Monday, March 11, 2024

Canoe Trip: Long Lake to Rollins Pond

Lower Raquette Falls

In 1988, my wife, Barbara, and I were camping at Rollins Pond near Upper Saranac Lake. We wanted to take a canoe trip from Long Lake back to our campsite. After inquiring at Hickock’s Boat Livery, we found that the owner of the pizza shop just across the road from Hickock’s offered shuttle service.

We hired him to take our canoe and us to Long Lake. When he dropped us off in the hamlet of Long Lake, Barbara wanted to make a phone call to see how her father was doing. He was in the nursing home section of his retirement home and not doing well. She was on the phone a long time talking to the nurses. I became aware that we might have to abort our canoe trip and travel to Alexandria, Virginia. If we did, I decided I would go over to Helms Aero Services and have them fly us to Rollins Pond. The nurse convinced Barbara that her father was doing okay so we started canoeing north on Long Lake. We spent the night at the site of the former Riverdale Boys Camp not far from the outlet. 

When I was a camper at Camp Onondaga on Long Lake, which is now the Whispering Pines resort, we often played baseball against the Riverdale campers.  We also competed against them in the Long Lake Regatta each summer.

While we were fixing dinner, a canoe came along. The two men asked about the rapids below the outlet on the Raquette River. They were from a canoe camp in Vermont and wanted to shoot the rapids. I told them that a person had drowned there the year before. They said they were very experienced. They even had helmets. We wished them good luck.

The next morning Barbara and I started down the river, past the point where the Cold River comes in on the right shore, to the one mile carry around Raquette Falls. Raquette Falls is a long stretch of rapids. On a map, one can see labels: “Upper Falls” at the beginning and “Lower Falls” near the end of the carry.

We put our canoe on our portable set of wheels and started the carry. The first section is up a set of stairs which would not be friendly to the wheels. I carried the canoe to the top of the stairs and then put it on the wheels.

Map, Long Lake to Rollins Pond

Source: Google Maps.

At the end of the carry is a ranger station. As we arrived there, we were surprised to see the ranger dragging our white-water canoeists friends and their canoe from the water. The ranger was clearly angry at them.

After the ranger went back to his station, we had a chance to chat with them. This was their story.

Before attempting the first set of rapids, they scouted them from the shoreline. They decided to line their canoe around the upper falls. Their second-hand information on the falls was that this was the worse section. They put everything back in the canoe and went on their way. What they didn’t know was that the worse set of rapids, a water falls, actually, was near the end.

As they went over the falls, they were ejected from their canoe. One guy was pushed to the bottom of the river and thought he was going to drown. By placing his feet firmly on the bottom, he pushed up and was able to reach the surface.

The aspect of their misadventure that seemed to bother them the most was the objects from their canoe. Their audio equipment and many audio tapes were soaked. Also, many full cans of beer were now at the bottom of the river! They said that, as environmentalists, they were really upset about that.

Of course, there are a few lessons to be learned:

  1. Don’t use hearsay information when planning a canoe trip.
  2. Leave your audio equipment home.

Photo at top: Lower Raquette Falls. Photo Credit: Protect the Adirondacks.

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Alan Jones came to the Adirondacks for the first time to attend Camp Onondaga on Long Lake in 1947 when he was 10 years old. He continued coming to the camp for five years and then came back in 1957 as a counselor for a group of 10-year-olds in the same cabin he was in in 1947. After marrying Barbara and having three children, the family began camping at State campsites in the Adirondacks – primarily Rollins Pond. In 2019, Alan and Barbara retired to California to be close to their two daughters.

6 Responses

  1. Martin Hogan says:

    This article is why I read the Adirondack Explorer on a regular basis. Thank you very much

  2. Martin Hogan says:

    Sorry, I meant to say Adirondack almanac. Geez.

  3. Alan Jones says:

    I should have added that, after lining their canoe through the Upper Falls, they took off their life jackets! If they had left them off, they probably would not have been forced to the bottom of the river when they capsized in the Lower Falls.

  4. Karen says:

    Loved reading your story.
    Karen (Rodgers) Prairie

  5. David Bower says:

    Always respect the water!

  6. Hi Alan, i am 100% Agree with your words “Don’t use hearsay information when planning a canoe trip.”

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