Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Questions About The Light Usage Of The Essex Chain Lakes

Photo of Sue Bibeau on Third Lake by Phil BrownI have heard from many who have gone into the Essex Chain Lakes area and encountered relatively few other people. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has stated that public use has been very high but provided no numbers. When I rode my bicycle from Newcomb to Blue Mountain Lake on a beautiful 75 degree Saturday of Labor Day weekend last year there were two cars at the Deer Pond parking lot to the Essex Chain Lakes area. This contrasted with the fairly heavy use of people hiking into OK Slip Falls, which is part of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness area.

Through a freedom of Information letter, I requested trailhead logbooks from the DEC to look at the use of other flatwater canoeing locations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve – Little Tupper Lake, Low’s Lake and Lake Lila. These are all wonderful motorless areas that provide incredible flatwater canoeing and overnight opportunities. I had certainly envisioned that the Essex Chain Lakes would become another such vaunted Wilderness destination where visitors were guaranteed a wild experience, away from motor vehicles.

Here’s what I found.

I reviewed trailhead registers from June through August in 2015 at the Deer Pond parking lot, the principal launching part to canoe on the Essex Chain Lakes, as well as at Lake Lila, Little Tupper Lake, and the lower dam at Low’s Lake. I wanted to compare public use at the Essex Chain Lakes with some of the premier flatwater Wilderness canoe locations in the Adirondacks outside of the St. Regis Canoe area and the Oswegatchie River (unfortunately the 2015 summer trail registers for the Oswegatchie were not available).

From June through August 2015, the Deer Pond trailhead register had 447 total users, of which 401 signed in as day users and 46 stayed overnight.

During the same time in 2015, Lake Lila saw 967 total uses, of which 312 signed in as day users and 655 stayed one night or more.

At Little Tupper Lake, 909 people signed in at the register, of which 224 signed in as day users and 685 stayed one night or more.

At Low’s Lake, 1,663 people signed in at the register, of which 747 signed in as day users and 1,016 stayed one night or more.

In addition to the breakdown of overall use, day and overnight use, I calculated the total number of nights that people stayed at these locations. For instance, if a party of 4 people signed in at the register for three nights, I counted this as 12 total camper days. When I calculated these numbers for the four locations, the Essex Chain Lakes saw 107 camper nights from June-August 2015. This compared with 1,988 at Lake Lila, 2,119 at Little Tupper Lake, and 3,894 at Low’s Lake.

The Essex Chain Lakes area, as is well known, is one of the state’s newest acquisitions. The public is very curious about this area and still getting to know it. Other paddling destinations – like Lake Lila, Little Tupper Lake (and Rock Lake) and Low’s Lake – have devoted users who come back year after year.

The disparity in use at the Essex Chain, especially among overnight campers, makes me wonder why public use is not commensurate with other similar areas. One thing that strikes me is that the experience at Lake Lila, Little Tupper Lake, and Low’s Lake is a known commodity, whereas the Essex Chain experience is still developing. The Gooley Club members are still driving motor vehicles in the tract, the public is riding bikes through the area, and DEC is patrolling in trucks. This is far different from the other areas which, save for a few minor inholdings, are Wilderness and motorless.

The Essex Chain numbers also differ from the number of people hiking into OK Slip Falls, now part of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness area. While I did not compare numbers for June through August 2015, I stopped recently to look at the trailhead register and there were over 800 people signed in from February through April 2016, not prime months. OK Slip Falls is beautiful and while a hiker will likely encounter other people there, not unlike a popular mountain summit, the experience is both known and protected because it’s a Wilderness area. Users know that when they get there they will be able to take in the view of this natural masterpiece in a wild and beautiful setting without intrusions from motor vehicles or bicycles. That’s very different from the Essex Chain Lakes and perhaps one factor driving the immense popularity of this new public hiking destination.

