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Essex Chain Area

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  • Essex Chain Area

    Hi All,
    Wondering about some of the features around the Essex chain area. Looking to spend 3-4 nights, typically I would do this in an area or traverse of much greater size (lowes to O for example)

    First, i'm unclear about some of the campsites and gates. Are the sites on Deer Pond and Fifth Lake Accessible by Car or is there a gate at Deer Pond Parking Lot? Anyone have preferences on water campsites (good swimming areas?)

    Second, any interesting features to note on the trails and woods around the ponds. I suppose a hike to the Hudson would be reasonable for a day trip.

    Third, are any of the inlet or outlets amongst the lakes /ponds navigable? from what I have read from stripperguy the chain drain is via first lake(?) to the cedar sounds promising for exploration.

    Thanks all, appreciate any insights

  • #2
    Deer Pond and Fifth Lake are not accessible by vehicle...there was (is?) some planned access to Fifth for disabled folks on a limited basis. Not sure if this has been implemented yet.
    I've only camped on the legacy state lands way at the end of First, so I can't advise on other sites, but the few that I paddled past looked ok to me.
    The Chain Drain is certainly worth the price of admission, my gang paddled it in October of a dry year and there was adequate water all the way to the falls.
    The Chain Drain dumps into the Rock River, you can paddle a short ways upstream before some rapids. Downstream leads shortly to the Cedar River...I've been on that section of the Cedar to the rapids just beyond Pine Lake, I particularly enjoyed it.
    I could envision a 3 or 4 day excursion that included a night on Pine Lake, it's a short carry up and over from the Cedar.
    Depending on your boat and your ambitions, you might be able to pole upstream (or carry) on the Rock to explore more of that water. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to squeeze some sort of Rock Lake-Rock River-Essex Chain through trip, but the car shuttle is cumbersome.
    All of those interior waters are very seldom visited, and there are no formal carries, but for me that's the attraction. Maybe the same for you?


    • #3
      The closest that the general public can drive to Deer Pond is the gate that is about a quarter mile north of the pond itself. From there it's a relatively easy carry/wheel down to the pond itself.

      Motor vehicle access beyond the Deer Pond gate to Fifth Lake is CP-3 only. In other words, it's only available to persons with a disability who obtain a permit from the DEC (and get the key to the gate). The site on the west end of Fifth Lake is designed to be an accessible site but I believe is open to use by anyone and everyone.

      Many of the interior sites in the Essex Chain complex are honestly kind of "eh." Some of them are lacking in flat ground that is ideal for pitching tents. And I believe that the fire ban is still in place even though the DEC has announced plans to repeal it at some point in the future.

      A lot of the trails in the area are logging roads that were in regular usage up until state acquisition of the property a few years ago. They are also kind of "eh." Nice enough if you're biking or horseback riding, I suppose, but if you're hiking it's a lot of green tunnels through forest with old log landings along the way that are slowly revegetating. The whole area was pretty obviously heavily cut over prior to state acquisition... the forest will recover in time, but it's going to be a decade or two before it truly feels as "wild" as much of the rest of the forest preserve.

      If you're looking for roadside sites, there's 6 along the road into the Deer Pond Gate. Some of these sites receive very little use. Most aren't really roadside, but are a 100-200 feet or so off the road (so a relatively short walk to access). Fires are allowed at these sites.
      Last edited by DSettahr; 03-25-2021, 09:12 PM.


      • #4
        Thank you both for the info, kinda confirms what I thought. Might do some recon in June and think about a trip in August. Let ya know the outcome. Best


        • #5
          I spent a day in there last August, my third trip in since it opened. I also used to go in occasionally as a guest at the Gooley Club. Campsites on Third and Fourth Lake were occupied. Go around Deer Pond, unless you plan to spend time there. To me it's worth the trip if you fish. And, lots of loons. You could always fly into First and set up base camp there.
          Life's short, hunt hard!


