The Saranac Lakes Wild Forest is comprised of 75,000 acres of Forest Preserve lands and 19,600 acres of lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds located in the towns of Santa Clara, Brighton, Tupper Lake, Harrietstown, and Franklin in Franklin County and the towns of St. Armand and North Elba in Essex County. Three of the largest population centers in the Adirondack Park-the villages of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid-are within the general boundaries of the unit.
The waterways of the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest are plentiful, making the area a popular destination for boaters, paddlers, anglers, and campers. Biking and hiking are popular outdoor activities in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular in the winter.
The management plan allows motorboats to continue to use all waters currently available for motorboating. However, to address the public’s desire for Quiet Waters for paddlers, there will be horsepower limits on several waterbodies, motor boat speed limits will be enacted on Weller Pond, the locations of demonstrations this year for Quiet Waters, and DEC will increase efforts to enforce motor boat speed limits on the Raquette River.
DEC took a mid-ground approach to protecting the area from invasives carried through boat launches. Although directly launching boats from trailers will be prohibited at most fishing and waterway access sites, trailers will be able to to launch boats at some sites.
DEC is planning to close 60 campsites in the wild forest and construct 59 new campsites to comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between designated tent sites. New tent sites are expected to be constructed before current tent sites are closed.
To comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between campsites, DEC is planning to close 17 roadside campsites, reduce access to two campsites, and construct 13 new campsites in the unit. Little Green Pond will have three roadside campsites, Hoel Pond will have one roadside campsite, and Floodwood Road will have 15 roadside campsites and two campsites without direct access.
In the Saranac Lake Islands Campground, DEC is planning to expand campground regulations to include the campsites on Middle Saranac Lake and Weller Pond. DEC says they will construct four new campsites to bring the total to 91 campsites and relocate 14 campsites to comply with APSLMP minimum separation distance of 500 feet. The plan expects the campground will develop a program to address heavily used and significantly impacted campsites.
New trail systems are proposed near the communities of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Tupper Lake. Plans include constructing 38 miles of new trails for non-motorized use, of which 35 miles will be built for mountain bike use. Plans also include constructing two miles of new snowmobile trail and closing 15 miles of existing snowmobile trail due to location or limited use. Snowmobile trail construction is legally guided by DEC’s Management Guidance for Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction, and Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park.
The final management plan will maintain 7,400 acres south of Forest Home Road as trail-less. Herd paths remain there, but formal trails are not expected to be built or maintained.
The final Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan is available to view and download (PDF) on DEC’s website.
Map of Saranac Lakes Wild Forest courtesy Adirondack Atlas.