The Essex Chain Lakes is a beautiful area of interconnected lakes and ponds. The shoreline is varied and rich in tree species and aquatic plants. It’s scenically stunning. I have been on record arguing that the Essex Chain Lakes area was misclassified, that it should have been a cornerstone of a new Wilderness area. The use numbers put up at the Essex Chain Lakes area, at least for the canoeing public in 2015, could be showing us that the hodge podge of conflicting uses allowed there may be keeping people away. More, in this case, is not more; it’s less.

Photo of a paddler on Third Lake by Phil Brown.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

37 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    I believe that the ban on campfires is keeping the canoeists away. I don’t take an overnight canoe trip if there is no option for a fire.

    • Hope says:

      It’s still to early to tell for the most part but I agree, most of the folks that I’ve spoken to also won’t canoe camp without a fire. Part of the lure of canoe camping, at least to me, is being able to haul in a cast iron fry pan and cook over an open fire. Backpackers usually don’t mind cooking on a small stove because they are trying to travel light.
      Also, it seems to me that because of the no campfire rule even off shore campers would seek out other areas for camping whether or not they could camp on the shoreline or other off shore designated areas. Basically it is being promoted as a day use area, in which case easier access to canoe launching would be beneficial.
      FYI, the bike riding is great and I bet if there were campsites off the road in desirable areas that allowed fires you would have bike campers.

  2. Bill Ingersoll says:

    I began paddling Little Tupper Lake in June 1998, just days after it was officially opened to the public, and returned quite a few times over the ensuing years (most recently in March 2016, on an off-season backpacking trip). To be fair, use of Little Tupper was very light in my experience for those first few years. I remember seeing plenty of canoe-laden cars driving down Sabattis Road on their way to Lila while I had Little Tupper and Rock Pond largely to myself… even though LTL is easier to access. My theory was that Lila was a known destination, and it took a few years for LTL to build the same reputation. Today all of the lakes in that area seem to be equally popular, and I was even surprised this winter to see lots of register entries for the hiking trails around Little Tupper. Bum Pond has apparently become a popular hiking destination.

    As for the Essex Chain, count me as one paddler/hiker who was turned off by the classification debate. Except for several visits to OK Slip Falls and Big Pisgah Mountain, I have never been to the Essex Chain and have no immediate interest in going. The state’s management direction for this tract essentially describes a place that doesn’t appeal to me: overly easy access, campfire bans, permits that must be secured in person regardless of length of stay, campsites reserved for specific user groups (floatplane customers), and floatplanes. If all I want to do is explore a pretty and out-of-the-way destination, none of this is worth the fuss, especially when I can go elsewhere for a better experience with far less hassle.

    Based on the feedback from a friend who has been there, the Essex Chain is a much smaller place than the hype makes it out to be. With the easy car access, you can get to the shore without much trouble and paddle the entire chain in just a few hours. There is no need to camp, or even to come back on repeat visits to see what you missed the first time. Or so I’ve been led to believe, if anyone is interested in whatever bit of hearsay I can provide.

    This is why I’m steadfastly opposed to opening Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles. The idea being floated is that we need a 5.5-mile-long access road for the purpose of enabling easy canoe access to Boreas Ponds, which is only 1.5 miles long. I visited the place this past weekend, and Boreas Ponds is no Lake Lila. It simply couldn’t support the same numbers of people, and there seem to be very, very few places on the shoreline suitable for camping. On the other hand, the road was a perfectly good hike that would only improve if it were permanently closed to vehicles. I’m elated that there are no immediate plans to open the road–I thought for sure DEC would be excavating a new parking area at LaBier Flow as we speak–and I’m already hatching plans for a 3-day backpacking trip to explore the old roads beyond Boreas Ponds, with the ultimate goal of getting to White Lily.

    As I understand it, Protect the Adirondacks is one of the groups not only proposing car access to Boreas Ponds, but snowmobile access as well. These would be very poor choices for what is essentially a large wetland complex with pond-like attributes.

