Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Parts Of Boreas Ponds Tract Opened To Motor Vehicles, Bicycles

Boreas interimIn a long-awaited interim-access plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract, the state has opened to motor vehicles part of a former logging road leading to Boreas Ponds and opened all of the road to bicycles.

The future of the dirt thoroughfare, known as Gulf Brook Road, has been the subject of several articles and much debate on Adirondack Almanack and in the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

Gulf Brook Road starts at County Route 2 (also known as the Boreas Road or Blue Ridge Road) and leads in 6.7 miles to the dam at Boreas Ponds. On Wednesday afternoon, state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the first 3.2 miles will be open to motor vehicles and that mountain bikers will be able to pedal all the way to the dam.

In addition, about 25 miles of former logging roads on the 20,758-acre tract will be open to equestrians and horse-drawn wagons. (Click on the map above to see which roads are open to which uses.)

DEC could change the degree and type of access allowed on the tract when it develops a final management plan for the property, which the state acquired from the Nature Conservancy this spring.

Many people see Boreas Ponds, with its gorgeous view of the High Peaks, as an attractive paddling destination. Much of the debate over the road has focused on how close to the ponds paddlers should be able to drive with their canoes and kayaks.

Under the interim plan, paddlers will have to carry or wheel their vessels 2.5 miles from a gate on Gulf Brook Road to LaBier Flow, an impoundment on the Boreas River. They then could paddle across most of the flow before taking out and carrying another half-mile to the dam at Boreas Ponds. (This trip is described in an Explorer article posted on the Almanack and is shown in the map below.)

boreas ponds mapEnvironmental groups and local officials advocate allowing paddlers (and the rest of the public) to drive all the way to LaBier Flow. This could still happen under the final management plan. Recently, a new group calling itself Adirondack Wilderness Advocates formed to push the state into keeping the whole road closed.

Local officials also favor allowing mountain bikes on Gulf Brook Road and some logging roads around the ponds. Under the environmentalists’ plan, bikes would be allowed on Gulf Brook Road but not on the roads around the ponds.

The final management plan will reflect decisions made by the Adirondack Park Agency on the classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract. The environmental groups want most of the tract classified as Wilderness, a designation that would not allow bikes in the vicinity of the ponds. The local towns agree that most of the tract should be Wilderness, but they want to see the area around the ponds classified as Wild Forest, a designation that allows bikes.

Click here to read DEC’s news release on the interim-access plan.

Top map provided by DEC shows which roads will be open to vehicles, bikes, and horses.

Lower map, by Nancy Bernstein, shows how paddlers can get from LaBier Flow to Boreas Ponds.

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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.

38 Responses

  1. Justin Farrell says:

    Hey look at that, the second gate lol.

  2. Jan Hansen says:

    This is sad. The 7 mile trip in wheeling a canoe isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is doable. The Boreas Ponds property is gorgeous, quiet and undisturbed. Making it easy for careless day trippers to access is worrisome.
    Look at all the uproar in the High Peaks. Drive by the trailhead for the OK Slip Falls just about any day of the week, it is loaded with cars, 6 miles roundtrip is apparently not too far a trot for the masses.
    I was all for a partial opening of Gulf Brook Road until we walked in one weekend and actually experienced the beauty that is the Boreas. This property is a treasure and needs to be protected. It needs to remain quiet and undisturbed.

  3. M.P. Heller says:

    This is THE plan. Unless something in this pilot goes way off the rails and causes highly unanticipated outcomes, expect something that very much approximates this interim to be present in the final UMP. Barring any unforseen troubles, perhaps it’s wise to expect verbatim language.

    I’m not sure how this particular community will react to these specifics, now that they have been outlined, but I’m sure that there will be much more discussion and debate. I just hope that conversation is pragmatic and productive, as there is enormous potential for further division and angst on behalf of many who have already expressed their views on this topic in light of this announcement.

  4. Boreas says:

    This should be an interesting experiment. If BP remains pristine, more people will get to enjoy it. If it doesn’t, DEC can choose to close the gate.

  5. Mike says:

    So now all day trippers are “careless”? According to Jan that is the case. So only serious overnight folks who aren’t careless should be able to enjoy the outdoors? Judgemental extremism on display.

    • Marc Wanner says:

      The sentence “Making it easy for careless day trippers to access is worrisome” does NOT mean that all day trippers are careless. It means that opening a pristine spot up to those day trippers who ARE careless is worrisome.

      I’ve been day tripping AND camping the central Adirondacks for the last ten years, and one thing that you just can’t miss is that the easier it is to get to a spot, the more mess you’ll find there. Campers leave messes too. But I’ve been impressed at how clean most of the back country is most of the time.

      We need to seek balance between access and destruction, or else there’s no point in providing access.

      • Bruce says:


        There is “vehicular access,” and vehicular access. They still have to walk 2.5 miles under this plan. I believe you will find that’s not the same as drive in camping. Sounds like a good balance to me.

        My concern is about horse users. I don’t know about the Adirondack Park, but horse campsites in National Parks tend to be located somewhat remotely from other established campsites. When you leave horses tied overnight in the same area, it will eventually create a mess of its own.

