At Boreas Ponds, access is an issue, as it has been with most of the publicly-owned lands and waters that contain valuable natural resources. Restoration (or preservation) of these resources into a wilderness or near-wilderness condition requires careful thought.
An Interim Access Plan recently announced by the DEC will allow public access to the ponds by opening the Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles for 3.2 miles from the state highway, Boreas – Blue Ridge Road. A gate will prevent further motor vehicle travel to the ponds.
According to DEC, “Paddlers will be able to access Boreas Pond and other waterways by carrying their canoes and kayaks 2.5 miles from the gate on Gulf Brook Road to LaBier Flow and then another 0.5 mile between the flow and Boreas Pond.”
Yet-to- be-announced public hearings will be held within the next few months to allow interested parties to express their views on how the Boreas Ponds Tract should be managed.
The towns near the much discussed purchase by the state want the existing seven-mile Gulf Brook Road and the logging roads surrounding the ponds to remain open to motorized vehicles to provide easy access to the ponds.
Protect the Adirondacks and BeWildNY, a coalition of environmental organizations, propose the opening of Gulf Brook Road to a mile or so from a flow that leads to the ponds.
The newly formed partnership Adirondack Wilderness Advocates calls for closing the entire Gulf Brook Road to motorized vehicles.
The continuing dialogue about the classification and use of the lands and waters on the newly purchased Boreas Ponds Tract reminds me of the various ways I’ve sought-out and gained access to the quiet waters of the Adirondacks. Portages are often difficult for me, especially if I’m carrying camping gear in addition to my canoe, even though the solo canoe is lightweight, only 15 lbs. A level gravel road makes it possible to wheel the boat to the put-in. However, with my limited abilities as I age, I could not now do what the DEC proposes in their interim plan, even for a day trip requiring a five-mile portage (2.5 miles each way.) I suspect the great majority who paddle our waters would not have the physical wherewithal to undertake such a portage, no matter what age.
The DEC Interim Plan for Boreas Ponds calls for miles of existing roads to be open to bicycling, horses and horse drawn wagons, including to the ponds. For those of us who have problems carrying a canoe the 2.5 miles, trailering the boat behind a bicycle is a possibility. I’ve never done it, but have seen Peter Hornbeck with his trailered canoe.
Riding a horse drawn wagon with a boat trailer to reach a paddling destination is another way to gain access to quiet waters. Last summer, I had fun on a trip to Great Camp Santanoni and Newcomb Lake via the horses, but it certainly was not a wilderness experience. Sitting on wooden benches packed with twenty other people for over an hour, each way, with everyone chatting, was more like taking a bus tour, albeit the bus is more comfortable – perhaps to a famous cathedral rather than a quiet lake. It’s nice to say you’ve been there, but you may want to go back alone or with a few friends to spend time to become a part of the place, rather than be an observer. I felt rushed on Newcomb Lake, and would love to return to explore the lake at my own pace, not on someone else’s time schedule.
Hiring guides to help carry canoes is an option, as my canoe buddies and I did two years ago to gain access to the lakes in the Essex Chain. We walked for a mile on a gravel road to Third Lake while our guides wheeled our canoes to the put-in. That was only one mile, however, not 2.5.
I’ve had the pleasure of paddling on the Boreas Ponds as a part of an environmental group before the Nature Conservancy sold the tract to the state. The experience is one of my most cherished Adirondack memories, captivated by the breathtaking view of the mountains while floating on these quiet waters. This remembrance will always be with me.
I ponder the question of what type of access can be offered to those like me who seek a remote paddling experience, while still maintaining the sense of wildness so essential to such a quest. I’d like to visit again. I’d like to share the waters with others who would honor and cherish this sacred space.
Photos from above: Canoe on Boreas Ponds provided, Peter, Pete, Lorraine, courtesy Jeri Wright, and and horse and boats provided.