  3. Tony Goodwin says:

    Interesting observations about the use of the Essex Chain. I took a group there two years ago and we were able to make a leisurely paddle of all but First Lake in an easy day trip from Keene. That has led me to say that this area is definitely not remote enough to be called “wilderness”. I sincerely doubt that making the access more difficult so that the area could be classified as wilderness would increase use even though earlier posts have implied that wilderness designation results in greater use. For the Essex Chain, I believe that a Wild Forest designation with campfires allowed and a portage in no longer than Lake Lila would result in greater, but not too great, use.

    The Boreas Ponds actually offer even less paddling than the Essex Chain. The scenery is primo, but as has been noted there are few possible campsites that could be accessed by canoe – assuming that one were able to get a canoe to the ponds. If the road is left open as far as LaBiere Flow, then paddling the ponds becomes an option, but paddling would only be a small part of any visit given the actual size of the ponds. Yes, paddling the ponds would result in many stunning photos of the Great Range and other High Peaks, but not likely to generate overnight stays.

    As I have stated before, my overall preference would be for the Essex Chain to go back to Wild Forest with greater ease of access and camping. The Boreas would then become more of a backpacker’s destination within a wilderness setting. There could certainly still be some wild forest type of use, including snowmobiling, at the periphery; but the ponds would be a destination for those willing to exert some effort to enjoy one of the greatest wilderness views available anywhere.

  4. Paul says:

    Thanks for the numbers Peter. I am not sure you can really make any conclusions as to why these numbers are low like this at this time.

    What is the access situation at Little Tupper Lake? What are the numbers for some easier to access areas? Places like the St. Regis Ponds or Floodwood etc.?

  5. Brian Mann says:

    Peter’s post raises another interesting question, which is the relatively small number of people overall who appear to use any and all of these areas not just the new lands.

    I’d love to see a DEC estimate of maximum appropriate usage for all of these areas. How many people, in theory, could use Lake Lila or Little Tupper or the Essex Chain Lakes in a summer without impacting the wilderness/backcountry experience or the ecology?

    If the truth is that these numbers (fewer than 10,000 person-overnight stays for all of these regions according to Peter’s survey, if I read him right) reflect more or less maximum usage, then it raises real questions about the economic-tourism values of these areas even when fully marketed.

    On the other hand, if all of these areas could sustain more intensive use without feeling crowded or “Marcy Dam’d” then it would be interesting to ask why they aren’t drawing more visitors.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Wilderness or wild characteristics may be best preserved in areas that don’t have the highest peaks or the largest lakes.

      Learning to appreciate the less spectacular regions seems to take time and proper seasoning…

      The issue of feeling crowded is a qualitative target that only results in unpopular permit systems when the land managers are directed to restrict visitor numbers.

    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      One dirty little secret is that DEC has not even tabulated overall usage of the High Peaks Wilderness in years, to the best of my knowledge. The last year was 1999, when the UMP was issued; the figure was something like 144,000 visitors a year then, and I’m sure the number has risen significantly since then.

      In my opinion, that is certainly one place where we need to be having the “how many is too many” conversation.

      • Boreas says:


        I agree, but that conversation about the High Peaks has been going on for the last 50 years. The problem is, nobody seems to have the ‘nads to actually take action to effectively address the problem.

    • Paul says:

      Brian, I was thinking the same thing when I read that. Even the “busy” places don’t appear to draw much activity?

      My guess is that unless these numbers go up significantly there will have been far more economic impact from all of the hunting clubs that are leaving. When I used to visit my hunting club in another area the first stop I usually made in town on the way was the hardware store for my next project.

  6. Tim says:

    I’ve been to the Essex Chain twice, once skiing in winter and the other biking in fall. For me, it’s not terribly scenic because it’s been logged over pretty thoroughly. Of course, this will change over the years.

  7. josh says:

    The logging damage, the small size, the no fire rule, float planes, permit required…..all these add up to make it not worth a second visit and not worth camping. I might go back for a bike ride but it is only 9 miles and it thru cut over land, so that is unlikely.