          • #6
            Essex chain exploring

            You can paddle the length of the six/seven lakes (ponds) in half a day. The water front campsites are OK, not as comfortable as many others in the Adirondacks. I have not seen good swimming spots, but have taken a dip in a few places.

            Since biking is allowed, it opens up miles of recreation adventures to the Hudson and Cedar rivers (good swimming at both) on hardened logging roads. One can easily combine a few days biking & paddling. With wheels, you can easily tow a boat to Deer or 5th behind a bike. Returning uphill to west side parking may include some walking. Views limited.

            This area does not have a strong wilderness feel. 3 days enough unless you get well off beaten path. Car camping with a fire and access to extended biking & pond hopping is how I've come to most enjoy it. Have seen several very impressive beaver dams away from the ponds so have water shoes evening biking.


            • #7
              Buckladd and Bob K, thanks for the info.

              Reading on DEC: "Two tent sites are located on the north shore of First Lake and may only be used by float plane customers."

              Gotta say, not a fan of this arrangement -- sounds like these sites might be nicer for such a privilege?

              Anyone have an idea about the frequency of the use by float planes or what outfit provide services to Essex area? -maybe a phone call and planning could serve as a way to access these? -Just a thought.


              • #8
                Sep 21, 2022 (Wed) - Wheeled in from Deer Pond Road gate - 1 mile to Third Lake - 40 mins. with a stop to take a look at Deer Pond. Paddle...



                • #9

                  Cool trip reports. Thank you!
                  "There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." -from "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service

                  My trail journal: DuctTape's Journal


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Zeebo View Post
                    Buckladd and Bob K, thanks for the info.

                    Reading on DEC: "Two tent sites are located on the north shore of First Lake and may only be used by float plane customers."

                    Gotta say, not a fan of this arrangement -- sounds like these sites might be nicer for such a privilege?

                    Anyone have an idea about the frequency of the use by float planes or what outfit provide services to Essex area? -maybe a phone call and planning could serve as a way to access these? -Just a thought.
                    No, not really "nice" they have been used a lot in the past. Picked over and nailed and built up "things", built and placed more for convenience rather than any particularly pretty vantage or placement- in fact if I recall, kind of muddy. . There is ( or was) a dock and a bunch of stashed aluminum canoes. . Not the sort of sites I prefer.

                    Don't fret about them too much- you have the rest of the lakes and shoreline.

                    I just ran across a close up of the same 1st lake site. So i added it to this post.There is another, with less architecture and more canoes
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by RichieC; 05-10-2021, 01:34 PM.


                    • #11
                      Thanks RichieC and Nehasane -- nice trip report. Certainly wish I could get up there more than once or twice a year to check out all these spots....maybe some day


                      • #12
                        My only visit there was several years ago in the first month of public access (day use only). Took a long time to drive back there in my little Toyota while carefully avoiding the numerous rocks in the road. Has the road been improved since then? Might go back and camp next time.
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                        • #13
                          I've driven back there a few times and don't recall having to dodge more than the occasional rock, so I'd say it's been improved (but can't say with 100% certainty as I did not visit the area for the first time until 2018).


                          • #14
                            I ventured in there last summer. The road requires some maneuvering, but not nothing extreme. I have a Forester and I kept the speed down; an unexpected discovery: despite the masses last year, the Essex chain was not at all crowded, and I was there on July 7th. I wouldn't want to go there with a low clearance vehicle.
                            "Days in the woods are days beyond time"--Paul Jamieson


                            • #15
                              Does anyone know the status of the planned bridge over the Cedar River? With that in place, you could park in Indian Lake and bike all the way through to the North side. If no bridge, is there a decent place to wade across?

                              Camped at Site #3 on Third Lake Last Weekend. It was adequate for a couple of small tents.

                              Fire rings are being installed at the waterfront sites. Once these are in place the no fire signs will be taken down and fires allowed. The UMP was amended in January of this year to allow campfires on a trial basis for three years.

                              There is a pile of lumber and logs at the former Club building site on Third Lake, that will be the new lean to, I assume sometime this summer.