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How can I find designated primitive camp sites?

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  • How can I find designated primitive camp sites?

    Hello all, I'm new to NYS and to this forum. I've been doing some kayaking in the lower ADKs and would love to plan some primitive camping (mostly paddle-in camping, but I'll take what I can get). I'm looking for good resources that reliably identify the designated primitive camping sites. I bought the Adirondack Paddler's Map (North and South), which have the right idea (marking the known campsites with red "+" marks). The North and South maps cover a lot of ground, but of course they only cover certain areas. I found the DECinfo Locator website, which I'm gradually learning to use (lol). Is there another resource you think is superior, maybe a website or an app, that shows all/most/more of the designated camp sites? It'd be great to look at a map as I plan my route and see where I can expect to find designated campsite, even though I realize they will largely be on a first come basis. I guess I thought that with social media, crowd sourcing, GPS, etc, perhaps there is an app or website where users have marked all the campsites.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

  • #2
    There really is no single, good, 100% accurate source of information for this. You've found two good sources of info- the Paddler's Map(s) and the DECInfo site, but the reality is that neither of these are fully accurate. The Paddler's Maps are usually pretty good but I've noticed a few sites over the years shown on the Paddler's Maps that have either been closed or were never designated to begin with (and are technically illegal as the sites are within 150 feet of trail, water, or road).

    And the DECInfo site is missing a surprising number of designated sites. I'd suggest that across the full Adirondack Park, the number of sites missing from the "official" database is easily in the hundreds. It is particularly telling that not a single site is shown at Marcy Dam, which has probably the highest concentration of designated sites out of any location across the entire park. Furthermore, the DECInfo site shows 5 lean-tos at Marcy Dam... there's only 3 there currently. And a good number of the sites at Lake Colden and Flowed Lands are also missing. And not a single designated site along Long Lake is shown either, yet there's easily 20+ sites or so on that body of water. And the DECInfo site shows 2 lean-tos on the Boquet River in the Dix Range area... there's only 1 lean-to there. And some of the sites shown on the DECInfo page just plain don't exist- they may have been established sites once, but have grown in and reforested due to lack of use (there's a number of sites on the Oswegatchie River that fit this category). And so on. To be blunt... in the context that this is supposed to be an "official" source of information, the quality of the DECInfo material is severely lacking.

    Another High Peaks-centric source of information on designated tent sites is the Adirondack Mountain Club's High Peaks Map. This is a pretty a solid source of information but unfortunately it only covers the High Peaks Region, which is a pretty small part of the park overall.

    Apart from the above sources, your options are pretty much limited to soliciting information on message boards such as this one, and getting out there and finding sites yourself. With regards to the former option, there's a few folks on this board in particular with an extensive resume of past hiking and paddling trips, and there's probably someone here who can help you get squared away for a trip in just about any part of the park.

    It's definitely kind of frustrating but you learn to deal with it. And a willingness to implement the 150 foot rule to find your own spot (where allowed, most but not all of the ADKs permit it) gives you options in the event that you can't find a designated site to suit your needs.


    • #3
      Suggestion: Don't plan too much. Have the map (paddler's map) and be flexible. Of hundreds of nights of doing this, I've never not found a place to camp.

      It used to be NONE of this stuff was marked on maps (except some of the old Unit Management Plans - but good luck getting ahold of one of those pre-internet). None of my old ADK maps had campsites. Some had Lean To locations, but I always carried a tent and never relied on staying at a Lean To. It was kind of crazy compared with how it is now (there's a LOT more available information) but it also led to me, and a lot of other individuals using illegal campsites - usually those not conforming to the 150' rule.

      Given the amount of info post-internet era I've never had to use an illegal site, and I don't condone doing so now. Plan, but don't over plan and if it's a popular area, I bet you'll be able to find a legal 150' site in general vicinity of where you want to be, and one that's been established if it's an area that sees overflow camping - usually near Lean Tos.

      Also it seems that people have forsaken the "when in doubt, scout it out" rule. Before I got serious into canoe camping, I did a lot of day paddling and scouted out areas. Part of this was getting comfortable with canoe tripping, but also learning the areas somewhat - some stuff is pretty remote so you won't see it on a day trip, but your experience will help when you finally get there.
      Last edited by montcalm; 08-17-2021, 12:59 PM.


      • #4
        Thanks for the replies. I suspected there was a lot of missing information. I bought that Phil Brown book with 65 ADK paddles (forget the name of it) and immediately noticed a lot of its seemingly well-documented information did not match other sources. I'm guessing that the book is more accurate than the DEC maps. The book is also tied to several national geographic maps, I think called Trails Illustrated or something similar, but they're a bit pricey and I have no idea if they're any more accurate than the Paddler's maps or the DEC.