  8. Bruce says:

    “The use numbers put up at the Essex Chain Lakes area, at least for the canoeing public in 2015, could be showing us that the hodge podge of conflicting uses allowed there may be keeping people away. More, in this case, is not more; it’s less.”

    By “conflicting uses keeping people away”, I assume Peter means more than the type of use commensurate with a Wilderness or Primitive classification. I’d like to know how many Wilderness areas that do not have spectacular views or beautiful lakes are being used in any significant way? It’s an interesting theory, but only a theory nonetheless.

    When folks read these or other articles, or see news clips, they get the idea that allowed uses are not yet defined, creating doubt as to whether they should come with their particular type of recreation or not. Let the furor die down, and the word get out. If the area is worthwhile, they will come, no matter how many different uses are allowed.

  9. Keith Gorgas says:

    I have a basic philosophical problem with NY State Resident Taxpayers being forced to buy up huge chunks of land, and then for the most part, being kept from using those lands, while having to forever make payments in lieu of taxes.

    I understand and support the need for wilderness preservation. I’m an old overweight cripple now, but when I was younger, the more remote places I could find, the better. I treasure the memories of being places that few humans had ever been, at least in the last 100 years. I also know that some animal populations flourish when humans are part of the landscape. Certainly moose and deer populations are much higher on private logging lands than on State land. I’ve been blessed by seeing no one but two cougars in the wild, and both were on private land. Back when Lake Clear had a dump instead of a transfer station I once counted 17 bears at one time. Since the dump converted,, the seagull population on Lower Saranac Lake has dropped noticeably. With the removal of the tent platforms on the same lake, by my observation the porcupine and racoon populations have plummeted.

    Nothing lasts forever. I can conceive that in a hundred years, so much of the Adks will have been set “off limits” to humans, and there being a dynamic change in government and demographics leading to an overthrow of conservation efforts and a rape of the resources. .

    • Augie says:

      i tend to agree with much of what you say…….my family owns a cabin on the goodnow flow and for the first 28 years of my life i had access to our club lands that now make up part of the essex lake tract……..places that the general public will never see because the land is regulated far to much…….we rode 4 wheelers, hunted and fished the land and bodies of water………it amazes me that they have such arguments over the use of BICYCLES!!! of all things on preexisting logging roads that hundreds of people having been riding ATV’s and pickups on for decades……..ill never use the land again because even though i pay my taxes (7,000 a year plus sales tax) the activities i value and use to do on that land are not the same as the environmentalists that control the APA and have the ear of the elected officials……..i long for the days that Finch and Pryn owned the lands……i will long for the rest of my days……..

  10. Jan Hansen says:

    You cannot compare OK Slip Falls usage to that of the Essex Chain. OK Slip has a trailhead right off a major highway and is a day use destination. The trail to it is already overused in my opinion.
    The Essex Chain is beautiful, yes the access road is ugly to say the least, as well as the parking lot. It will take a few years for nature to repair the damage done by logging.
    Wild-Primative-Wilderness are just words. I have been in Wild Forests that are in every way wilderness. Go to the High Peaks Wilderness just about anytime and see more people in an hour than you would all weekend in a wild area. We all know this.
    So what that usage numbers in the Essex Chain are low. Perhaps that means that the DEC/APA did pick the correct classification for the area. Be glad that the land belongs to ALL of the people of New York and not to one millionaire who would block access to all.
    One last thing, Mr Ingersoll, you are a snob. If you do not visit an area, how can you have a valid opinion about it? Open your mind, park your car on Cornell Road and walk yourself to Deer Pond with your backpack and Hornbeck. It is a beautiful area, not perfect, but what is?

  11. Paul says:

    Interesting – why would an environmental group want to figure out ways to get more people into an area they want to preserve? Why not just smile and keep quiet?

    • Boreas says:


      Perhaps environmentalists are more nuanced than they are given credit for.

    • Bruce says:


      I think Mr. Bauer’s point is if the Essex Chain had been classified Wilderness it would get more use as evidenced by the High Peaks and other Wilderness areas. It’s just a rather creative way of saying more Wilderness will attract more people (hikers and canoeists), thus increasing the economic impact. I don’t believe it is the Wilderness classification alone creating the draw to these areas, it is the fact they have something more to offer, such as spectacular views or secluded paddling destinations.

