This weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is issued each Thursday afternoon and can be heard at North Country Public Radio on Friday mornings.
Sunrise Saturday in Lake Placid will be at 6:39 am; sunset at 5:39 pm, providing 11 hours of sunlight. There will be a New Moon on Sunday. On Saturday, the Moon will rise at 6:05 am and set at 4:48 am.
FLOOD WATCH: The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch through Sunday evening for Northern New York and Central and Northern Vermont including Essex, Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence, and Lewis counties – including the Adirondack High Peaks and Western Adirondacks. Localized ice jam flooding could begin Thursday into Friday, however record warm temperatures and a period of moderate to briefly heavy rainfall is expected on Saturday. Minor to locally moderate flooding is possible due to a combination of snow melt and rainfall. The greatest flood threat will occur during and after the heaviest rainfall, which is expected Saturday afternoon into Saturday night, and could be made worse by localized ice jams. The flood threat will be enhanced on rivers with potential ice breakup, which includes the basins of far northeastern New York and the northern third of Vermont. Models show a minor flood for the Ausable at Au Sable Forks. (See the latest NWS watches, warnings, and advisories here).
TRAIL CONDITIONS: Substantial rain and unseasonably warm temperatures into the 50s have seriously damaged the snowpack at lower elevations, but winter conditions remain around the region, and a strong storm moving through Friday and Saturday will bring cold weather behind it, including the possibility of some mixed precipitation and snow. Trailheads may have little snow, but there remains deep snow (several feet in some areas) at higher elevations and in protected valleys. Drainages are mostly open and waters are high in the Central Adirondacks and other deeper snowpack areas – some stream crossings may be impassable. Friday will be warm (in the 40s and 50s) with scattered showers and some freezing rain early and at higher elevations. Highs in the 50s and rain – heavy at times – is expected Saturday and has resulted in the issuance of a Flood Watch, which includes the High Peaks (see above). Streams which can be crossed in the morning, may be impassable in the afternoon. Consider alternative routes that avoid dangerous stream crossings and stay alert to changing weather and flooding situations. Snow could be heavy at times at the higher elevations beginning as early as Saturday afternoon, and scattered snow showers are possible Saturday evening and through the night elsewhere. Sunday will be mostly in the 30s, with winds 30-45 mph on summits that will bring windchills to the single digits to teens below zero beginning as early as Saturday afternoon.
AVALANCHE CONCERNS: Recent snowstorms and warming temperatures have left a layered snowpack that has increased the chance for avalanches. Use caution when traveling on open areas with slopes between 25 and 50 degrees and no vegetation. If you are going to travel into avalanche terrain be aware of the risk of avalanches: Have a basic knowledge of avalanche risk, prediction, avoidance and rescue; carry beacons, shovels and probes; and check for avalanche conditions before skiing. Always obtain your own data about avalanche risks, and remember that the presence of ski tracks on a slope doesn’t eliminate the risk of avalanche. Remember safe travel techniques, know how to self-rescue, and have a rescue plan. If you are unsure, don’t go. Avalanches occur in the Adirondacks and they can have deadly consequences.
ICY CONDITIONS – TRACTION DEVICES NEEDED: Ice remains present at all elevations and thick ice is present at some locations, especially on and near summits. Carry crampons on all hikes and use when conditions warrant.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skis are required in the High Peaks Wilderness whenever snow depth are 8 inches or more and snowshoes are generally needed at mid and higher elevation areas. Forest Rangers in the High Peaks Wilderness have been turning hikers back who don’t have snowshoes. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
BE PREPARED! Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, a flashlight, and a map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in well below freezing temperatures in an emergency. Just before entering the backcountry or launching check the latest weather forecasts for the Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.
SNOW DEPTH: Substantial rain and warm weather in the 50s has dramatically reduced the region’s snowpack, although there is a possibility for some light snow in the mountains this weekend. With the exception of eastern Essex County, including in the lower Saranac and Ausable river valleys where very little snow remains, there is currently (on Thursday afternoon) 12-18 inches of snow on the ground across the Adirondacks at lower elevations; there is 4 feet at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet) and as much as 6 feet at higher elevations and on summits.