        Perhaps horse people won’t be allowed to camp if they can’t leave their horses in the trailer overnight, and they’re not going to leave them in a trailer 2.5 miles away. (I’m a former “horse person” but never camped with them).

        • Boreas says:

          And don’t forget watering them from a mucky shoreline.

          If we are concerned about preserving BP, I think the idea of horses close to the ponds themselves is a bad idea. You may as well go out and plant purple loosestrife and other invasive weed species and kiss the native shoreline vegetation goodbye. This has been quite an issue in the west where horses and mules are used more often. Certified feed, manure bags, etc.

        • Marco says:

          I agree. Like hiking trails, equestrian trails in the ADK’s are not well maintained, either. Lack of blowdown removal, as an example, will usually lead to a trail closing rather than divert manpower from elsewhere to clear it. (Example: Calkin;s Brook/Cold River trail.) They will eventually repair/clear it, but it was closed most of this year. Hikers may complain about blowdowns, but they can usually get through, anyway. A series of blowdowns on a horse trail means clearing or closing…there is no real alternative.

          Horse trails and hiking trails are often problematic together. We will have to see how this works but I am not happy. I would guess the bikers are not happy. And, the car campers are not happy. Hey, that is the nature of compromise. No one is *supposed* to be happy.

  6. drdirt says:

    Perhaps someone can answer a question ,.,., If I can pedal my bike in, and I can wheel my canoe in, am I allowed to tow my canoe behind my bike to the ponds ???
    That would sure save my old bones and joints for some hiking and paddleing.

    • Bruce says:


      I don’t see why not. But under the plan, you may not be able to take your bicycle that close to the ponds. “bikes would be allowed on Gulf Brook Road but not on the roads around the ponds.”

      That might mean you would have to leave your bike some distance away from your launch site.

      • Phil Brown says:

        You can bike to the Boreas Ponds dam under the interim plan, and that’s where you would put in. You can’t bike on the roads beyond the dam. These roads go around the ponds,

      • Festus says:

        You can peddle all the way to the second dam which is at the start of the actual ponds and is an excellent place to put a canoe in. The newly allowed drive-in part (especially the first mile) is steeply uphill while the rest of the dirt road is much flatter (although does have some ups and downs). So the plan allows for driving up the steepest section of the dirt road and then biking on the easier section of the road…so Dr. Dirt – your idea is excellent…But I wonder – How easy would it be to bike a canoe with trailer on an ok but non paved road with some ups and downs?

    • Boreas says:

      Just an absurd thought, but I haven’t read anything about regulating TRIcycles. They are quite popular on the Cape Cod Canal trail for fishing. They can haul a lot of stuff on the back and are very durable and stable. That’s how I would tow my canoe or carry my camping gear. .

  7. Mike Lynch says:

    Has the DEC hired any additional staff to manage the Boreas Pond tract and other Finch Pruyn properties?

    • Paul says:

      These interim plans and eventual UMPs should have much more detailed budgets. I don’t know of any other type of business that could get away with these back of the napkin type budgets you see associated with these plans.

    • Boreas says:

      Last I saw of the current budget, $0.00. Better luck next year?

  8. Paul says:

    At 2.5 miles it is still quite long compared to most canoe carries. I think that will keep quite a few paddlers out of there.

  9. tim-brunswick says:

    Not good enough for us older folks who still have a right to enjoy this area , as well!

    The total trail/carry into Squaw Lake (Wilderness) from the barrier on Little Indian Lake Road-MRPRA is less than a mile. There is little or not litter around Squaw and the distance/terrain is more than enough to discourage folks from toting in large amounts of gear, etc.

    It is sad that 95% of the articles that have appeared on Boreas Ponds are all penned by Staffers/frequent contributors of the Almanac or Explorer.As always the articles promote heavy “wilderness” designation with minimal compromise that would allow better access for Seniors, physically impaired, injured vets, etc.

    Hopefully we will all live and thrive into our “Senior Years”. My guess is that many of the Almanac contributors will still yearn to hike/paddle into their 70’s. It will be then that they’ll fully realize what an extra mile or two road means to your arthritic legs and feet.

    I can only hope that NYS DEC continues in the same direction they headed with the Essex Chain Lakes UMP and make concessions to everyone, not just the Wilderness only crowd.

    • Boreas says:


      All people have a right to enjoy these areas now. What you are talking about however is the right to vehicular access, and that doesn’t exist. It simply isn’t possible to have a road to everywhere we wish.

      But keep in mind, this is only an interim measure. DEC still has the same options down the road (no pun intended). They may decide to open it completely, they may decide to close it completely. And one of the options that I believe is still on the table is closing the road, but allowing limited vehicular access for people with mobility issues, which many of us DO support. However, that would likely be by appointment or reservation system which may not be to your liking. Call/write the your state representatives and let them know your feelings and perhaps they will listen.

