Saturday, October 19, 2019

Lorraine Duvall: A Visit to Paddle Boreas Ponds

mountains and trees at Boreas Ponds“I’m from Canajoharie, the others from Albany and Catskill,” a women said when I saw her with two friends on Boreas Ponds last week.

“We met through the Facebook page ‘Paddling in the Adirondacks’ and we’ve been going on trips together ever since,” she said, “often driving hours, as we did today.”

These three middle-age women in their colorful kayaks were among the twenty or so paddlers I saw on the a trip to Boreas Ponds on a partly sunny, 60-degree Fall day.

Dave slepping boats with MoniqueThere were many Hornbecks, other kayaks, two tandem canoes, and a guideboat on the water that day. Wheeling or carrying that guideboat for the .8 miles must have been quite a job, as they weigh around 60 or 70 pounds. At the age of 80, I knew I could’t handle my 15-pound Hornbeck, even with wheels, so I talked my 82-year-old friend Monique Weston in joining me in hiring Cloudsplitter Outfitters in Newcomb to schlep our two Hornbecks. Not only did Dave Olbert, the co-owner, help with our boats, he provided tidbits of history of the ponds and the area, as he was a teacher in the local schools and spent his childhood at the Upper Works, before the town of Adirondack was moved to Newcomb.

At the put-in to the ponds, I was surprised to see a woman carrying a Spitfire boat. I also own this model made by Placid Boatworks and know it weighs around 24 pounds. She wasn’t even using wheels. “I didn’t mean to carry it the whole way,” said this 64-year-old woman. “I wanted to put-in and paddle for a while on LaBier Flow as I heard that could shorten the carry.” What she did not know was that the put-in for LaBier Flow is earlier, alongside the road at the dam. The takeout is where she thought was the beginning. Two men we saw at the start of our trip had made the same mistake. More prominent signs to show this alternate route would be helpful.

The Spitfire woman was from Burlington, Vermont, as was a man we met later. A woman from Keeseville rode by on her horse.

Monique and mountains at Boreas PondsBoreas Ponds was on Monique’s bucket list. And mine two, even though I had been there years ago with the Nature Conservancy. I wanted to paddle in my solo canoe, alone, to explore the open waters and the shoreline. I basked in the middle of the ponds overcome and inspired by the expanse of the soaring mountains in the distance. Many people have photographed these ponds and mountains, wrote about their experiences, but none can do justice to the awe that overcame me. The scene was more spectacular than I remembered. Monique couldn’t wait to get home to paint the scenes.

The ponds are large enough to afford a feeling of solitude even with a number of people sharing the waters.

I stopped near the shore to speak with a couple from Brant Lake, each in their own Hornbecks. “Henderson Lake is my favorite, still is,” the man said, acknowledging this was the first time he’d been to Boreas. “Henderson used to me my favorite,” I said. “Now it is Boreas. Henderson second.” It’s wonderful to have choices to experience the wildness in the Adirondacks.

Dave Tim and Beth at Boreas PondsThe small world of the Adirondacks reared its head early on as we were unloading our boats in the parking lot. A red pickup truck pulled up behind us with three kayaks jutting out the back. It was Beth and Tim Rowland from Jay, and Tim’s brother from Plattsburgh. “We just rented these kayaks from Cloudsplitter,” said Beth. “Tim is writing an article on Boreas for the Explorer.” I’ve spent lots of time with them over the last few months as they’ve been helping to edit my new book on a women’s commune in the Adirondacks.

Those of you who are regular readers of the Almanack may remember that I’ve written about how I struggled, as did others, with finding a way to provide reasonable access while maintaining a wilderness bhav. Generally these goals have been met. There are two accessible parking spots .2 miles from the pond. Others, such as myself, may not qualify for permits to these accessible spots, but still need assistance. “I’m 80 and my husband is 84. We gave up our Hornbecks last year,” a woman from Lake George told me after we arrived in the parking lot. They decided to walk the .8 miles to the dam to view the ponds.

This is a good alternative but nothing compared to being on the water. Would they have welcomed help in transporting boats to the put-in? I don’t know but assume many of limited mobility would.

This post provides a snapshot of the people who visited Boreas Ponds on a mid-October day, just a short while after it opened to the public in September 2019. We were establishing a relationship to place with minimal human impact on this Adirondack treasure. We found joy in this immersion. We honored the place.

