Monday, July 21, 2014

State Opens Trail To OK Slip Falls

OKSlip-600x719The state has opened a three-mile hiking trail to OK Slip Falls in the recently established Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the opening of the trail today in news release in which he also touted funding for equestrian trails in the central Adirondacks and for the repair of the Lake Abanakee Dam in Indian Lake.

The state acquired OK Slip Falls—one of the tallest cascades in the Adirondack Park—from the Nature Conservancy in 2013. Since then, people have been hiking to the falls along informal trails or bushwhacking.

The official trail starts on the north side of Route 28, at the same trailhead for a pre-existing trail that leads to Ross, Whortleberry, and Big Bad Luck ponds. The parking area is on the south side of the highway, about 7.5 miles east of the hamlet of Indian Lake and 0.2 miles west of the trailhead.

Hikers should go up the Ross Pond trail, marked by red disks, for a half-mile, then turn right onto the new trail, which is marked by blue disks. OK Slip Falls is reached 2.5 miles after the turn. The trail ends at an overlook with a view of the falls. OK Slip Brook flows into the Hudson Gorge. Much of the trail follows a route that had been used by the previous landowners.

The Student Conservation Society built and marked the new trail under the supervision of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In December, the Adirondack Park Agency voted to create the 23,494-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness. It includes lands purchased from the Nature Conservancy as well as pre-existing Forest Preserve lands.

Cuomo also announced that the state will spend $250,000 to develop equestrian trails and facilities in the towns of Minerva, Newcomb, North Hudson, Indian Lake, and Long Lake—the five towns that are home to some 22,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands that the state bought from the conservancy in 2012 and 2013.

The facilities will include parking areas for horse trailers, a pole barn, a horse-washing station, a holding tank for gray water and sewage from trailers, and two mounting platforms for the disabled. These will not be built on state land.

DEC plans to designate horse trails in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex. The department also has proposed building a bridge over the Cedar River that would allow horseback riders to access the Essex Chain Lakes Complex from Indian Lake. It is also looking at establishing horse trails in the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest and on conservation easement lands off Blue Ridge Road. All told the department may develop more than 30 miles of equestrian trails.

DEC operates a popular horse-trail system in the Independence River Wild Forest in the western Adirondacks, and equestrians have expressed interest in riding in the Essex Chain region, according to DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino. She described the Independence River network as “an extremely popular destination for trail riders who travel from across New York State, Canada and the northeast region of the U.S.”

The 19,200-acre Essex Chain Lakes Complex boasts 18 water bodies, ranging in size from three-acre Chub Pond to 216-acre Third Lake. The region is bordered on the east by the Hudson River, and the Cedar River flows through the southern part.

Finally, the governor announced that the town of Indian Lake will receive $750,000 to rehabilitate the Lake Abanakee Dam on the Indian River, which will bring the dam into compliance with state safety regulations.

The upgrade will allow the town to continue releasing water continued water releases from the dam for rafters who paddle down the Indian into the Hudson River and through the gorge. The rafting industry is important to the region’s economy.

Cuomo made the announcement the day after participating in the second Adirondack Challenge, in which he and other elected officials and business leaders competed in rafting races on the Indian. Cuomo said he tied Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin in their contest.

“The Adirondack Park is an unparalleled outdoor destination for New Yorkers and visitors, and also a major driver of tourism and economic activity for the surrounding communities,” Governor Cuomo said in the news release. “Yesterday we hosted the Adirondack Challenge to draw attention to all that the region has to offer, and today we’re going a step further by expanding and improving the facilities that help to draw travelers from around the globe.”

Photo of OK Slip Falls by Carl Heilman II.


Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.




9 Responses

  1. Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

    Updated at 5 p.m. Monday with additional information.

  2. Jim S. says:

    I am looking for a relatively easy hike (not a lot of elevation gain or loss) to do with my wife. Does anyone have an idea of what I might find on this trail? She has done some hiking but physically can’t handle steep scrambles because of back issues.

  3. David says:

    Is mountain biking going be allowed in the Essex Chain road network ? I took my mountain bike back there this weekend and what a wonderful mountain biking network it would be. We biked from the state parking lot on Goodnow Flow Road to the Polaris Bridge. We then back tracked and bike to just past Third Lake. We could see the Goley Club Camps on Third Lake. We also stopped at Jackson Lake along the way.

    It would be a sham to ban bikes in this area since those roads a tailored made for bikes.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      In the 166,000 acres that are part of the purchase that included the Essex Chain and Upper Hudson, there are hundreds of miles of roads open to mountain bikes, there are also places open to snowmobiles, floatplanes, commercial rafting operations, and just about every imaginable recreation opportunity.

