Sunday, August 5, 2018

Canoe-In for Motorless Weller Pond Planned

weller ponds mapProtect the Adirondacks is hosting a Canoe-In for Motorless Waters on Weller Pond on Saturday, August 18, 2018. PROTECT is aiming to get 100 canoes and kayaks in a flotilla of protest calling for state action to make Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond motorless waters.

The protest is starting at 10 am. People who plan to attend should register online. Boat rentals are available in the area.

“Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond should be managed by the State of New York as a quiet waters area, made off-limits to motorized watercraft and only accessible by non-motorized vessels. These ponds should be managed by state agencies as a quiet and beautiful refuge and respite among the heavily motorized and extremely popular Saranac Lakes Chain,” Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said in an announcement sent to the press.

PROTECT issued the following list of reasons why the Weller Ponds should be motorless:

1. The Weller Ponds would be the only motorless refuge on the popular and motorized Saranac Lakes Chain.

2. It would be easy to do. The State of New York owns the entire shoreline areas around both Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond. The state owns the lands around the navigable channel that connects these ponds to Middle Saranac Lake. The state has the authority to the close these ponds to motorized boat traffic; it simply needs the will to do so.

3. Across the Saranac Lakes Chain, from Lake Flower to the Saranac River to Upper Saranac Lake, the area totals over 9,000 acres of open waters. Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond are just 190 acres – just 2% of the waters of the Saranac Lakes Chain. Why can’t we set aside 2% of these waters as a motorless area?

4. Across the Adirondacks there are relatively few opportunities for motorless waters on large lakes and ponds. It’s important to note that most of the major Adirondack lakes are open to all manner of motorized watercraft. A report published by Protect the Adirondacks in 2013 The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park found that of the 100 largest lakes in the Adirondacks, from Lake Champlain to Beaver Lake western Adirondacks, 77 are open for all manner of motorized boating and floatplanes, 14 lakes are privately owned and provide no public access, and just 9 are motor-free. Boreas Ponds, number 95 among the Park’s biggest lakes, was recently purchased by state agencies and classified as Wilderness to create the 9th large public motorless waterbody. Of the nine motor-free lakes among the Park’s top 100, just six are relatively easy to access and motor-free. Just 17 of the biggest 200 lakes are easily accessible and motor-free. The demand is high for motor-free experiences, but the supply is low. The public deserves greater opportunities for motor-free waters across the Adirondack Park.

5. The administration of a motorless Weller Pond is manageable because there is only one entrance point – the 1,000-foot channel from Middle Saranac Lake. A sign stating that no motorboats are allowed could be placed at the entrance to the channel and a short distance into the channel. The DEC campsite reservation system could be changed to state that the lean-to and three campsites on Weller Pond are available only for non-motorized watercraft. DEC could also advertise the motorless state on its website.

Canoe-In for Wilderness on Little Tupper Lake in August 1998

On August 15, 1998, the Canoe-In for Wilderness was held on Little Tupper Lake. Over 300 people in over 200 canoes, kayaks, guide-boats, rowboats, and one small sailboat, rallied on the open sloping lawns of the Whitney Headquarters on the shore of Little Tupper Lake and then paddled out onto the lake in a massive flotilla. Those who gathered supported a Wilderness classification for newly purchased Little Tupper Lake.

A number of important motorless waters were created in the years after the 1998 Canoe-In and the Little Tupper Lake classification marked one of the most active periods for the creation of Wilderness lands and motorless waters in the history of the Adirondack Park. The years after the creation of the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area saw the creation of the Madawaska Flow-Quebec Brook Primitive Area, classification of Henderson Lake as Wilderness, the reclassification of Low’s Lake to Wilderness, classifications of Bog Lake and Clear Pond as Wilderness, and motorless management of Thirteenth Lake. These years also saw the creation of the Round Lake Wilderness Area and expansion of the Five Ponds Wilderness by more than 30,000 acres and near doubling in size of the Pepperbox Wilderness.


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33 Responses

  1. Keith Gorgas says:

    One of the wonderful things about the Saranac Lake and River system is that, traditionally, motor boats and canoes have, for the most part, peacefully co-existed over the past 100 plus years. Sure, you have the occasional rude and inconsiderate motor boater or jet ski rider who might come close to swamping your canoe, and we get a few rude and careless canoeists who wander in the middle of the channel and create unsafe situations, but for the largest part, people share the water ways and help each other out. God only knows how many canoeists have been rescued by motor boats over the years..