Approximate snow depths reported early Thursday:
Tupper Lake – 9 inches
Gabriels – 6 inches
Paul Smiths – 12 inches
Saranac Lake – 12 inches
Keene Valley (Southern 1,966 Ft) – 13 inches
Lake Placid (1,890 Ft) – 17 inches
Wilmington (2,020 Ft) – 10 inches
Lake Colden (2,775 Ft) – 48 inches
North Hudson – 10 inches
Newcomb – 18 inches
Olmsteadville – 18 inches
Indian Lake – 20 inches
Raquette Lake – 10 inches
Northville – 6 inches
Speculator – 12 inches
Inlet – 13 inches
Old Forge – 11 inches
Chestertown – 9 inches
Warrensburg – 8 inches
North Creek – 10 inches
Lake George Village – 4 inches
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: All ski downhill ski areas have springtime conditions and most have scaled back the number of open trails. Whiteface will have about 85% of their terrain open this weekend (no glades or slides – see their uphill policy); Gore is expected to be operating with about 95% of their trails (including several glades). Titus, and McCauley near Old Forge, will be operating with about 70-85% of their terrain while Oak Mountain near Speculator will have about 60% of their terrain open this weekend. Hickory and Big Tupper remain closed.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: All cross-country ski facilities are open with limited grooming and conditions ranging from fair to very good, including at Tupper Lake, Paul Smiths, Dewey Mountain, Mt. Van Ho, Cascade, Garnet Hill, and Lapland Lake. Expect conditions to deteriorate on Saturday and become icy by Monday. The Lake Placid Nordic Festival and Loppet have been postponed to March 18.
BACK-COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: Warn weather and rain have significantly damaged the region’s snow-pack at lower elevations, but deep snow remains at higher elevations and avalanches are now more likely on steeper slopes and slides, see the notice above. The Jackrabbit Trail remained mostly skiable on Thursday, with hard-packed conditions, wet areas, and some bare patches. The best bet this weekend is skiing the traditional ski trails in the High Peaks, though beware of open drainages, high waters, deep slush and water on lakes and ponds and some exposed obstacles in lower elevation areas. The Newcomb Lake Road is reported skiable. More detailed ski conditions for the Eastern High Peaks, Tri-Lakes, and Paul Smith’s areas may be updated more recently here.
SNOWMOBILE TRAILS REPORT: Snowmobile trails we heavily damaged by last weekend’s crowds and the warming and rain, and conditions will only worsen until Sunday when everything freezes up again. Grooming has largely come to halt, and trails are in mostly marginal to fair condition with the best riding on interior trails. Village trails are mostly shot, or will be by Saturday. Elsewhere expect to encounter wet areas, slush and loose springtime snow with bare corners and trail edges. Lake are covered with deep slush and water. More than a dozen snowmobile deaths have occurred in Northern New York this winter, including 6 riders who died falling through thin ice. Use extreme caution if you are attempting to cross frozen waterbodies, ice that holds snow, may not hold the weight of a person. Warren County and St. Lawrence County trails have closed, likely for the season.
AVOID CAVES WHERE BATS ARE PRESENT: DEC is urging the suspension of cave and mine sites that may serve as homes for bat hibernations at this time of year. Human disturbances are harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at most hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. You encounter hibernating bats while underground at unposted sites, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution.
DROUGHT MONITOR: The U.S. Drought Monitor is now reporting that all only the southeastern Adirondacks is Abnormally Dry.
ICE ON WATERS GENERALLY UNSAFE: Lake George and Lake Champlain will not freeze this year. The region’s lakes and ponds are iced over, but no ice is considered safe, there are several inches of water and slush on top of ice and dangerously thin areas that were recently open water but do not now appear any different from surrounding thicker ice. Numerous ATVs and snowmobiles have gone through thin ice resulting in several deaths in the past several weeks. Warm weather this week and weekend may result in substantial melting along shorelines and other thin areas.
RIVERS AND STREAMS: On Thursday afternoon rivers and streams around the Adirondacks are above, or well above normal levels for this time of year and are expected to rise dramatically. Highs in the 50s and rain – heavy at times – is expected Saturday and has resulted in the issuance of a Flood Watch, which includes the High Peaks (see above). Streams which can be crossed in the morning, may be impassable in the afternoon. Consider alternative routes that avoid dangerous stream crossings and stay alert to changing weather and flooding situations. Before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate.
The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon – THESE ARE EXPECTED TO RISE DRAMATICALLY THIS WEEKEND. Stream gage readings may be affected by ice.
Moose River at McKeever – 3.62 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.86 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 2.28 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.70 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.76 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.94 feet
DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries expire quickly in cold temperatures. Plan and prepare carefully before entering the backcountry and always carry a map and compass – and know how to use them.
KEEP DOGS LEASHED: Dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and rare plants, and out of courtesy to fellow hikers.
LEAVE NO TRACE / CARRY IN – CARRY OUT: Learn and practice the seven Leave No Trace principles. Carry out what you have carried in. Do not leave gear, food, or other unwanted or unneeded items at lean-tos and campsites. Do not litter. Take the free online Leave No Trace course here.
GROUP SIZE RESTRICTIONS: Large groups have significantly more impact on the trails, natural resources and other users. DEC regulation restricts group size in the High Peaks Wilderness to no more than 15 hikers (day users) or 8 campers (overnight users) and encourages this practice to be followed in other areas. Outside the High Peaks Wilderness, DEC regulation requires a temporary permit be issued to authorize organized events of more than twenty people; camping at the same location for more than three nights; or camping in groups of more than 10 people.