      As I said, it’s merely a theory based on his interpretation of current usage data. It is my contention that as the area becomes better known, usage will increase, in spite of his “hodge-podge” argument. It’s a like any new tourist or local attraction, it takes time to develop, you can’t go by what the first few years show, and I’m guessing that whatever the log books or Bauer’s impression indicate, it is mostly locals using the Essex Chain right now.

  12. Tim L says:

    I’m not much of a letter writer but I feel compelled to say something about the low usage of the Essex Chain and about access to the Boreas Ponds.

    I am an older outdoors person with membership in a few of the Adirondack and environmental conservation clubs. I do some hiking but mostly love to paddle the Adirondacks. A few preferences of mine for overnight camping and of every other person that I know who also likes to paddle in the Adirondacks is;

    I want a waterfront campsite where I can see the water from my tent or at least an area that I can sit and look at it without being outside my “designated” campsite area. If a site is to far back from the water, forget it. I want the action the water brings like birds, waves, frogs and fish jumping. Looking at the same trees for a couple hours is boring.

    Permission to build A FIRE IS A MUST have, preferably at a spot that I can also see at least some of the water.

    Ease of access. I’m not going to drag my canoe and camping gear for miles if the payoff isn’t extremely high.

    I prefer not to paddle with motorboats (I have one) but will except them.

    I was one of the first people to paddle the Essex Chain when it opened and loved it. When they implemented the no campfire rule, it took that area right off my list. Some people may not be able to just sit and look at water like paddlers do, but in my 64 years I have never met a person that doesn’t like a lake, pond or river view. Plus, they would be willing to share that view with other people, rather than not have it at all.

    In the last couple years I have seen some beautiful shoreline campsites closed because of over use. The reason they are over used is because people love them! Most people aren’t disappointed because they see other people at a beautiful campsite along a pond or stream. Most wish it was theirs instead.

    I hope we can reach a solution where the resources can be used for other than hiking and camping surrounded by trees. If you want people to enjoy an area longer than a day trip, give them what they like. Access, a view and a campfire would help a lot.

    • Paul says:

      I don’t think it has anything to do with motors. Just look all over the Adirondacks you see far more paddlers on waters like the Saranac Chain with lots of big motor boats than you see in places like the St. Regis Canoe area. I go to the ponds to fish but you are really also getting away from large numbers of paddlers (along with motor boats).

      • Tim L says:

        The motor comment was just a list of things I prefer. I didn’t mean to imply we should allow motors on the Essex Chain. I feel the reason you see more paddlers on lakes with motors is ease of access. I don’t think they are paddling on these lakes because motorboats are on them.

  13. John says:

    I think the trailhead registers may not accurately represent the actual usage numbers, I know many people who don’t sign in, especially if it’s just a day hike/paddle.

  14. Paul says:

    The most plausible answer at this time may be the simplest one. The area isn’t that interesting to many people. There are places that are more interesting for paddlers, like the St. Regis Canoe area. This area was traditionally interesting to hunters who wanted a sporting club experience. It was very successful in that regard. I was sorry to see that go with some of the Adirondack culture with it. There may not be the market that folks expected from these other groups. It was clear that the state had not done any of that kind of homework ahead of time for them it always seems like we will buy it and hope they come. Have to see what happens over the long term but it may have some negative impact on some of the folks and groups that claimed this would be a big deal. At the time it seemed to me that everyone seemed to just be drinking the cool aid. Hope that wasn’t the case. Too soon to really tell.

    • scottvanlaer says:

      I thought the “Canoe area” classification had a certain marketing in the title that may have brought more users to the area. Not that I endorsed that but it has a pretty common sense descriptive aspect to the classification that people easily understand. I would like to see vehicle use data on the road into the interior trailhead, #’s of cars etc…could be done simply by putting a counter in.

