Monday, August 15, 2016

DEC Ends Essex Chain Campsite Reservation System

Photo of Sue Bibeau on Third Lake by Phil BrownBeginning August 15th, campers planning to camp on one of the 11 tent sites on the shores of the Essex Chain Lakes will no longer be required to reserve a site before camping, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced.

While tent sites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, campers will need to complete self-issued camping permits year-round at the trailhead register at the Deer Pond Parking Area. This will allow DEC to continue to monitor usage levels of the tent sites.

Campfires remain prohibited on the 11 waterfront tent sites. Campfires are allowed at the other 19 tent sites in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex. More information can be found here.

Anyone camping for more than three nights at any of the tent sites or with a group of 10 or more people must obtain a free camping permit from a Forest Ranger.

The camping permit system had been administered by the nearby Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC), part of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, which will continue to administer the Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex.

MAPPWD permit holders need to contact AIC at (518) 582-2000 or to reserve a parking space on Fifth Lake. The parking spaces provide access to an accessible tent site and accessible hand launch. AIC operates 10 am to 5 pm everyday but Tuesday between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day.

Questions may be directed to the DEC Warrensburg office, (518) 623-1200.

Photo of a paddler on Third Lake by Phil Brown.

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14 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    I visited the Essex Chain for the first time in early August. It is exceptional. I can’t wait until they come to their senses and allow campfires. I will go back for day visits, but I won’t be camping until campfires are allowed.

  2. Greg M. says:

    A step in the right direction on one ‘special’ plan/classification. While the Essex chain was supposed to be a good compromise, I really think it should have been all Wilderness or all Wild Forest. Personally, I think having Essex Chain as Wild Forest (and still keep the roads closed as they are now) and Boreas Ponds as Wilderness all the way to the highway would have been the right compromise.

    While I am not a fan of the no campfire rules, at least there is some valid environmental reason for it. I have a feeling it will go too in time when it’s shown there is really nothing special about the area compared to other similar lakes without the restrictions.

    The reservation was a hassle and complete bust after the first couple weeks of high-use. I monitored it during the first summer trying to figure out how likely I was to get a site for a late August trip, but quickly realized that it was running less than 40% occupied for busy weekends, and usually around 3 sites occupied at any given time. I checked earlier this summer in early July and saw only 1 reservation.

  3. Hope says:

    I find it interesting that campfires are not permitted at the waterfront campsites but are elsewhere. Plenty of water to help extinguish a campfire by the lake. Not sure what water availability is at the other sites.

  4. Justin Farrell says:

    Big bro wants to try and use the Essex Chain as the Lab Rab for the Boreas Ponds.

  5. Hope says:

    I find it interesting that the campsites by the water are the ones that can’t have a campfire but the others that are away from the lake can. Are there water sources available at these other sites for putting out a fire?

    • Boreas says:


      Unfortunately, virtually everywhere fires are allowed, surrounding trees are damaged to obtain firewood. I suspect the ban on the waterfront sites has more to do with trying to avoid damage to and overuse of those particular sites rather than concerns about wildfires. Just a thought.

      • Hope says:

        I believe that could be mitigated by have reserve campsite areas identified so that every, say 5 years or so, the used campsite is closed and the reserved site is open and then another reserved site designated so that each site gets 10 years to recover. Nature is pretty resilent and can do a lot of recovery in 10 yrs. I’ve seen abandoned campsites recover in less time.

        • Boreas says:

          Good idea.

          • Boreas says:


            Although now thinking about it, this wouldn’t alleviate the manpower/patrolling issue much as it would be difficult to keep “overflow” campers out of the recovering sites without persistent patrolling – or planting poison ivy…

  6. john e. says:

    great, now we all can plan our trip, pack all our gear, get excited about the adventure, drive to the Chain trail head, hike/paddle to all 11 sites to learn they are all FULL. Thanks DEC for your for site. ( for the computer literate the reservation system works, no problem

    • Boreas says:

      Perhaps DEC cannot afford the manpower to perform daily patrolling of the sites to enforce the reservations.

  7. Russ B says:

    What about the “reserved exclusively for float planes” site. Is this now open to first come?