VOLUNTEER FOR TRAIL WORK: No matter what your sport, if you’re a trail user consider contributing your efforts to one of the many organizations dedicated to maintaining the region’s network of thousands of miles of trails.
RECENT CHANGES IN THE ADIRONDACK BACKCOUNTRY
These are recent changes (within the last two weeks) to outdoor recreation roads, trails and facilities around the Adirondacks.
** indicates new or recently revised items for this week.
HIGH PEAKS – LAKE PLACID REGION
Including Wilmington, Keene, Newcomb, Essex Chain
** Avalanche Concerns: Avalanches are now more likely on steeper slopes and slides, see the notice above.
** Snowshoes Or Skis Required: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness. Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
** Hiking Ski Trails Prohibited: Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. This includes: Whale’s Tail Notch Ski Trail; Mr. Van Ski Trail; Avalanche Pass Ski Trail; Wright Peak Ski Trail; and Van Hovenberg Ski Trail.
** Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake: Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are being crossed; use caution near inlets and outlets.
South Meadow Lane: The lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane. Respect other users and do not bare-boot / post-hole on this traditional ski route.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) remains closed. Parking is not effected, but the flush toilets and shower facilities at the HPIC will not be available (Port-a-Johns will be available). The HPIC is operating 8 am to 4 pm daily out of a heated tent. Micro-spike and snowshoe rentals will be available along with information and some retail merchandise.
Garden Trailhead Parking Area: The town of Keene operates the Garden Parking Area and charges a $7/day fee for parking. The attendant is no longer present at the parking area. Hikers should use an envelope and the collection slot to pay.
Corey’s Road: Corey’s Road is open to the summer gate, however the town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds.
Elk Lake Trails: The trails from the Elk Lake Trailhead through the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands to High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness are open but the Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate. The public may park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.
Ouluska Brook Bridge: The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions crossing the brook is still possible.
Cold River Bridge: Some boards are broken on the suspension bridge over the Cold River on the Northville-Placid Trail. Use caution when crossing.
Northville-Placid Trail: The Northville Placid Trail has rerouted around a beaver pond south of Plumley’s Point on the shores of Long Lake. The reroute passes the beaver pond higher up the slope and eliminates having to cross the beaver dam and the wet feet obtained when the water levels were high. Follow the Blue NPT trail markers.
Boreas Ponds Tract: The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road near the Blue Ridge Road is closed and lock. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The Gulf Brook Road is not plowed. The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed.
Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
Blue Mountain Wild Forest/Township 19 Tract & Township 20 Tract Easement Lands: Gates are closed and public motor vehicle use is prohibited on O’Neil Flow, Pickwickett Pond, and Minerva Club Roads.
Wakely Mountain Fire Tower: Wakely Mountain Fire Tower has been found to be structurally unsound and has been closed to the public until further notice.
Perkins Clearing: The south entrance of Perkins Clearing Road is open and plowed to Mud Lake Road for log trucks and other vehicles and equipment related to ongoing logging operations. Snowmobilers can access Perkins Clearing from the south entrance via a trail bypass on the west side of the road.
Black River Wild forest: The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: East Pond-Lost Creek Trail has been cleared of blowdown and vegetation has been cut back. Blackfoot Pond Trail off of the East-Pond Lost Creek Trail remains rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times. The sign at the junction of the trails is missing, the turn off to Blackfoot Pond is not readily marked or noticeable. DEC will be replace the sign soon.
Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The Spruce Mountain Trail is open for public use. The cab of the Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is closed for the season as is the cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the Hadley Mountain Observer’s Cabin.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Newcomb VIC / Adirondack Interpretive Center: The trails at the Newcomb Adirondack Interpretive Center (former Newcomb VIC) are closed this weekend due to expected high winds and icy conditions. The Seed Exchange planned for Saturday (2/25) will still take place from 11 to 1.
Great Camp Santanoni Open Houses: The final Winter Weekend at Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb will take place March 18-19. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have access to the restored 19th-century great camp. The 10-mile round trip on gently rolling terrain will take you past the Santanoni Farm and through the Forest Preserve on a wide, old road (no vehicle access). Visitors can Walk through the Main Lodge, boathouse and other buildings and volunteers from Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will lead tours and talk about the history, design, and family life at the state-owned historic site. Visitors may warm up by the wood stove in the Artist’s Studio on the shores of Newcomb Lake, and enjoy complimentary hot beverages (please, bring your own cup). Camp Santanoni Winter Weekends are free.
Lake George Village Boat Launch: DEC does not plow the main parking area to protect the porous pavement. Ice anglers and others are able to access the ice on the lake by parking in the auxiliary parking area on the south side of Beach Road. DEC has put up temporary fencing to create a path with packed snow from the parking area to the lake. Snowmobiles are prohibited in the main parking area outside of the fenced path as they will damage the porous pavement.
