The 740-mile paddling route known as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge, the NFCT was just an idea in the late 1990s when two executives retiring from Mad River Canoe founded the nonprofit to establish the trail.
Kay Henry and Rob Center have spent their retirement bringing to life the long distance paddle route which opened June 3, 2006. The trail is marked with NFCT’s yellow diamond with blue lettering trail markers and includes 56 lakes and ponds, 22 rivers and streams, and 62 carries (totaling 55 miles). Portages, campsites, and access areas are marked on some sections of the trail. The NFCT includes more than 150 public access points, and more than 470 individual campsites on public and private land.
The New York section encompasses 147 miles beginning at Old Forge, following the Moose River, the Fulton Chain, Raquette Lake, the Raquette River, Forked and Long lakes, and by way of Stoney Creek Ponds and the Indian Carry to Upper Saranac. The route proceeds across Bartletts Carry to Middle and Lower Saranac and Lake Flower and then out of the mountains by way of the Saranac River to Franklin Falls Pond and Union Falls Pond and finally Lake Champlain.
In 2000, Kay Henry secured a three-year $500,000 federal grant through the National Park Service to fund the start-up of the nonprofit designed to plan and establish the route. Locals and owners of large forest tracts allowed their private property to be used for campsites, portage access and water access. Others with knowledge of local waterways stepped forward to give guidance on the direction of the trail and provide essential information for the trail’s first set of 13 section maps.
In the last ten years the NFCT has built 14 primitive campsites, installed 14 post and beam information kiosks in villages, towns and cities on the route, built 23 miles of portage trails, planted more than 250 trees to prevent erosion. The first official guidebook to the trail was released this year.
Recent improvements in new York include the clearing of overgrowth at the Buttermilk Falls and Deerland portage trails. These trails were also signed and a 25-foot stone causeway was built.
A 20-step stone staircase was built on the Permanent Rapids portage trail just south of Franklin Falls Pond. Eight campsites were rehabilitated in the Franklin Falls area, and 100 saplings were planted at locations of impact and erosion in the region.
A dilapidated cabin was removed and two new campsite areas were installed on Upper Saranac Lake.
A kiosk was installed at the Green Street boat launch on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.
A 10th Anniversary celebration will take place July 23-25 in Rangeley, Maine, with paddling-related presentations, guided canoe and kayak outings, an anniversary party with food, a bonfire and live music, and a trail-wide paddling event called “740 Miles in One Day.”
For more information about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail go to www.northernforestcanoetrail.org or call 802-496-2285.