    This initiative put forth by Protect the Adirondacks, while it sounds reasonable at first blush reading their press release, really is an exercise in intolerant selfishness. Motor boaters, not canoeists, pay registration fees to maintain the waterways. Why should one group of users of a resources want to exclude other users of the same?
    Despite Protect’s claims there are many motorless waterways in the Adirondacks, probably more than the average canoeist could explore in 3 lifetimes. Very close to Weller Pond is the St. Regis Canoe area, 58 lakes and ponds, and 3 rivers with no motor boats allowed..

    Denying motor boat access to Weller Pond essentially bans the aged, the aged and the handicapped from ever visiting this body of water, long used by fishermen, hunters, and waterskiers. Could you imagine the outcry if motor boat operators sought to ban canoeists from some part of the Saranac waterway system?

    Friends of Weller Pond are planning a counter protest the same day, but in order not to over stress the loon family on the pond, or create an unsafe situation in the narrow channel, will not go up into Weller Pond. Motor Boat operators, and canoeists who favor the historic shared use of this waterway are welcome to come out and be seen and heard.

    • Boreas says:

      “One of the wonderful things about the Saranac Lake and River system is that, traditionally, motor boats and canoes have, for the most part, peacefully co-existed over the past 100 plus years.”

      Well, certainly wonderful for motor boaters anyway…

      “Sure, you have the occasional rude and inconsiderate motor boater or jet ski rider who might come close to swamping your canoe, and we get a few rude and careless canoeists who wander in the middle of the channel and create unsafe situations, but for the largest part, people share the water ways and help each other out.”

      Which user ends up in the water from being swamped or run over (and possibly dead) here? Any time you combine more massive, high speed users with slow speed users of a waterway – or a roadway even – you open up safety issues. How do you propose to eliminate the rude, inconsiderate, and careless? Bottom line is, it is usually the smaller, slower vehicle or bather that is in danger here – regardless of who is at fault. While allowing motorcraft on waterways, you are already effectively banning many paddlers and even swimmers who no longer feel safe mingling with motorcraft. I know a lot more people who have been swamped by motorcraft than have been swamped by paddlers, including myself.

      Weller may very well end up with mixed use, buy I fail to see why you seem so incredulous about users wanting a safer and quieter waterway. They have every right to lobby for their position – as do boaters.

      • Paul says:

        It will almost certainly “end up” just the same as it has been for many years. It is and has been working out fine. You get these efforts at “exclusion” from time to time. Motor boats are pretty rare back there anyway. I have never gone in there with a motor boat all the decades I have been on Middle Saranac. This article, and protest, have peaked my curiosity, I may check it out. Don’t worry I will go slow and have a quiet non-polluting 4 stoke engine.

  2. Greg M. says:

    I think this idea of compromising large tracts with multiple special uses is not the solution. We have a motor-centric area with an attached pond. Manage the area cohesively. If you want wilderness go somewhere else.

    Essex ponds is a mess because it tries to be everything to everyone — and no one goes there. It’s too soon to judge boreas ponds, but my take is the odd parking arrangement is going to be a boondoggle.

    I’m for more wilderness lands and waters, but let’s do entire tracts one way or another.

    Semi-related, but not enough to justify anything in its own right, is the fact that this pond attaches to one of the more treacherous lakes wind-wise. Marketing the pond as exclusive to paddled craft ignores what it takes to get there — passing motorboats and potentially unsuitable waves.

    Let’s have a protest and counter protest, but realize the number of people at each is less than a round off error in the total number of people that care about this.

    • Boreas says:

      Very good points! Perhaps entire REGIONS within the park should be more cohesive instead of a patchwork of UMPs trying to appeal to everyone at once. Have a large motorized region and a large non-motorized region, and re-arrange the land classifications and UMPs to fit the region they are in.

      But I am not going to hold my breath on anyone willing to give up anything they currently have. Tribalism seems to rule the day and people refuse to work together – there no longer appears to be a common goal for the Park. If you aren’t in my tribe, you are elitist and selfish. End of discussion.

  3. Joe Hansen says:

    The only time I visited Weller Pond was by motorboat and it just didn’t seem right. Though I didn’t travel much more than idling speed the experience still felt invasive. There are plenty of places for motorized recreation in the Park let’s preserve quiet and slower opportunities as well.

