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DSettahr 07-01-2020 11:11 AM

Little Tupper to Inlet on the Oswegatchie River
I have a week off coming up, and I'm eyeing the Little Tupper Lake to Inlet on the Oswegatchie Traverse for my days off. I have both the Paddler's Map and the Adirondack Paddler's Guide which have tons of useful information, but figured I'd make a post here also soliciting additional information since most of this route is largely unexplored territory for me.

I'll probably have at least 7 days to devote to this trip, although from reading information about the route online, it sounds like even 5-6 days isn't super rushed. I'm thinking I may try to devote an extra day or two to the Oswegatchie River section specifically, both to snag a few lean-tos needed for the lean-to challenge, and to check out the numerous campsites on this stretch in preparation for a possible future trip with friends (our annual "Duck Hole" trip this year will likely be a paddling trip).

My tentative itinerary:

Day 1: Put in on Little Tupper. Will likely be somewhat later in the day (after car shuttling in the AM) so will probably just aim for a campsite on Little Tupper, perhaps on the southwest end of the lake. If early enough, I may push on to Rock Pond instead.

Day 2: Paddle/portage Rock Pond, Hardigan Pond, Little Salmon Lake, Lilypad Pond, Shingle Shanty Brook. Camp on Lake Lila.

Day 3: Paddle/portage Harrington Brook, Clear Pond, Bog Lake, Low's Lake. Camp on Lows Lake, possibly on Grass Pond (I remember the sites being really nice up there).

Day 4: Paddle/portage Deer Pond and the traverse to Oswegatchie. Camp somewhere on the upper Oswegatchie (possibly High Falls).

Day 5: Paddle the Oswegatchie. Camp somewhere on the middle Oswegatchie (possibly Cage Lake Springhole).

Day 6: Paddle the Oswegatchie. Camp somewhere on the lower Oswegatchie (possibly Griffin Rapids).

I can't find a definitive length for this route (and I'm too lazy to calculate it myself) but by rough estimate, it seems like it would clock in at roughly 50 miles, maybe a bit less.

My day 2 seems like it probably has the potential to be a bit longer- so I may try to shorten it (possibly at the expense of making Day 3 longer and forgoing Grass Pond). I'll probably also plan to carry 7 days worth of food with me so I can add another night somewhere if needed. Admittedly my last few days are super short, but again, one goal of this trip is to target lean-tos on the Oswegatchie River that I still need for the lean-to challenge. I've also already extensively hiked the trails in the High Falls/Five Ponds area but may do some day hikes from the river along this network to stretch my legs.

Time permitting I may also try to do a few side trips. I've done Fredrica Mountain before but wouldn't mind a return visit. I've also heard that Grass Pond Mountain is a worthwhile bushwhack.

A few specific questions:
  • Are there any campsites along this route in particular that are particularly nice? I know some of the Low's Lake sites are really nice (and again, Grass Pond is one of my favorite spots to camp in the ADKs). But the sites on the stretch between Little Tupper and Lila are all new to me.
  • How is the stretch between Lake Lila and Low's Lake? The Paddler's Guide makes it sound pretty straightforward but the St. Regis Canoe Outfitter's website says that the "portage to Harrington Brook is rough." I also know that the south end of Lows can get pretty muchy with low water levels and am anticipating some potential rough going there given how dry it's been this year.
  • How are the rest of the portage trails generally? Has anyone paddled parts of this route recently and can comment on any major issues? The DEC's backcountry conditions page for the Western Adirondacks is... noticeably lacking in any sort of portage trail condition information for this entire route.
  • Any other side trips along the way that might be worth doing?
Thanks in advance!

TrailBlaser 07-01-2020 11:50 AM

I think this guy's videos may show some of your route that you have questions about.
Other than when the upper dam is under reconstruction, I can't recall anytime the water level on Lows has been a problem.

Wldrns 07-01-2020 12:01 PM

The Harrington Brook carry is rough because of the many irregular shaped rocks you may have to cross near the brook, but they do not extend not all the way. Rainer Brook is an interesting little side trip paddle. Put in where the RR track crosses.

