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Pond paddling

A primer for exploring the St. Regis Canoe Area and surrounding ponds

May 10, 2008
By MIKE LYNCH, Enterprise Outdoor Writer
LAKE CLEAR — For the beginning or experienced paddler, the St. Regis Canoe Area and surrounding water bodies offer plenty of trip options.

The St. Regis Canoe Area is the only designated canoe area in this state, covers 18,400 acres and includes St. Regis Mountain, St. Regis and Long ponds, sections of the east and west branches of the St. Regis River and 56 other water bodies.

The designated canoe area is north of the railroad tracks that run between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake and includes traditional canoe routes such as the seven carries. It doesn’t include ponds such as Follensby Clear and Fish Creek. But for the common daytripper, being in or out of the invisible lines of the designated canoe area should have little to no bearing on choosing a route.

Either way, this area offers plenty of variety for paddling, fishing and even hiking. For those looking for some trip ideas, here’s a few to try out.

Four-pond loop from Spider Creek

A common point for paddlers to start their trips is at Spider Creek. From here, one can either head to Upper Saranac Lake through Fish Creek Pond or to the ponds via Follensby Clear Pond.

In the spring, while the water is still cold, the ponds are the best bet, and there are plenty of places to go that will keep you occupied for hours or days.

For the camper, this body of water is loaded with sites. During this time of year, you’ll likely have privacy for overnight stays.

For the daytripper, Follensby Clear Pond offers plenty of options and the entry point is right off state Route 30, northeast of Fish Creek campgrounds. From here, you can take a four-pond, four-portage trip in which all carries are short.

Earlier this week, on a calm day with blue skies, I paddled Follensby Clear. At the entry point, a loon sat upon the water surface. As I came near, it disappeared below the surface, leaving a ring in the water.

Because Follensby Clear is relatively large, it offers a variety of paddling options.

For this particular trip, you can explore the eastern or western shoreline on the way to the first pond on the four-pond loop. There are also four islands to check out.

After crossing Follensby Clear, enter the narrows to the north, directly across the pond from the parking lot. Before coming upon a small island, head west, where there is a short portage to Horseshoe Pond.

Horseshoe is a small pond that can be paddled quickly or enjoyed leisurely. There are numerous campsites, including one on the peninsula across from the carry.

From Horseshoe, head to Little Polliwog via the carry at the northern section of the pond. Little Polliwog is a puddle compared to many of the surrounding water bodies, and is by far the smallest pond on this trip.

On Little Polliwog, the carry is located to the east. This portage leads to Polliwog. This pond, because it is located on Floodwood Road, sometimes attracts crowds. The campsites are often occupied by car campers during the busier summer months.

To get back to Follensby Clear, take the portage in the northeastern section of the pond. From here, one must paddle the length of the pond, heading in a mainly southerly direction, to get back to the parking lot.

Fish Creek

Fish Creek in the early season has been full of wildlife. Turtles and waterfowl have been out in abundance. It’s also a good place to go to stay out of the wind and enjoy a change of pace from the surrounding ponds.

The creek can be accessed a number of ways, including from a portage on the western side of Follensby Clear Pond.

From here one can paddle upstream against the nearly unnoticeable current. There are few obstacles in the creek, other than in one narrow section where a tree is across the water.

From Fish Creek, there are three ponds that can be accessed directly from the water: Square Creek, which is downstream; Copperas Pond, a small pond upstream to the west; and, finally, Little Square Pond, which one will find by simply paddling upstream.

From these ponds, there are a number of portages and options for trips or one can simply stick to the Fish Creek route. This paddle is simple, enjoyable, and can be had to oneself this time of the year. During the summer, it gets more crowded as campers grow in number at the Fish Creek Campground.

Hoel Pond to Long Pond Mountain

This trip offers the option of hiking a small mountain, in addition to paddling.

To get to Hoel Pond take Floodwood Road (near the golf course) off of state Route 30. Once on Floodwood, take a right at the fork in the road and then the first left after the golf course.

The trip starts at Hoel Pond. From the entry point, cross Hoel heading northwest.

Once on this side, there is a short portage over some railroad tracks to Turtle Pond. These tracks serve as a boundary marker for the St. Regis Canoe Area. Once crossing them into Turtle Pond, you are in the designated canoe area.

Once in Turtle Pond, cross this water body to where it narrows. Here, one must get out during low water and pull the canoe along. In the spring, this likely isn’t necessary. Once through the narrow section, you’ll find yourself in Slang Pond.

From Slang to Long Pond is the one portage on the way to Long Pond Mountain. Once in Long Pond, head west into the cove. The trail to the mountain is to the north.

The hike to the summit of Long Pond Mountain is short, about two miles one way. From the top, there are views of the ponds and surrounding water bodies.

Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or

Article Photos

The summer paddlers have not arrived at Fish Creek yet.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

Fact Box

If you go ...
The portages are marked by white “canoe carry” signs that usually can be spotted from a distance. Due to winter storms, some carry routes have had blowdown across the trails.

There are plenty of great fishing spots in the St. Regis Canoe Area and surrounding ponds. One can catch anything from salmon to splake to brook trout. But pay attention to the different regulations for each pond, as they vary. Some, such as Whey Pond, are for artificial lures only. Other places, such as Little Clear Pond, restrict fishing altogether.

In the St. Regis Canoe Area, permits for group camping will no longer be issued, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation Web site. This means camping parties are only allowed a maximum of nine people. Permits will continue to be issued for groups with nine or fewer people that want to stay at one location for more than three nights

During the spring, while the water is cold, it is more important than ever to where the proper clothing. Wear a layer of quick dry synthetic pants and shirt as a base layer. Have fleece or wool to put on top of that if necessary. Always wear a personal floating device. If it’s windy, stick to the smaller ponds or just wait for a calm day. Tipping a canoe in the spring can lead to hypothermia and isn’t worth risking. If it does get windy unexpectedly, stay low in the boat. If possible, find some nearby land to wait until the water becomes calm. Prior to the trip, as there are on hiking trails, there are trail registers with sign-in sheets at the pond entry points. Take advantage of them.



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