    • Joe Hansen says:

      Tim-b Squaw Lake is pretty but it’s no Boreas Ponds. I’d bet a hundredfold more would come to Boreas! It is a fact of life physical abilities will diminish with age,get over it we are all in that same boat. I have no problem letting those with physical disabilities have special access but to tell the truth facilities built for them see very little use. Mostly this argument is made on behalf of the non handicapped who want easier access for themselves. My fear is that the ponds which are a worthy wilderness destination right now will become an over used site for those wishing to “bag” the Great Range. Tim, enjoy the hundreds of beautiful place that have easy access.

  10. Dick Carlson says:

    So – Are the Horse Trails “real” hardened horse trails or just dirt that will turn into mud wallows like all the other horse trails (Cold River)? Also horses yes, bikes no – what’s with that? And why is there a White Piece of Property on the shore of Elk Lake? That can’t possibly imply access to Elk Lake can it?

  11. Boreas says:


    I don’t know for sure, but I assume horses and bikes surprising each other on a trail could be an issue. Perhaps it is something the horse folks asked for.

    WRT the white area on the map, I would assume that just indicates where the Elk Lake Lodge buildings and camps are. That’s where they were last time I visited. However, in my experience, the lodge has always been friendly to hikers (especially if you stay there!) and there are easements to trails nearby that lead to the Dix Range, etc. But it is private property and should be respected as such.

    Elk Lake Lodge would be the perfect place for someone with limited mobility to stay. It has virtually the same view as BPW and you don’t need to bring a boat!

    • Boreasfisher says:

      Sounds like a good working compromise to test in an interim plan, but I too worry about the impact of horse riding in this area. Does anyone have any information about the size of the user base for this activity?

      On the face of it–special parking facilities for horse trailers, potential introduction of invasive species, destruction of habitat where horses graze, rutting of trails– this must be a *significant* clientele to justify the expense and potential impact. Why anyone would drive miles with their horse trailers for a very few miles of trails escapes me.

      Perhaps someone will set me straight.

    • Bruce says:


      Most people taking horses have the good sense to take horses which won’t be skittish around wheeled vehicles or other “strange” sights and sounds. I did say “most, not all.” I used to train trail horses to not be surprised by anything, even along highways with truck traffic, so they could be used anywhere. People who ride skittish horses where there may be vehicles are not doing themselves any favors.

    • Marco says:

      Like I said earlier, Horses and hikers are “problematic.” Generally, horse trails get torn up pretty good, and they do “leave behind” junk that means water is threatened. But, I have never heard of hay burners being responsible for major pollution. No more than deer, bear or other largish critters.
      Hiking trails are much softer, lower and narrower, so, horses are generally not allowed simply for the riders safety, ignoring rocky climbs, swamps, largish mud holes, etc..
      Coming up on a horse can sometimes surprise the horse. Making him skittish for a few minutes. Sort of like a hiker stumbling on a bear in the woods. Not real dangerous if both the rider and hiker know what is happening, but it can unnerve a skittish horse. Worst case, the horse can actually attack, but, this is far less likely than him simply bolting, possibly after shedding the rider on a local tree branch, not that they are thinking right then. Perhaps not far, but he can still do damage to the rider and/or the hiker.

      • Bruce says:

        Why would you come up on a horse in a manner to surprise it? Making some little noise before you get there is generally all that’s necessary, along with allowing some room. I have known people who get a kick out of deliberately wanting to see what happens, but that’s not a reason to keep horses out of Boreas.

        My understanding is that horses will be restricted to existing roads, which are classified by the state as “all weather.”

        • Marco says:

          Intentionally? No! Horses are fairly wary. But an example would be a hiker sitting on a rock as a horse approaches. Or going up a hill on a horse trail. Or coming to a horse trail on a side trail. Or just a sharp bend in the road. I have come down a hill and met a horse & rider on the North Country Trail in the Finger lakes. Nothing happened, except some head up snorting by the horse.

  12. Charlie S says:

    Jan Hansen says: “Drive by the trailhead for the OK Slip Falls just about any day of the week, it is loaded with cars..”

    Yes and check out the trailhead register next time you drive by. That place is packing em in!

  13. Jim S. says:

    I don’t think this is good news. They allowed the Essex Chain of lakes left marginally protected so it would be easily accessible to the masses. I thought Boreas Ponds deserved a better fate.

    • Jim S. says:

      Aren’t horses actually an invasive species?

      • Bruce says:

        Jim S,

        Only if they live and take root there.

        In the final analysis, man became an invasive species when he moved out of Africa. Some native peoples changed the landscape to their own purposes, especially the Woodland tribes and Mound Builders.

  14. Paul says:

    Many articles this week about problems with overuse pressure in places like the HPW (especially the eastern side). If the hope is for places like this to become a viable alternative and relieve some of that pressure to set it up as a place that is very difficult to access with long hikes down dirt roads is probably not gonna work. It will keep it quite and wild but it won’t help with the above problem.

    • Jim S. says:

      Long walks never deter most if not all high peaks hikers. Motorized access will likely make Boreas Ponds less likely to lure the peakbaggers away from the overused areas.

  15. Boreas says:

    Does anyone know if the interim plan calls for plowing the open section of road in winter?

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