As an advocate for quiet waters, on August 18, 2018, I joined with 36 canoes and guide boats on a Canoe-In to Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond to lobby for no motors on these pristine bodies of water (cul-de-sacs of the Saranac Chain of Lakes.) As we paddled toward the channel to Weller Pond nine powerboats lined the shore of nearby Hungry Bay. We chanted “All we want is 2%: You have 98,” referencing the amount of the waters open to motors on these lakes. The entire 17.5- mile route from Lower Saranac to Upper Saranac Lake allows for the unlimited use of motorboats.
The motor-boaters held signs urging that Weller be kept open to them. After hearing about the Canoe-In, they had sponsored an advertisement in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on August 11 encouraging “Motorboat owners and boat enthusiasts to come and show your support in preserving and protecting our rights on the water.”
The Canoe-In, sponsored by Protect the Adirondacks, was organized to honor the 20th anniversary of an earlier Canoe-In on Little Tupper Lake – a protest that resulted in Little Tupper Lake being managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as Wilderness, preventing the public and administrative use of motorboats. That’s what we were asking for at this protest on August 18, 2018 – no motors be allowed on Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond.
Peter Crowley, Managing Editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, joined us at Hungry Bay and published an article in the August 20 edition of the paper, “Quiet vs. shared waters.” This article was republished a week later in the Watertown Daily Times titled, “Peaceful confrontation underscores boating questions in Saranac Lakes chain.”
Yes, the Protesters (the paddlers) and the Counter-protesters (the motor-boaters) were civil. Some of my protesting buddies paddled over to the motor-boaters, thanking them for respecting our views on the use of the waters.
Crowley wrote about both sides of the issue. He quotes Terry Clement of Tupper Lake who was in a motor boat that day, “I am a die-hard paddler. But I have so many options available to me,” citing the near-by St. Regis Canoe Area. Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, offered a different view, “Most of the really wild places in the park involve pretty rigorous portages. This would be accessible to a lot of folks.”
I especially like what my friend Evelyn Greene, from North Creek, said: “We’re not kicking them out; we’re kicking their boats out.” Another way to say this – we are asking that they not use their motors on Weller.
I told a friend about the Canoe-In. He’d spent one or two weeks annually for over 20 years camping on Weller and said, raising his hand in agreement, “Yes, we support no motors on Weller.”
“But you had a canoe with a motor when you went there,” I said.
He looked surprised that I remembered, and replied, somewhat defensively, “But we turned the motor off when we entered Weller. We did not want to disturb the others.”
“How considerate,” I said.
I posted Peter Crowley’s article to the Facebook page “Paddling in the Adirondacks” which prompted these comments:
“Old folks need motorboats, a small 4 stroke makes almost no noise or smell.”
“No motor boats.”
“Can’t we just get along?”
I liked the comment, “People paddle for different reasons. I just really have no interest paddling anywhere there are power boats, that’s me.” One woman said she was afraid to offend anyone, but, “It is kind of like the age old struggle between snowmobilers and x-county skiers/snowshoers. I’m someone who tries very hard to leave a zero foot print and who really values nature and wild things.”
A week after Crowley’s August 20 article, the Enterprise published an editorial:
“No burning need for motorless Weller,” even though they wrote that a great joy of the Adirondacks “is the opportunity to escape the noisy human world and bask in the natural sounds of water, wind and animals.”
The Editorial continues, “Weller is already pretty quiet ….”
I say, “‘pretty quiet’ is not ‘quiet.’” As soon as a motor enters a waterway, the experience changes – any hope of a wilderness experience is shattered. The ‘natural sounds of water, wind and animals’ are no more.
In the current DEC management plan that includes the Saranac Chain of Lakes, the DEC states that it “seeks to address the desire for ‘quiet waters’ for paddlers and continued use by boaters.” In this spirit, DEC proposes a limit on the horse power for boats on a number of the waters, including a 5 mph speed limit on Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond. No other restrictions are placed on the use of motorboats from Lower Saranac Lake to Upper Saranac Lake.
When Dick Beamish was publisher of the Adirondack Explorer at the turn of the century, he sponsored a ‘Quiet Waters Campaign,’ focused on the elimination of motor use on the smaller ponds in the Fish Creek Area and portions of the Osgood, Marion, and Raquette Rivers. Also included were Weller and Little Weller Ponds. Motors are still allowed on all of these waters.
Recent purchases by the state have made available two opportunities for wilderness paddling in the Adirondacks – The Essex Chain Lakes and The Boreas Ponds. Both are gems. Both are near Newcomb and require long drives from population centers. The Essex Chain involves a carry – more than I can do without help, even with a light Hornbeck. Accessibility is still a question for the Boreas Ponds.
Photos of Weller Pond Canoe-In participants, and Hornbeck canoes.