Dacy Clearing Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic until the end of the spring mud season. The road is a designated snowmobile trail (S49E) but remains closed to snowmobiles until conditions improve.
Gay Pond Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Gay Pond Road is open, but the road is heavily rutted from illegal use by four-wheel drive vehicles during the snowmobile season. Only high clearance vehicles should be used to traverse the road and even those should be used with caution.
Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Two foot bridges have collapsed. The 55-foot bridge over the East Branch Sacandaga River on the Botheration Pond Loop Trail has collapsed and cannot be crossed. Do not attempt to scramble over it. During low water, rock hopping is possible. A 30-foot bridge on the Puffer Pond Trail over a tributary to the Thirteenth Lake south of the lake collapsed earlier this year and cannot be crossed.
Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A logging operation is using the C7 Snowmobile Trail (D&H) during the week.
New North Hudson Snowmobile Trail: A new route is being built in North Hudson, across from the Frontier Town property through the Yogi Bear Campground and out to Johnson Pond Road.
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
Kushaqua Tract Easement: The main gate next to the parking area and register box on the North Branch Road is closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on Hunter’s Camp Road and Mountain Pond Road until the end of spring mud season.
Madawaska Road – Santa Clara Tract Easement: Gates on Madawaska Road and Pinnacle Road are closed until the end of the spring mud season.
Independence River Wild Forest: A temporary bridge as been installed over Fourth Creek on the C8 Snowmobile Corridor in Three Lakes Conservation Easement in Herkimer County.
Black River Wild Forest: The bridge across the inlet to Little Woodhull Lake on the Little Woodhull Lake Trail is out. The stream may not be passable in times of high water. The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water. Nick’s Lake Outlet Trail to Remsen Falls may be rough and grown in. Nelson Lake Loop Trail has several blowdown trees. The gate at the end of the Wolf Lake Landing Road has been vandalized. Motor vehicle access beyond the gate is prohibited except by permit. Bear Lake Trail is wet and muddy for the first mile from the trailhead on Wolf Lake Landing Road. Chubb Pond Trail east from the new bridge over Gull Lake outlet is muddy to Buck Pond. Most blowdown has been cleared from the first two miles of Twin Lakes Trail from the Farr Road, the trail is in poor shape beyond to the marsh.
Fulton Chain Wild Forest: Safford Pond Trail is flooded by beaver activity near the Safford Pond Inlet. The Scenic Mountain (aka Vista) Trail contains several blown downs.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: Brown’s Tract Trail has been flooded by beavers between Tamarack lake and Bare Mountain, the trail is difficult to traverse. A culvert is washed out on the Big Otter Lake East Trail near Indian Brook. Also Big Otter Lake East Trail is flooded at South Inlet Flow but the trail remains passable. Moose River Mountain Trail has heavy blow down and is difficult to follow at times. Middle Settlement Lake Trail is flooded due to beaver activity between the Cedar Pond Trail and Middle Settlement Lake. East Pond-Lost Creek Trail between East Pond and the Big Otter Lake East Trail is rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times.
Stillwater Mountain: Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower and the trail to the summit of Stillwater Mountain are open for public use.
Otter Creek Horse Trail System: The Otter Creek Assembly Area is open for use but the water has been turned off for the season. Some horses will not cross the bridge over Otter Creek on Erie Canal Trail – they may ford the stream parallel to the bridge. The foot trail to Old Hotel campsite along the west side of Big Otter Lake is rutted from illegal vehicle use.
Pigeon Lake Wilderness: Approximately half of the Twitchell Lake Trail (7.5 miles to Beaver River Station) at the Twitchell Lake end has been cleared of blowdown. The bridge crossing over the Oswego Pond Outlet on the Twitchell Lake Trail has washed out. An old beaver den can be used to cross the outlet. Cascade Lake Trail is wet and very muddy on the north-west section of the trail around Cascade Lake. Be alert of trail reroutes. Chub Lake Trail between Constable Pond and Queer Lake Trail is rough and grown in.
Watson’s East: Bear Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle access as are all designated seasonal access road on the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie Tract Easements. Access to the Oswegatchie Tract Easement via the Bryant Bridge Road is limited to those paddling on the easement lands. All others should use the Bald Mountain Road.
William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness: Whitney Headquarters, including the Forest Ranger’s office is closed for the winter. Contact the Forest Ranger at 518-505-4151.
Lake Lila Road: The gate has been closed and locked on the Lake Lila Road. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The public can hike, snowshoe, and ski on the road but is prohibited from trespassing on adjacent private lands.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. Check the Adirondack Almanack Outdoor Conditions Reports each Thursday afternoon. A map of the Adirondack Park can be found here.
The NYS Trails Supporter Patch is available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.