  4. Marty Cuff says:

    I first visited Weller Pond in 1975 at that time the only power boats using Weller & Middle Saranac were small 5 & 10 horse fishing boats with a rare visit by a larger power boat. By the mid eighties all that had changed the large power boats took over the area. Like everything else today there seems to be no middle ground – power boaters like noise & speed while canoeists favor peace and quiet. The argument that old people need a power boat to enjoy Weller is crap. I regularly paddle with people in there 80’s who would have no trouble paddling to Weller or anyplace else. It has everything to do with the desire not to change. Remember Martha Reben and ban the power boats.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      “Remember Martha Reben and ban power boats”???? I do remember Martha Reben quite well from her visits with my grandmother at our camp on Lower Saranac Lake, and she always arrived by motor boat. If you read her book The Healing Woods, you would remember that she and Mr. Rice arrived at Weller Pond via motor boat towing a canoe. Yes, she did paddle around the pond via canoe, but they came and went via motor boat. So, I say, remember Martha Reben, and don’t ban motor boats.

  5. Tyler Socash says:

    PROTECT is also the same group that fought very hard to ensure a motorized Boreas Ponds Tract, and no longer has wilderness credibility. The fact that they are organizing this event is both meaningless and confounding. This event would have integrity if PROTECT defended motor-free areas whenever and wherever they are deserved. While Weller Pond might be an excellent location for quiet waters, all one has to do is look up their position on motor-free areas since 2016 to see that this is not the organization to put faith in when the preservation of wildness is at stake.

    • Peter Bauer says:

      Little Tupper Lake, Rock Lake, Little Salmon Pond, Lily Pad Pond, Round Lake, Henderson Lake, Massawepie Flow and Quebec Brook, Clear Pond, Bog Lake, Low’s Lake (via legal action), the Essex Chain Lakes, Deer Pond, and now Boreas Ponds – all motorless and mostly all Wilderness too. Lake Lila was even upgraded from Primitive to Wilderness. Some are far from roads, some are near roads, but motor vehicles are not allowed on any of them.

      That’s a pretty good list.

      During this time, the Five Ponds Wilderness was increased by 25%, the Pepperbox nearly doubled, Round Lake Wilderness created, and significant Wilderness added north of the West Canada. The High Peaks Wilderness is now 271,000 acres.

      That too is a pretty good list.

      PROTECT and its precursors had a role in all of these decisions. These successes show just some of our good work.

      An advocate always has to make a decision about what the right thing to do is at given time and place and what is attainable given the political realities of that time and place. For Boreas Ponds, as we said many times, the best outcome under Governor Andrew Cuomo is what we got. Andrew Cuomo is not a governor who values Wilderness. The Governor wants weak and ineffective agencies. The APA and DEC are in dismal states. If we had a Mario Cuomo or a George Pataki – or had we an APA led by different people from days of yore – things would have been very different, but that’s not the world where the Boreas decision was made.

      We got the best we could given the dismal state of Adirondack Park administration.

      Add to that our efforts to combat the largest motorized expansion in the history of the Forest Preserve with our legal efforts to resist the road-like class II trails crisscrossing the Forest Preserve (no such trails have been built in the last two years) and you can see some of the work that PROTECT has accomplished to protect the Adirondacks.

      Contrary to Tyler, I think that Protect the Adirondacks is a great group to support because we’ve been successful in advancing protections for the Adirondacks year after year, decade after decade.

      • Paul says:

        There have been historic additions to the forest preserve, maybe even the largest since the park was founded? Large new tracts of Wilderness lands, including e huge expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness. Yes, some widening of the (capped) number of mostly pre-existing snowmobile trails. Yes, some large tracts of Wild Forest land that some wanted to see as Wilderness instead. But to try and make this period sound like a “dismal” failure?

        Also, Pataki mostly worked to protect (almost a million acres) of land from development by keeping them as working forests under state easements (not something I thought was a good idea) but he wasn’t that much of a Wilderness advocate? Would environmental groups supported the idea of all of the FP land as working forests under conservation easement? The good old days?

      • Keith R Gorgas says:

        Peter, your efforts to protect the Adirondacks are laudable. You and PROTECT have made a poor choice of waters to attempt to evict motor boaters from. There is something inherently wrong with one small group of users demanding they, and they alone, have access to a commonly owned resource. It is particularly galling when the party demanding a monopoly on the resource doesn’t pay the user fee (registration fees) that the other users pay to help maintain and protect the resource.

        A life long avid canoeist, I was a certified NY State boating safety instructor, and taught 2 or 3 courses to students each year. Although not in the State curriculum, we included hands on training involving both canoes and kayaks, as well as in motor boats. I’m not boasting to say that I’ve introduced hundreds of people to the enjoyment of motor less boats.

        The entire Saranac Chain of waterways has a history, predating the Adirondack Park, of shared waterways. Local people have long used motor boats to travel to and from Weller Pond, and do so because we value the tranquility of the Lake and its surroundings.