Terry Tempest Williams, a lover of the Adirondacks, said of our national parks, “I believe we are slowly learning what it means to offer our reverence and respect to the closest thing we have to sacred lands.” We are learning that of our Adirondack Park.

Photos, from above: mountains and trees at Boreas Ponds; Dave schlepping boats with Monique; Monique and mountains at Boreas Ponds; and Dave, Tim and Beth at Boreas Ponds.

Related Stories

Award winning author Lorraine Duvall's newest book contains stories about where she has lived in the Adirondacks for the last 24 years, titled "Where The Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home." She writes of her paddling adventures in the book "In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventure in the Wild Adirondacks." Some experiences from her memoir, "And I Know Too Much to Pretend," led her to research a woman's commune north of Warrensburg, resulting in the 2019 book, "Finding A Woman's Place: The story of a 1970s feminist collective in the Adirondacks." Duvall lives in Keene and is on the board of Protect the Adirondacks.

8 Responses

  1. Boreas says:


    Sounds like a great outing! I expect over time guides and other businesses may sprout up to help people with renting / transporting boats to the water. A very traditional way of getting to a destination and learning about the area at the same time!

  2. Sandor says:

    .8 of a mile is after you drive in 7 miles on a new road made for Subarus.Maybe we can rent kayaks and rowboats, have a souvenir shop,hot dog stand,tourist info booth,gas station, bus tours and all for free.Meanwhile the state blocks off all pull-offs,ditches parking spots and eliminates all parking in between lots. Hunters are now treated like lepers but have to pay for play while we bow to all other leeches.

    • Boreas says:


      Last time I was there (late summer) Gulf Brook Road was still closed at the half-way gate due to construction. I don’t recall seeing No Parking signs along the road, but construction was still in progress. If ALL roadside parking has been prohibited, this is the first I have heard of it and is certainly unfair to hunters, hikers, birders, and about any other group one can think of. Additionally, there was supposed to be a seasonal parking area specifically for hunting west of the ponds along Boreas Ponds Rd., and new access along Elk Lake Rd.. I have not heard the status of those, but if road access means no access, what is the point? Does anyone else have any information on the roadside parking situation around BP?

      • Boreas says:

        Answering part of my own question:

        “Parking is allowed in designated parking spots in designated parking areas only. Parking on the shoulders of Gulf Brook Road or Boreas Road is prohibited.”

        I assume part of the reason is because these roads are so narrow. The website doesn’t mention anything about the Elk Lake Rd. section access/parking other than the two lots provided. Seeing it is a wider road, shoulder parking may not be prohibited?

        Perhaps a few approved pull-outs will be provided in the future?? Perhaps parking could be provided at the sites of old camps? Dunno…

      • Boreas says:

        Took a ride down today. I didn’t see where any pull-offs or parking areas have been blocked. The only signage I saw was in the new lots that said to only park in designated spaces. I saw 3 vehicles along GBR using pull-offs with no tickets. Brace Brook and Fly Pond parking areas were empty. There were 8 vehicles at 4 Corners. The gate to the Dam was closed with no cars at the Pond lot.

        My take is that parking on the “shoulder” means literally ON the shoulder of the road without using a pull-out. I suspect parking at pull-outs may be OK as long as you are all the way off of the road. But If it were me, I would probably check with DEC and get clarification. I saw 3 DEC vehicles while I was there, but didn’t have an opportunity to flag them down and ask.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Very lovely article! I really want to see Boreas Ponds someday.

    At risk of a slightly controversial comment: although you and anyone else should treasure the solitude and lack of crowds – it’s writing like this that will cause people to popularize different places.

    I want us to try to remember that while bad for the environment when taken to a severe degree, a crowd isn’t necessarily bad in itself. People who use and appreciate public lands will protect them, ive found. As a young person who doesn’t have the financial security to live in the woods (yet!) I know that I won’t often get any solitude coming to the ADK once or twice a year over a long weekend, since I want to see all the most famous places.

    Just my unsolicited 2 cents

    • Boreas says:


      Get out there while you are still young! No one knows how long effortless mobility may last. Memories are often more precious than dreams.

  4. Gail McKay says:

    Thanks Lorraine. You keep me connected to my favorite Adirondack waters which I no longer get to now that I’m 88! Loved your article…keep them coming!

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