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Low's Upper Dam from the north

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  • Low's Upper Dam from the north

    Since we had some very nice weather on Tuesday the 25th I took four hours in the afternoon to make a hurried exploration of an area that I have been curious about ever since I realized I might be coming to live in Piercefield. I should preface this report by stating that this is a route that no rational person would have any reason to take unless they lived near here, and probably not even then.

    I rode my bicycle down Main St., across Route 3, and down Route 162 (I think) to Conifer where there is a gated, well maintained dirt road that leads west. This road is through easement lands and bicycling is permitted. After about 2 miles at the "Four Corners" I came to another gate and then turned south onto Masswepie Rd. This road was much hillier than the first one, and open to public motor vehicle use at that point, but still pretty smooth. After a few miles I came to another gate and continued south between some small mountains. I passed through several intersections, but at all of them the snowmobile trail signs were easy to follow, so the route was not in doubt.

    Eventually I came to another gate and was on drivable roads again, but I don't know their names. I only saw one vehicle on this whole trip once I was on the dirt roads, a Dish Network van that was incongruously driving toward the gate on the road that leads to Pine Pond. I guess there must be an inholding back there somewhere. The last gate I had to go around was at the beginning of the road to the upper dam. From there it was very smooth riding all the way to the gate just before the dam itself with the No Bicycles signs.

    My planned turnaround time was about 3, and it was 2:48 when I arrived. I wanted to climb the ridge behind the dam and look at the view, but I started off a bit too far to the east, and when I got to the rocky part it was too steep to climb. I had climbed it from below in 2019, but I couldn’t remember the approach in detail. I moved west till I got to a better area and was able to scramble up above the treetops and take some pictures and eat a snack while looking at the views.

    Then it was time to hurry back down and ride back along the way I had come. It took me 1:48 on the way out, and 1:40 on the way back, but I imagine the difference was mostly because I didn’t have to stop and look at the map so much. I wanted to have a little time in case of a flat tire or something on the way home. I had my headlamp, but riding on unfamiliar dirt roads at night is not a great plan.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see no signs of ATV use on the roads on this trip. It’s not a wilderness-y area, but I like working forests too. There were several log landings that had been in recent use, and some old and some newer gravel pits and such. The roads were very smooth and well maintained throughout, much better than I had expected. I have been on snowmobile trails that were brushy swamps in the summer, but these were all nicely graveled, if not always entirely smooth.

    It is 13+ miles to where the upper dam road begins, by this back route, and 23 miles on pavement. I wouldn’t try to bring the canoe trailer this way because of all the gates. I would have to unhitch the trailer and take the canoe off at each one, lift them over and put it all back together, and doing that 5 times would be rather inefficient. It would work if I was taking the inflatable paddle board, as long as I could strap everything down securely on the bike.

    One highlight of the trip was a place at a junction where there were larch (or tamarack) needles drifting down whenever the wind gusted, almost like long thin yellow snowflakes. They seemed to fall very slowly, somehow.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Looks like you took the roads less traveled all right. Great report Zach, thanks for posting this.

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    • #3
      Zach,
      It sure looks like you're making the best out of exploring your environs! At this rate, you'll need to move every couple of years, to eventually cover the whole park by bicycle...
      I looked at your route on a map, initially thinking it would have been shorter to loop around clockwise, but I think not, CCW is definitely the way to go. Anyway, your chosen route provided way a more quiet and safe ride.
      Thanks for the descriptions and the photos, I see it's well past peak foliage...

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      • #4
        Thank you both very much. Peak foliage here was in the first week of October or so, and now the color is mostly just from larches and aspens, but it's also nice to be able to see through the trees further. I think that from Tupper Lake village it would be about the same distance either way, but from here it's shorter to go the back way. If there was an easy or at least a fast way to lift the canoe and trailer over the gates that would be handy, but unless I can think of something I'll only try to go this way when I just have the bike.

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        • #5
          I heard from a local ranger that the Lowes Lower Dam, and access road, is planned for closure in 2023 while the dam undergoes repair. Has anyone else heard this? If this is correct, I suppose this would be the best way to access Lowes Lake.

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          • #6
            Yes, we were told the same thing by the ranger this past summer, next year, due to work on the lower dam, access will be closed

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            • #7
              I hadn't heard about that. I guess people can bring a cart and wheel in to the upper dam, but I don't know how the parking will work. I wonder if it'll cut down on the number of people who go there, or how many people won't realize that the access is closed till they get there.

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              • #8
                Zach,

                I'd been wondering for some time about getting to the lake by hiking in from the point on the road where the Five Ponds Wilderness, Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest, and Eastern Five Ponds Primitive Area intersection. There is a trail from that point that runs about 2 1/2 miles south to the upper dam.

                I've never been clear on whether there is decent parking at that spot on the road. It seems to be a reasonable distance to carry an inflatable boat.

                And if they close the car route to the lower dam, there will be hardly anyone back there.

                The other intriguing route would be to come down from the north and reach the west end of Lows Lake, out by Grass Pond. That's a much longer route, more suitable to a backpack.

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                • #9
                  Here it is:

                  https://content.govdelivery.com/acco...letins/3395645

                  I've gone to Lows at least once each year, often twice, for each of the past 33 years, mainly, but not always, as a BSA wilderness guide program instructor with easy access via Sabattis BSA camp. If don't do the BSA thing next year I'll have to go in via either Horseshoe or Chair Rock access points in 2023.
                  Last edited by Wldrns; 11-22-2022, 12:51 PM.
                  "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

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                  • #10
                    Also just received that DEC notice. Think it will still be possible to portage around construction or is it totally off limits?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by billconner View Post
                      Also just received that DEC notice. Think it will still be possible to portage around construction or is it totally off limits?
                      I'd bet likely not allowed, but if you could, where asre you going to legally and safely park?
                      "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

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                      • #12
                        The press release says that there is room for about 10 vehicles to park near the gate on the road to the upper dam. I wonder if other people will park where there isn't room, or if this will encourage people to go elsewhere. It may be a good year for campsite availability on the lake if fewer people are using it. The closure won't affect my ability to get there, but it will mean there will be more people on foot or bicycles using the gated road than usual, I imagine.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wldrns View Post

                          I'd bet likely not allowed, but if you could, where asre you going to legally and safely park?
                          Someplace else on the loop.

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                          • #14
                            I don't know if it stilll holds, but I heard that the DEC plans to have two AFRs at Bog River/Low's for next season - one in the backcountry and one monitoring the access points near Horseshoe.
                            "Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing."
                            - Henry David Thoreau

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