Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond should be a quiet-waters area off limits to motorboats, accessible only by non-motorized craft. These ponds could offer a peaceful and beautiful refuge from the heavily used and extremely popular Saranac Lakes chain.
It would be easy to do. New York State owns the entire shoreline around both ponds. The state also owns the lands around the navigable channel that connects these ponds to Middle Saranac Lake. And the state has the authority to close these ponds to motorized boat traffic; it simply needs the will to do so.
The decision to make the Weller Ponds motor-free could be made in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Area unit management plan. The state Department of Environmental Conservation released a draft UMP this summer. DEC is recommending a five-mph speed limit, but unfortunately, it wants to continue to allow powerboats on the ponds, even though many public comments were submitted urging motor-less management.
There are many reasons why the Weller Ponds should be motor-free.
Banning motorboats on the two ponds would give paddlers a place of their own on the busy Saranac Lakes. On a motor-free lake, such as Little Tupper Lake, several dozen paddlers can ply the water at the same time and yet the experience remains tranquil. Put a few motorboats on the water and the experience is dominated by the buzz of engines and surge of boat waves.
Motorboats and jet-skis now enjoy free rein on the Saranac Lakes chain. The entire chain — from Lake Flower to the Saranac River to Upper Saranac Lake — totals over nine thousand acres of open water. Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond amount to 190 acres — just 2 percent of the chain. Why can’t we set aside 2 percent of the chain as a motorless area?
There are few large lakes and ponds in the Adirondack Park where we have the opportunity to create a motor-free water. Most of the major lakes in the Park are open to all manner of motorized watercraft. A 2013 report by Protect the Adirondacks, “The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park,” looked at the region’s hundred largest lakes, from Lake Champlain to Beaver Lake (near Stillwater), and found:
■ Seventy-seven of the lakes are open to all kinds of motorboats as well as floatplanes.
■ Fourteen are privately owned, with no public access.
■ Just eight are motor-free.
Not included in those figures is Boreas Ponds, which the state purchased last year for the forever-wild Forest Preserve. At 339 acres, Boreas Ponds is ninety-fifth on the list. The state has not decided how to manage Boreas Ponds, but there’s a pretty good chance that motorboats will be banned.
Of the eight motor-free lakes among the top hundred, just five are relatively easy to access. That’s a mere 5 percent of the hundred. Of the top two hundred lakes, just seventeen are easily accessible and motor-free.
Weller Pond is 180 acres. If considered as a stand-alone water body and not part of Middle Saranac Lake, it would rank as the 155th largest lake in the Adirondacks.
Managing Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond as a motor-free area would pose few administrative problems. There is only one entrance to Weller Pond: a thousand-foot channel from Middle Saranac Lake. Likewise, Little Weller can be reached only via a side channel. DEC could put a sign at the start of the main channel warning that no motorboats are allowed beyond that point, with perhaps a second sign a little farther up the channel. The campsite-reservation system could be changed to let people know that the lean-to and three campsites on Weller Pond are available only for non-motorized watercraft. DEC could also provide information about the two ponds on its website.
We all need a break now and then from the hubbub of modern life. We need to unplug and escape the noise, speed, and smell of internal-combustion engines. We need places where we can observe wild nature and partake of solitude, whether on a day trip or an overnight camping trip. Such wild places grow fewer each year.
The Adirondack Park offers many opportunities for hiking to wild places. If you have the stamina, it’s fairly easy to reach remote backcountry. Opportunities to penetrate the wilderness by canoe or kayak are limited. The demand for such opportunities is high, but the supply is low. Making Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond motor-free would be a small step toward correcting the imbalance. The paddling public deserves this much.
This story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer. For more stories about the Adirondacks subscribe here.
Weller Pond, foreground, and Middle Saranac Lake, along the Saranacs. Photo by Nancie Battaglia.