        I believe you, and PROTECT would be doing us all a big favor if , regarding Weller Pond, you focused your attention and energy on helping persuade NY State to require registration of all vessels that use the shared waterways, and require safety training and certification for users of all boats on the waterways. My cousin, who owns a camp on Middle Saranac Lake, has made numerous rescues of canoeists who tipped over on the Lake. They rarely make the news.

        • Todd Eastman says:

          Keith, do you also want bicycles to be registered?

          • Keith R Gorgas says:

            That might cut down on theft. In the town I grew up in NJ back in the 1960s, in order to ride a bike to school, you had to have it safety inspected by the police, and pass a safety training class. Then you were issued a yellow sticker on the bike, and were allowed to ride it to school. I don’t think that was a bad idea.

  6. Paul says:

    What gets lost here is that lots of the “motored” parts of places like the Saranac Chain are pretty much motor-less. The navigable channels are a small part of waterways connecting the larger bodies of water. Having grown up on the chain I have never been unable to get away from motor boats when I wanted to while paddling. People who chose to paddle in the channels are simply choosing to be with the motor boats. There are lots of quiet waters along the chain just get off the beaten path. Other waterbodies that allow small motors, like the St. Regis river in many places, are also technically “motored” but you rarely if ever see motors in some of these places. The tally of “motor free” waters is totally misleading from a practical standpoint. We just had the DEC ban motors on the Essex Chain. We are about to have them officially ban motors on the Boreas Ponds. Now we want to ban them here too?

  7. Marty Cuff says:

    I have read the book and stayed at her camp sites. What she enjoyed was the peace and quiet and the motor that her guide used was not what is typical on the lakes today. As I stated we enjoy different things and there is space for all and setting aside a small portion of the Saranac chain for solitude should be possible although I personally doubt that it will happen.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      Marty, I am by no means anti-canoe, or anti- peaceful waters. I spent 2 summers living on Middle Saranac Lake with just my canoe, sleeping bag, a knife and a fishing pole. I’ve canoed all over the US and Canada. I am now severely crippled by arthritis and unable to enjoy the pleasure.

      When the DEC announced planned changes to the Saranac islands UMP, the proposal was to reduce the speed limit on Weller Pond to 5 mph. That seems like a reasonable compromise, although I would just limit that to while passing canoes. That comment period ended in July. What seems to be happening, is that the DEC has opened up a further comment period regarding a total ban on motor boats, but only advised Protect the Adks, so as to only get affirmative comments. They issued no press release, and don’t have anything about it on the DEC web site. This seems underhanded, and in keeping with how the DEC seems to be running itself now days.

  8. Trevor Sussey says:

    I’ve been a paddler for much of my life. I do not own a motor boat, and probably won’t until I need one to enjoy nature.

    I paddle the Saranac chain specifically because it’s open to all users. I love being able to head out from the state bridge launch and see and visit with all the locals enjoying the lake. It’s a very special place because everyone is there sharing it. Many occasions I have spent with friends and family ‘up the lake’ who are able to use it because they have a motor. That quality, historically, is also what has made the entire area significant in the wilderness debates. It seems to represent a certain designation which continues to exist because this park needs to sustain itself in order to work.

    Canoeists would be wise not to take such an adversial position, and polarize yet another issue. The Saranac chain represents of a myriad of interests; from rock climbers at the bluff to hunters up on Weller, all sharing the space with respect.

    PROTECT, and these misguided resources placed in blind environmentalism, don’t represent all canoeists. If I want to paddle out to a pond in a quiet wilderness setting, I would have one-hundred other choices. Weller, as will so much of the SL Wild Forest UMP, offers a recreation for everybody. While paddling on Weller, I appreciate that shared quality. As can most motorists, believe it or not.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, many of the camps (and a few are year round homes) on the Saranac Chain are boat access only (other non-auto access in the winter) properties. One of the really cool things about the area. For many access with a motor boat is no different than the access that many Protect members have with their cars at their homes. I understand that Weller is all state owned but what is next? Maybe Middle Saranac? It’s mostly state owned (like lower and most of the river between lower and the lower locks). Some private owned land on the water has not stopped the state from banning motors for public users on places like Lows Lake? Dave Gibson said this here at the Almanack when defending the banning of motors on Lows Lake (in fact the classification of the entire waterbody) –

      “Except for the small Boy Scout tract at its eastern margin, Lows Lake is virtually surrounded by State land classified Wilderness.”

      You could say almost the exact same thing for Middle Saranac (just a few small parcels) and the entire river channel from Lower to the locks (one single small parcel).

  9. Michael says:

    Does this include electric trolling motors. Asking cause i have herniated discs that sometimes limits my mobility.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      … and the paddle give me blisters…

      … waaahhhh!