      • Paul says:

        I agree. A Canoe Area designation was probably a good idea for this one. Seems like the water is the hook.

  15. Scott says:

    I didnt realize so many people ‘need’ a campfire to enjoy a wilderness experience. I disagree with that ‘need’ for a campfire to enjoy a wilderness experience. I think campfires should only be when necessary. I prefer campsites without campfire evidence. I don’t like the looks of old campfire spots, it diminishes any wilderness feeling. I don’t like how many campers think they can burn garbage or otherwise use the campfire like a trash receptacle. I don’t like how many campers don’t quench their campfire when done. I don’t like the frequent ground-fire scars evident in many campsites, and this seems more common in more remote campsites than roadside campsites. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s privilge to have a campfire but I wish the belief and attitude about having campfires was different.

    • Bob says:

      I think it was when I was about eight yrs old, 1951, camping at Moffitt’s beach, when I found the beauty and meaning of a “campfire”. It’s the center piece of the whole “camping” experience. Along with tents, and sleeping bags, and roughing it. On a clear night, your on the beach, with the lake, still and quite at your back, in front, the glow of camp fires, with their smoke rising up thru the trees. The smell of the burning wood. What a wondrous smell.
      As you walk down the camp road, past the campers fires, the people are sitting in front of the fires talking , or staring at it, or the kids are putting a marshmallow on a stick hoping they can keep the fire from consuming their sticky treats.And, of course, the fire wood it self, has to be full of little pockets of sap, so the wood snaps and crackles as it burns, throwing out hot embers here an there. And then there are the stars. Take a boy out of the suburbs where the city lights hide the real picture and show him the sky on a cloudless night in the Adirondacks, but I digress, but so what. And now it’s late and the camp fires are now just glowing embers. It’s into the tent and into that bulky, always seemingly damp sleeping bag. And as sleep takes you over, the last sounds are a few last snapping embers from the camp fire.
      Camping without a fire, Scott, oh, my gosh, no,no,no

  16. Patricia Martz says:

    I have been to the Essex chain twice, one for a day trip and once for a two night camping trip. We saw no motorized vehicles or bicycles. It is indeed a beautiful area but does not have some of the attributes that Lila, Little Tupper, or Low’s has. First, the access is not exactly easy. The put-ins/take-outs are not terrific, being a bit muddy. Access involves two carries, or one long one if one uses the gravel road. (On our camping trip, we took the two carries on the way in but found, having wheels for the overnight, that the road was a better option.) Next, the campsites are not as attractive as those in the other areas. On our first trip, we could not even get out at the first campsite we saw because the water was higher than my legs and there was no way to land parallel the shore. It was probably fine for tall men, but not for short women. The lack of camp fires means that some sites are littered with fallen branches making it hard to walk around safely. We missed the pleasure of cooking on a small fire and sitting around it after dinner. (I have difficulty understanding why burning fossil fuel is more ecologically responsible than burning small branches that have fallen, a renewable resource. We recently purchased a stick stove to use when a campfire is impractical. It works well.) Campsites in the other areas often have rocks on which to sit and watch the water, beaches from which to swim, or at least bottoms not muddy when one enters. Compare the to any of the other areas, and they fall short.

    We have camped in the other areas many times. We have met an occasional vehicle at Lila and Lowe’s and an occasional motor boat, from Scouts, on Lowe’s. I am not averse to long carries when needed, having traveled the Lowe’s to Oswegachee five times, and numerous trips into the St. Regis area, but I do not see the purpose of making the access to the Essex chain as difficult as it is. (Lowe’s to Oswegachee is of course, little used.) I fail to see how the possibility of seeing a vehicle on the Essex Chain roads could be more of a deterrent than the possibility of seeing vehicles at Lila or Lowe’s.

