Monday, June 3, 2013

Options For New State Lands: Canoe Area

Essex ChainIn the first two articles of this series, we looked at proposals to classify the former Finch, Pruyn lands Wilderness or Primitive. This week we look at two proposals for creating the Park’s second Canoe Area.

Altogether, the Adirondack Park Agency has put together seven options for the management and use of 22,500 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands that the state purchased from the Nature Conservancy. The options will be discussed at a series of public hearings from June 12 to July 2. The APA board could vote on a final proposal as early as August.

The four articles in this Adirondack Almanack series endeavor to explain these options. In each, we examine one proposal or two related proposals. The text is accompanied by the APA map or maps showing the classification of the lands under the proposal in question.


The Park has only one Canoe Area: the 17,600-acre St. Regis Canoe Area, a region dotted with glacial ponds. The Park’s State Land Master Plan defines a Canoe Area as “an area where the watercourses or the number and proximity of lakes and ponds make possible a remote and unconfined type of water-oriented recreation in an essentially wilderness setting.”

The rules for a Canoe Area are similar to those for Wilderness in that all motorized recreation is forbidden. One difference, however, is that officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation are allowed to drive on former roads and use aircraft in carrying out their responsibilities “to preserve or enhance the water or fishery resources.” Another difference is that mountain bikes are allowed on the old roads used by officials.

In the map above, the new lands purchased by the state are outlined in purple, orange, violet, and green. The blue-striped area represents a 6,600-acre Canoe Area. It would be bounded by the Hudson River to the east and the Cedar River to the south. The dark-green area would be designated the Hudson Gorge Wilderness, encompassing 31,900 acres (this would require reclassifying pre-existing Forest Preserve as well). The light green, including the area just north of the Essex Chain Lakes, would be Wild Forest, where some motorized use would be allowed.

Christopher Amato, a former DEC assistant commissioner for natural resources, argued in the Adirondack Explorer that a Canoe classification makes the most sense for the Essex Chain Lakes, which contain heritage brook trout, among other fish. He contends that the Canoe designation will grant DEC the ability to protect the fishery as well as the lakes’ boggy shorelines. He also says the cachet of a Canoe designation might divert paddlers from the often-overcrowded St. Regis Canoe Area.

Although the Adirondack Mountain Club has endorsed one of the Wilderness proposals (the less-restrictive version), Executive Director Neil Woodworth has said the club probably would not object to a Canoe classification. The primary attraction for paddlers is the Essex Chain Lakes and nearby ponds. In all, there are ten ponds within the proposed Canoe Area that lie within easy paddling or portaging distance of each other. The Canoe Area does not include First and Pine lakes. Because floatplanes are allowed to land on these two lakes, they must be excluded.


In the second option, the Canoe Area would be expanded east to include more of the Hudson River corridor (on both sides) and south to include ponds on the other side the Cedar River. This would not change the overall management of the Hudson corridor (which would be Wilderness in the first option), but it would highlight the river’s value as a paddling destination. The larger Canoe Area would encompass 15,100 acres. The Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area would be 18,800 acres—the smallest of the seven options.

Under both Canoe options, access to the Essex Chain would be the same. DEC has suggested that paddlers could drive most of the way to Deer Pond, paddle across the pond, carry to Mud Pond, paddle across Mud, and then carry to Third Lake in the chain (a total distance of about 0.75 miles). This also would be doable under the more lenient of the Wilderness proposals. Paddlers would face longer carries under the Primitive and the more restrictive of the Wilderness options.

Both Canoe options also allow paddlers fairly easy access to a put-in/takeout on the Hudson at the Polaris Bridge, located just south of the Goodnow River confluence. Visitors would be allowed to drive down a logging road to a parking area about 0.8 miles from the Hudson. Paddlers would have a 1-mile carry from a takeout farther down the Hudson, near the Indian River confluence, to a parking area on Chain Lakes Road. The approximate locations of the two takeouts are indicated by X’s on the first map.

Next week: Wild Forest.

Photo of Essex Chain Lakes by Carl Heilman II.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of 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.

One Response

  1. Paul says:

    What do they mean by drive “most of the way” to Deer Pond? I think this looks like a interesting for a new Canoe Area. But if you really want to have lots of use I would recommend allowing folks to drive to the first put in like with Little Clear Pond or the Upper St. Regis Landing in the St. Regis Canoe area. That is probably part of the reason they are popular. The carry into Bog and Bear is easy, probably like some here? That way you can also monitor for invasives like they do at Upper St. Regis. That will give some folks that can’t carry at least one end where they can paddle and fish. Also, it is probably a lot easier for a steward if they can hang out right at the landing on the pond. You also need to make sure that you have good running water there for cleaning boats. This fishery is going to be difficult to protect.

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