      • Michael says:

        Let me know when you get debilitating muscle spasms from blisters that make you collapse to the ground. Let me know when petty hand blisters puts you on disability. I put several hundred miles a year on the canoe with a paddle. Put 400 backcountry miles on foot last hunting / trapping season.

  10. Michael says:

    Register your motorless vessels and we can start talking about privileged access.

  11. Paul says:

    Maybe we shouldn’t allow any boats at all back there?

    Maybe someone who bushwhacked back in there doesn’t want to see lots of canoes and kayaks back there like planned in this “protest”, or paddlers other times of the year?

    It is always just assumed that paddlers are this thing that doesn’t bother anyone.

    The problem here is that this is mainly an aesthetic issue for one particular group of paddlers. I don’t think there is much evidence that there are any big environmental issues here. So the sell is basically we need to exclude a small number of motorized users so that a (probably pretty small number too) few paddlers can have a certain aesthetic experience. Nothing wrong with the ask, but I think it is a pretty bold one.

  12. Boreas says:


    It seems to me you are saying motorctaft should be allowed in any body of water they can reach. Is that your position or am I misunderstanding you? I have a SportsPal (yes registered!) that I can cart most anywhere with my small motor. Should I be able to use it anywhere?

  13. adkDreamer says:

    Does anyone know where I can find information on how to drive to Weller Pond, where do I park, how long of a canoe carry it would be and how long of a paddle it would be. I am unfamiliar with this pond and not real sure where to search for the information. Thanks in advance.

  14. Keith R Gorgas says:

    You can not drive to Weller Pond. There numerous ways to get there, some involving carries and some involving paddling. The nearest boat launch is a small car top only launch at South Creek. I’m going to guess that the parking lot will be more than full that day. From there you paddle down South Creek, and across Middle Saranac Lake, heading north by north east, into Hungry Bay, bear to the right in the bay, and follow the shoreline to the creek that goes up into Weller Pond. It is shallow and weedy. Once you arrive in Weller Pond, it is about a mile long by a half mile wide, with several islands in it. Other means of reaching Weller Pond include launching at the southern end of Upper Saranac Lake and taking the Bartlett Carry over a hill to the Saranac River, and out into Middle Saranac Lake, or launching at the north end of Upper Saranac (Saranac Inn) and paddling into Saginaw Bay, There is about a half mile carry to Weller Pond at the back end of the bay, on the right. Additional launches are found at First Pond and Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac, and involve travel to the South west on Lower Saranac Lake to the Saranac River, about 3 miles up the river, carry around the locks, and on to Middle Saranac Lake, You should get a map if you are going to attempt either of those routes.

    • adkDreamer says:

      Thanks Keith. So assuming launching at South Creek, how far of a paddle is it to Weller Pond?

      • Keith R Gorgas says:

        I am going to estimate about 2.5 miles, maybe less. Not really good at estimating distance on water. Once you enter Middle Saranac Lake wind and waves can be quite treacherous, but that doesn’t usually happen until mid afternoon. The winds will be mostly to your back on the way over, and contrary on the return. On Weller Pond, the waters are generally much calmer.

  15. James Marco says:

    Weller Pond can be difficult for any motorboat. It is really too small for any speed. I can push my canoeyak to around 4knots (about 4.5mph) for the short distance to the canoe carry, for example. It is *just* big enough for loons, but I have seen them fishing through the channel and often start their takeoff run there…giving them a bit more distance. The channel is mostly weed choked with only a narrow channel that is often more like a dead flow stream. There is really no need for motors there. In the past, say 50’s-70’s, the older 5-10hp fishing boats were MORE than adequate for the pond. The lean-to there is old but in fair shape…at least it was several years back when we went through. Once we settled in for the evening, it was quiet with plenty of wild life to observe. A deer walked down to the water, several noisy red squirrels, a family of coons, a weasel, etc… We got PerLunked by a beaver when we just turned the corner into the pond, but I think he was just traveling through, we didn’t see any lodges or food stashes on the pond.

    I can understand why all the push to make it a quiet water. But, historically, it has always been a combination motor/canoe water. I see no reason to make this change when the rest of the Saranac Lakes is motor/canoe. No, I do not own a motorboat, but make my own canoes/canoeyaks. I have been across the St Regis to Fish Creek to Saranac Lakes to the Saranac River and well beyond Plattsburg into Vermont and beyond …all by canoe.

    Frankly, I found motor boaters on Saranac to be somewhat more courteous than on Raquette Lake or in Vermont where the jet-boaters tried desperately to swamp me. (I use spray decks on my canoeyaks and they are very stable.) I rather enjoyed the spray on a 85degree day!

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