        It does seem sort of surprising that the DEC doesn't have more accurate information published, seeing as they presumably are the ones responsible for all these camp sites. I might have to do the "150' make your own site", but being new to the area and all that goes with it, I thought starting at designated sites would help me get acclimated without getting myself into trouble.

        I did think of another resource I found. There are maps on Andy Arthur dot org, not sure how reliable they are but I suppose I can cross reference them with the other resources.


        • #5
          Most of the Nat Geo maps don't show tent sites. There is one that does (for the NPT) but it's basically the same information as shown on the DECInfo site.

          And Andy Arthur's maps all contain info that came straight from the DECInfo site also.

          Like I said, there's probably options in the areas you intend to visit for legal camping at designated sites. If you can't find the info you want on any of the above sources, don't hesitate to make a post here. Plenty of us are eager to further inflate our own egos by showing off how much we know that I'm sure you'll get some helpful info from someone who has already visited the same area you intend to visit before long.


          • #6
            I don't know how accurate this map is but I will find out this week.


            • #7
              Originally posted by electbc View Post
              I don't know how accurate this map is but I will find out this week.
              At a glance, that appears to mostly be the same info as what is contained on the DECInfo site.


              • #8
                If you tell us which area you’re interested in, I’m sure some of have been there, and would be happy to PM you with recommendations and up to date info.


                • #9
                  I didn't mean to be an ego maniac, but rather share past mistakes to avoid and what has worked for me.

                  Camping at an illegal spot isn't something you're going to be forced to do. There aren't a lot these days. Most that are near popular areas are marked with "No Camping" discs. The only ones I can actually think of are in little used areas and are what I'd call ambiguous. That meaning they look like a legitimate DEC campsite except they violate the 150' rule and have no "Camp Here" disc(s). Sometimes they are legal sites where someone has removed the discs so as to create that ambiguity, other times they are historic sites that have been closed (but usually those are marked with "No Camping" - although people remove those discs as well) and some are just rogue sites.

                  It's probably best to stay at a campground and day trip to an area of interest to check it out if this seems unsettling. A lot of the mistakes of the past came from lack of information, and these days the DEC is the source of authority (although not always accurate - I've found relatively new marked sites not on any online sources) but there is plenty. Use your own best judgement when you actually decide to set up there - some non-DEC site info may include non-designated sites that may or may not be legal.
                  Last edited by montcalm; 08-17-2021, 07:52 PM.


                  • #10
                    An option that hasn't been mentioned is to contact the ranger for that area. I don't suggest pestering them too much but if you're looking at a map and are confused, they will usually know everything that's legal in that area.

                    The other option is when scouting, if you come across something questionable, take a pic and note the coordinates/general location and contact the ranger for that region. They'll likely know exactly what you are asking about and will be able to tell what is good and what's not.

                    I've done this before and got more info than I needed.


                    • #11
                      Not mentioned yet - I often find the Discover the ? Adirondacks guidebooks mention the campsites on particular routes - lots of hikes & a fair number of paddles too.



                      • #12
                        Originally posted by montcalm View Post
                        The other option is when scouting, if you come across something questionable, take a pic and note the coordinates/general location...
                        You can kill two birds with one stone. The Solocator app for your favorite device is available from the appropriate Play Store for only 99 cents.

                        Solocator photos show the GPS coordinates where your photo was taken, as well as the compass direction the camera was facing. They are JPG files which you can email to the ranger. The photos can be linked to Apple or Google maps.

                        Just be sure you read and understand all the directions. I pushed the wrong button somehow, and my tablet now thinks it is permanently located in Australia. I will probably have to uninstall and reinstall.


                        • #13
                          i use the DEC site map and Acme mapper, to find trails, campsites and paddles. the Acme map feature, zoomed in, shows campsites and trails that actually there, but not on the DEC site, and vica versa.


                          • #14
                            ACME mapper uses the OpenStreet Map info. A word of caution... This is the Wikipedia of maps, which means anyone can edit the info, including adding campsites. Accordingly, the quality of info (regarding campsites especially) varies considerably across the entire Adirondack Park, depending on how much effort OpenStreet editors have put into ensuring that the info is accurate.

                            It's definitely a great resource and don't get me wrong, I'm not at all saying not to use it. But there's a caveat- since anyone can edit it, there's no guarantee that just because a site is shown on OpenStreet/ACME mapper that it is a designated or otherwise legal site for use. Not a bad idea to seek independent verification of a campsite's legality for any campsites identified using those sources of info.