A Paddler’s Paradise: Canoeing & Kayaking in Saranac Lake
When it comes to things to do in Saranac Lake, paddling isn’t just any old pastime – it’s the pastime. The most notable bodies of water within a 15-mile radius of town include the Saranac Lake Chain, consisting of Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lake that form a horseshoe to the west of town; the Saranac River, which meanders through downtown, depositing into Lake Flower and a series of other lakes and ponds before linking to Lower Saranac; and the legendary St. Regis Canoe Area, spanning 18,400 acres and almost 60 bodies of backcountry water, each with its own charm. Here are a few of the routes – from easiest to hardest – that demonstrate just how vast and varied the paddling possibilities are.
Easy Paddle on Open Water (Minimum of Two Hours)
Paddle across Lower Saranac Lake – This four-mile paddle travels west to east across the big open water of Lower Saranac, from Second Pond to Ampersand Bay. In addition to amazing views of the surrounding mountains, the route offers a dozen islands to pull up to for a picnic or swim. Be sure to check out Bluff Island, one of the largest in the lake, which features a 60-foot cliff with amazing views of McKenzie Mountain.
Easy Paddle on Backcountry Water (Minimum of Two Hours)
Stony Creek Pond to Raquette River – Located in a secluded wooded area protected from wind and waves, this three- to four-mile paddle starts in the small body of water known as Stony Creek Pond, before emptying into the narrow and very calm flatwater of Stony Creek, and then into the winding Raquette River. While you won’t encounter expansive views as you wind through woods and marshland, there’s plenty of active wildlife to behold.
First-Timers Taste of Pond Hopping (Minimum of Three Hours)
Follensby Clear Pond to Horseshoe Pond – Located just south of the St. Regis Canoe Area, the area known as Follensby Clear Pond is home to a network great for beginner pond-hoppers with extremely short carries (you can practically see from lake to lake). For an easy three-mile loop, start in Follensby Clear, an extremely clear and shallow body of water, portage to Polliwog Pond, then Horseshoe Pond, before carrying back to Follensby Clear.
Long Paddle on Open Water (Full Day)
Upper Saranac Lake to Lake Flower – This 30-mile route connects all three of the Saranac lakes. Starting at the northern edge of Upper Saranac Lake, you’ll paddle through big, open water dotted with islands and lined by historic Great Camps before depositing into Middle Saranac Lake. From there, you’ll paddle a section of the Saranac River through the upper locks (in season, someone will manually open the locks) to Lower Saranac. From Lower Saranac, you’ll navigate a series of small ponds before spilling into Oseetah Lake, followed by Lake Flower set at the foot of downtown Saranac Lake.
Pond Hopping with Lots of Portages (Full Day)
The Seven Carries – This eight-mile historic canoe route on the east side of the St. Regis Canoe Area travels all three of the St. Regis lakes, as well as variety of ponds. Starting at Little Clear Boat Launch, you’ll link St. Regis Lake to ponds Green, Little Long, Bear, and Bog over five carries (the longest portage being .6 miles). From there, it’s just one final carry to Upper St. Regis, which connects to Spitfire Lake and Lower St. Regis Lake.
Mac's Canoe Livery & Outfitters – Located on Route 30 on Lake Clear 10 miles from town, on the edge of the St. Regis Wilderness Canoe Area, Mac's rents canoes, will shuttle you and your boat to put-ins and takeouts, and also offers a variety of guided trips.
Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters – This Saranac Lake business offers rentals, paddling instruction, guided trips, trip planning, as well as transportation to and from the water.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters – Operating in two locations (one in Saranac Lake, right on the Saranac River, the other at the edge of the St. Regis Canoe Area), this outfitter provides rentals, canoe and kayak route suggestions, and shuttle service, as well as guided day and overnight trips.
Raquette River Outfitters – Tupper Lake’s most popular paddle professionals are located right near the outlet of the Raquette River and offer rentals, shuttles, lessons, trip planning, and route suggestions.