    We plan to visit the Essex chain again despite the shortcomings for camping, but I do think access and campsites are deterrents to more use. I was happy to see that there will be a small parking area near fifth pond for disabled paddlers, with the option for others who find the regular access difficult. My husband and I are in our early seventies and perfectly capable of using the regular access right now. I don’t know whether or not we could still do it in ten years. An easier access would make the area more attractive to families and older individuals. I think the area’s under-use has nothing whatsoever to do with the possibility of vehicles or bicycles on the roads.

  17. Boreas says:


    I haven’t been to the Chain, but it sounds like it has the potential to become a birding destination as the logged areas begin to recover. ‘Disturbed’ areas such as this often are magnets for bird/wildlife species that thrive on low growth vegetation for migration stops and breeding areas. I may make a trip there this week to see what migrating warblers I can find. Perhaps I’ll see my first ADK moose!

    • Boreas says:

      Oh, can anyone point me to a trailhead that would be best for visiting the logged areas?

  18. Byron says:

    Essex Chain gives new meaning to rough camping. It is tough to get to with no services or bail out lodging in the local area. It’s remote. And that’s why I love it. for those of you who haven’t been and don’t plan to, thank you. This is a prelude to the usage of the Boreas tract, which will be equally inhabitable, inconvenient and therefore avoidable from a human standpoint. The concerns of many regarding overuse and damage of the wilderness will be unfounded there as well.

  19. I’m glad someone is looking at this, but it is unfortunate that DEC isn’t analyzing its own data and making it public. Or at the very least, tallying the raw data and making that more readily available for others to analyze. It would be a mountain of work, pun intended, to analyze usage patterns across the park, but the results would be fascinating and informative.

  20. Larry K. says:

    Late to the conversation but it’s really only a few hours paddling; you spend more time on the carries – and that can be OK – but for the limited paddling and no campfires, there are better places to go.

    Locals on the road in were unfriendly to the point of threatening. Blocking the road with ATVs, downright nasty stares, etc. They are certainly not in favor of increased use. We questioned whether our vehicles were safe in the lot. As usual, there were folks in there who hadn’t signed in. Perhaps more than other locations? Larry

  21. Rich Stevens says:

    I think that there are a few reasons for the relatively light use. We did it as a day trip with 16 & 18′ Kevlar touring kayaks, which is one factor to keep in mind regarding my experience. The lakes are indeed very scenic and we very much enjoyed the paddle. However, for a day trip, it’s a very long and slow drive in and out, over what at the time was a fairly rough unpaved road. Once there, on the advice of a ranger and having looked at the put in, take out, and size of Deer Pond, we skipped this. Even with wheels, the carry in on a hot day was time consuming and a bit tiring for an antique like myself. Once on the water, we circumnavigated Second through Sixth Lakes in a little over 5 hours, including the carries and a stop for lunch at one of the camp sites. The paddle was about 11 miles. While I loved the lakes, I would probably not go back for another day trip. Too much time and effort for too little paddling.

    While there, we saw a total of two bicyclists and three people in two canoes,

  22. Patricia Martz says:

    My husband and I stayed two nights at the Essex Chain last year. We will probably not return for an overnight. Even with wheels, the carry is long for what you get. I’m not averse to long carries if it is worth it, having done the Low’s Lake to Oswegachie traverse six times, but the carry for an overnight doesn’t seem worth it. Though the lakes are beautiful, the campsites are, with a few exceptions, not. Access for short people is difficult for many sites. The lack of campfires is a definite minus guys; we typically cook over a small fire or use a stick stove. The campsites are littered with sticks and branches. We had to spend some time clearing the area so we would not be tripping over them.
    Consider a family using one of the campsites. Children like to swim, and swimming is limited. There are no campsites with beached or rocks on which to lounge. AND, no small campfires. Compare this to Lila, Little Tupper, St. Regis, Low’s.
    We will probably return for a day trip, though who knows for how many more years. We are in our early 70’s, and the work/reward ratio will get less favorable as we age.
    How about easier access and campfires? A better camping experience would take the pressure off the more popular areas.

  23. Mike Fouhy says:

    Question why are there no campfires allowed on waterfront sites in Essex Chain, but allowed on off water sites???