      What you’re asking is, in addition to the roads entering the Essex Chain (which you have explored on bike) and Upper Hudson and all the other opportunities for mountain biking, can I also go into the Essex Chain interior areas?

      The main roads are already open most of the way in to the Essex Chain and Upper Hudson. Don’t you think they should leave a little bit, just a small percentage of the 166,000 acres, for other users who don’t want a pack of bikes, floatplanes, and snowmobiles? I think that seems fair.

      Have you ever been to the Moose River Plains? There are hundreds of miles of mountain biking available there as well, to plenty of remote ponds. There are a lot more areas where mountain bikes are allowed as well, such as the the large trail complex in the Wilmington Wild Forest, Gore Mountain, Whiteface, and a lot more.

      I don’t see anything wrong with allowing the smaller portion of the interior of this area for others to enjoy in their way.

      • Matt says:

        John,
        I’m a mountain biker, hiker, and a climber and I’ve been lucky enough to live around the Lake Placid region for several years now.  I agree with you that there should be a portion of the Essex Chain without bikes or the other motorized things you mentioned.  There is certainly adequate opportunity to provide for lots of different kinds of backcountry experiences on those newly acquired lands, including the Wilderness experience you’ve alluded to.  However, the “hundreds of miles” of mountain biking around Moose River Plains and elsewhere you mention in your comment is somewhat misleading.  Some of that mileage is worthwhile, but much of it is not worth writing home about, so to speak.  Dusty dirt roads, even the ones deep in the woods and seemingly “tailor made for bikes” as David mentions just don’t provide the kind of engaging experience that many mountain bikers want any more than they can provide the kind of experience that hikers want(ever heard a hiker rave about how great a road walk was?  I didn’t think so).  Mountain bikers want to ride on well built and well maintained trails that let them experience the landscape in a special way.  Good singletrack trail(not just roads) is what most mountain bikers(of ALL abilities) want, preferably in large loops, and/or connecting communities so they can be out for a while without covering the same ground twice.  Sure some short road sections are ok, but the real attraction is trails when it comes to mountain bikers.  When we really scrutinize what’s available for GOOD mountain biking in the Adirondacks, the options are actually a lot less than it might seem at first glance, especially for a place with such an amazing amount of protected public lands.  Furthermore, where there are a few miles of trails that can pass muster, as there are in Wilmington, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Inlet, and Speculator it is still an insufficient amount to be truly destination worthy when compared to the communities that routinely draw many thousands of travelling mountain bikers from urban centers all around the North East.   Well built singletrack connector trails between the smaller isolated trail networks in adjoining communities along with larger backcountry loops can go further to improve mountain biking in the park than the random dirt road networks on their own.  The constant focus on dirt roads for mountain biking, which your comment seems to perpetuate, holds very little currency in the Mountain biking community. Not to diminish anything that David said since there are many folks who will be pleased to cruise those dirt roads with cross bikes, hybrids, and lighter weight mountain bikes, but they are not a replacement for good trails open to bikes. 

        There could(and probably should) be more good mountain biking to compliment all that the Adirondacks has to offer, but it’s important that we understand what kind of experiences mountain bikers are seeking in the first place when planning for it.  Thanks-
        Can’t wait to get down and check out the falls!

      • David says:

        John, I appreciate your feedback along with Matt’s insight. Above all, I’m a staunch wilderness advocate. I offer my comments on mountain biking in the Essex Chain in the most guarded manner. I’m not advocating for more mountain biking trails within the Essex Chain, nor opening up the remote interior. I’m only saying that had a pleasant time biking those roads last Saturday and suggest that perhaps that experience should be retained. After all, we’re talking about roads which are currently used by the lease holders.
        However, after 2018, the leases will expire and the camps will be gone. So from then on, the roads will begin to fall into disrepair. So the point is probably moot. If the biking is retained after that, I will probably be more to Matt’s liking, since it will be more like single track biking.

    • Paul says:

      If you check out the State Lands Interactive mapper it has a pretty comprehensive list of Mt. Bike trails. You can set it up to show you just the available Mt. Bike trails on the map. It is a little tricky to use but it can show you what is there. I am sure a lot of riders have no idea what is available.

      http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/45415.html

  4. Phil Brown says:

    Jim, you could drive to the Deer Pond parking area and walk down the road to Fourth and Fifth lakes. Short and easy.

    Dave, as I recall, DEC’s draft management plan would allow bikes on the roads now used by the Gooley Club vehicles.

  5. Phil Brown says:

    Sorry, Jim, I was referring to hiking in the Essex Chain area. I have not been on the new trail, but my guess, knowing the general topography, is that it’s fairly level. Of course, any Forest Preserve trail will have some ups and downs.