Saturday, August 8, 2020

Essex Chain Lakes provides quiet solitude

The state’s proposal to attract more visitors to the Essex Chain Lakes by allowing lakeside campfires had the effect of immediately attracting two visitors recently: me and my son.

We’ve been planning to get our canoes into the Adirondack backcountry at some point this summer. Upon hearing how uncrowded the lakes south of Newcomb are, we decided to carry them into this primitive area for a look around. We were not disappointed.

These lakes are teeming with wildlife, from deer and bald eagles to belted kingfishers, great blue herons and, of course, loons. We heard loons throughout the night and then had a close visit from a pair in the morning, when they swam within about 35 yards of our camp.

I left there with some mixed feelings. I’m as mesmerized by a campfire as the next outdoorsperson, but I’m not sure one would have added to my experience. For one thing, I absolutely did not need any added weight to haul in there. For another, I’d hate to see the tangle of uprooted trees that lines much of the waterways be scavenged for campfires. And if we’d started a fire, we probably wouldn’t have thought to crouch by the water with a flashlight and admire the nocturnal lives of crayfish and their neighbors swarming the submerged rocks. I have no strong opinion about the proposed management amendment — maybe it’s a good idea — but I do wonder whether that alone would attract more campers. Maybe it’s the remoteness, and not the fire ban, that limits use.

I also wonder whether more use is necessarily a good thing. I understand the desire to spread people out and away from some of the park’s overused zones. I just hope it will always be possible to paddle down a lake’s shoreline with nightfall approaching and be confident in finding a place to pitch a tent, as we did.

Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Brandon’s weekly “Explore More newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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Brandon Loomis is a former Adirondack Explorer editor.

9 Responses

  1. R DeFichy says:

    So, if as you write you’re wondering about the solitude and primitiveness of the area and its wildlife remaining abundant and wild, why do you write about it. which in effect invites lots more visitors, many responsible, but many others not so much,and the result is the diminishing of what makes the area so special.

    • Bill Ott says:

      Amen. I keep my secret places secret.

    • Mac says:

      Totally agree! There needs to be places where the masses don’t go either because it is a long carry or long drive or whatever. Every beautiful place in the Adirondacks doesn’t need to be like Bog river Flow or Fish Creek, some places need to be reserved and kept pristine.

  2. David Gibson says:

    Glad you both had a great camping experience, Brandon. Thank you for questioning DEC’s rationale for ending the campfire prohibition at primitive tent sites within 500 feet of these lake shorelines. DEC’s reasoning is entirely anecdotal, as if more folks will rush to visit the Essex Chain if they can only light a campfire along the lake. Visitation has been below DEC expectations for the simple reason you point out: it’s a very long drive from Newcomb to reach the remote Deer Pond parking lot. For folks like you and your son, the rewards were clearly worth that effort. As for the excellent ecological character and quality of the Essex Chain Lakes shorelines, prohibiting campfires within 500 feet of the lakes was an important management step to keep them that way – which ought to remain DEC’s priority today.

  3. Jeanne says:

    Essex Chain is remote and those rhat truly want this experience will go. Campfires within 500 feet of the lakes was a very important management step to keep them that way – which aught to remain DEC’s priority today. Over the past 30 years, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the backcountry, l’ve seen the devastation of disrespectful people and campfires, we all have. It’s sad.

  4. Stephen G Rose says:

    If they want more visitation, they really need to improve the road access. The two times I drove there, the road was horrific. I’m referring to Woody’s Road and the Park Preserve extension of that road to Deer Pond. The road on the east side of the Essex Chain (Gooley Club Road) is much better but that’s for hiking, biking, and horseing. It’s a long portage to water if you have a canoe. The dirt roads through the Chain are great for biking. It’s not a wilderness experience, but I’m thankful for no-car bike trails that aren’t designed for the aggressive set. The lakes feel a bit civilized because of all the roads and past human usage, but they’re fine. At one point you paddle through a huge culvert.

  5. Christine hildebrand says:

    Great article.

  6. Steve B. says:

    Not sure where Brandon put in, but near as I can see, it’s 1.8 miles on road from the Woody Road parking to access between 4th and 5th lake. Then you’re in the water and can paddle to assorted camp sites. Long way to carry wood.

  7. Boreas says:

    The title of the article says it all. Increasing usage will change that.

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