on the left and for the falls on the right.
    I also made it sound like the falls cannot be run. They are run in higher water in closed boats......not for the faint of heart or novice paddlers...
  11. AliceB

    AliceB New Member

    I normally just lurk, but I have just paddled NFCT Section 3, and I seriously don't recommend it. It didn't end my trip, but it has necessitated a delay while I heal from accumulated injuries and do some (minor) repair work on the canoe.

    I did do it in a WC canoe, which I don't think is as bad a choice as many would think, although mine was built to deal with rocks and has half ribs which in my experience make a huge difference in the ability of a WC canoe to take punishment. A royalex or similar heavy canoe would be great for the rapids but pretty difficult on the portages, especially if it's longer. I had to do 3 pt turns with a 13' canoe on a couple carries, and some of the carries are pretty much straight up. On the river a kevlar or light WC canoe would probably not take the pounding and dragging. The best canoe for this trip would, however, probably be someone else's canoe.

    The scenery is so-so. There are some pretty sections if you like marshy places, but they are connected by some nasty water. The camping is difficult as there are limited official places to camp once you leave Union Falls Pond. Early in the season you might find some stealth-y places to camp, but by July this probably isn't likely. Camping in a legitimate location requires doing two very long days on tough water for the last two days of the trip.

    The water when I did it (early June) was already "too low to run", and my initial plan was to shuttle around all this. I allowed myself to be talked out of this, which was a bad move, and I had quite a bit of trouble with low water. I ended up getting part of me and half the canoe swept under a large log that was caught on a bridge abutment when I wasn't quite able to make it across the river in time. That was a few seconds of so many scary things happening at one time I would be hard put to list them all. But I was very lucky; the canoe did not broach although it came close and I was able to get it turned at the last minute so it went under the log parallel to the current. Once I unstuck myself, I was able to sink the canoe enough to pass it under the log and get it into an eddy where I could bail. I hurt myself later when I was wading (couldn't line from shore) across a series of slippery ledges that mostly didn't even have enough water to float the canoe.

    I also got lots of stories from people in the days leading up to this about being really careful around Plattsburgh, as a number of people had stolen gear stories to tell. I had no issues with this, because there weren't many people around and most would carefully avoid looking at me (I guess I looked weird?!). I also met a number of really helpful nice people, so I imagine Plattsburgh is like anywhere else. There are a number of road portages in section 3, and at best they are at least quick to roll if you have a cart, and at worst require dealing with a number of loose aggressive dogs (no owners in sight). With all low water issues I had, I grew to dread the road portages the most because I was never quite sure if I would make it to the other end in one piece. A couple of big guys might not have this issue, though.

    In closing, I agree with the folks who point out that there are much better places to paddle in the Adks and vicinity. If you want to do this section, I would do it earlier in the spring when there is more water in the river. July is way too late unless it's post-hurricane or something like that.

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