With nearly 3,000 lakes and ponds and 30,000 miles of streams and rivers within the 6 million acres of public and private land comprising New York’s Adirondack Park, there’s a lifetime worth of blueway for any paddler to get lost in. Floating these remote reaches in search of solitude, run-ins with reclusive moose, and the serenading call of loons is an enchanting experience, but it can also prove to be an intimidating endeavor.
Fortunately, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has established a number of high-quality seasonal campgrounds. These sites provide a great option for those hoping to ease in to the maze of waterways in the Adirondacks, or seeking a way to make the trip accessible to friends and family.
The state campgrounds are perfect places to call basecamp for your first, second, or 30th Adirondack outing. They provide a place to launch, poke around in many different directions, and enjoy a toasty campfire at the end of the day. All without packing for that multi-day, portage-laden expedition that the northern woods are known for. Of course, don’t forget to take note of the multitude of nearby primitive sites for those trips deep in the shoulder season.
Here are four great campground options to get started:
Fish Creek Pond Campground & Day Use Area
Fish Creek Pond is one of the most popular campgrounds in the park and a gem for paddlers seeking a tripping experience with the comforts of an established campsite. The aptly named Fish Creek provides the starting place for multiple, day-trip loops. Each route is connected by slow-moving waterways and a few short portages through a chain of ponds which can include Floodwood, Rollins, or Polliwog, depending on which path you choose. The day loops also serve as a good warmup for those interested in taking on the nearby wilderness of the St. Regis Canoe Area.
Combine the paddling options with the campground’s long season, ability to accommodate a wide range of tents and RVs, and available canoe rentals, and you can see why Fish Creek Pond makes for a popular place.
A pair of loons. Photo: Mike Lynch
Cranberry Lake Campground & Day Use Area
Surrounded largely by its namesake 24,111-acre wild forest and bordering the northern edge of the 107,230-acre Five Ponds Wilderness, the 11-square-mile Cranberry Lake inhabits a remote area of the Adirondacks. Launch from the state campground in the lake’s northwest shoreline and trace the curving coastlines and far reaching bays. Don’t forget to make some time for hiking along the surrounding trail system as well.
Turn a long day-trip into an overnighter by packing up the boat and utilizing one of the 40-plus primitive campsites dotting the 55 miles of shoreline. This provides a group ample time to explore the depths of bays and inlets such as Brandy Brook, Dead Creek Flow, or the snaking Oswegatchie River.
On the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Photo: Tom McCorkle
Golden Beach Campground & Day Use Area
Golden Beach Campground sits on the southeast shore of Raquette Lake. Paddling here is all about the meandering streams that make up the inlets and outlets of the lake. Not to mention they also account for the early, New York leg of a through-paddle on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Set out from camp at Golden Beach each morning and paddle up and down miles of winding waterways such Brown’s Tract or South inlet, as well as the Marion River. All without setting a single shuttle.
Middle Saranac Lake. Photo Mike Lynch
Saranac Lake Islands Campground & Day Use Area
The Saranac Lake Islands provide a boat-in-only camping excursion for those seeking to ditch the car camping site, but still wanting to set up shop for a few days. There are over a dozen islands scattered throughout the nearly five-mile length of Lower Saranac Lake, an iconic New York state paddling locale. Explore more of this rugged northern forest chain by paddling up the Saranac River, where paddlers en route to Middle Saranac Lake can catch a lift on the operational Upper Locks.