Take some time to poke around the old Robinwood resort when you reach Bog Lake.

The channel between Bog Lake and Lows is nothing like you would expect from its depiction on the topo map. It is actually a narrow winding channel through a swampland, and there may be a beaver dam or two,not a broad opening as the map indicates.

The final push into Lows may feature an open channel through the floating bog, or it may not. Either stick to the far left (south side toward Tomar) of the big floating bog or go around to the right to get into the open lake. Tomar is the most boring mountain in the world.

Grass Pond does offer a couple of very fine campsites. There are interesting side hiking trips in the area that some people (too many) will already know about, which I would rather not directly publish here.

It is easiest to bushwhack up the ridge on the SW side of GP Mtn following the obvious ridge up for topside fantastic views east, south,and west on three different view points along the ridge summit. You can find a Colvin tripod anchor and a BM there. Please do not leave unauthorized plastic colored flagging on the way up or down. I gather pockets full of the junk every time I go there once or twice a year.

The final paddle to the trailhead at the west end of Lows is a bit of a submerged stump field. Nothing too difficult to negotiate, but just beware.

Big Deer Pond is shallow and does not offer very good drinking water. You can put in at a poor access point and and paddle across it to catch the trail on the far side, or you can carry all the way around the north shore to the western side, all still on trail. Again, there are interesting things to see in the area that i will not publicly discuss.

I haven't done that carry in a few years, but somewhere along it beavers had flooded the trail. You can either carry on the dam, or it has been easier to actually paddle across. Shortly after the big derecho blowdown of 15 July 1995, the trail was cleared out of logs with cuts too narrow for most canoe carts to easily pass through. What a pain that was. One wheel up on a log, the other down. Thankfully that has been corrected since.

Be sure to stop at the mailbox right on the trail and read some of the comments left there.

The trail ends at a spring flowing from underground into the Oswegatchie. The water is extremely cold and you will freeze your feet. Not far upstream, multiple beaver dams and fingers of streams upwelling from the ground define the actual headwaters.

I dare you to keep an accurate count of the number of beaver dams on the way downstream. I once lost count somewhere around 70.

dacipkowski 07-01-2020 03:25 PM

I did the Whitney Loop a few weeks back starting at Round Lake and going counter clockwise. IMO, the section between Lila and Rock Pond is tough. Like you are planning to do, I did it in a day, single carry with my 45 lb Mad River Indy. It was difficult, but since it will be your first day of portaging and you will be fresh, it might not be too bad. Lots of beaver activity on the longest portage of that section, and some route finding skills needed on the other shorter portages of that section. There are not always trail markers but look for flagging in those cases.

Lows to Lila was not so bad compared to the the portages between Lila and Rock Pond. I highly recommend doing it single carry, especially if you want to do the west end of Little Tupper to Lila in a day. Tomar Pond was worth the look.


WBB 07-01-2020 04:15 PM

As pointed out the spring at the end of the Headwater Carry is as close to the "Fountain of Youth" you will ever find. It's restorative powers are unparalleled. You will find your pace quickens after High Falls due to current and lack of beaver dams. High Rock makes a nice campsite.

If you have the time and energy continuing past Inlet all the way to Cranberry Lake it is enjoyable. Just one more carry (1.5 miles). Lower Dam to Cranberry SP is 50 miles on the nose.

Nehasane 07-01-2020 06:29 PM

Zach 07-01-2020 06:44 PM

It sounds like a really nice trip, I hope you'll enjoy it. I made my first visit to the area last year and made a day trip from my campsite on Lows down to Lila and back. It was not too hard to go both ways in a day, but I didn't have all my stuff with me. The trail from Harrington Brook to Lila was messy in August because the weeds had grown up over the big rocks so I couldn't see where I was walking. It's like walking on an invisible rock pile, and there are deep hidden muddy spots. I climbed Federica while I was there and I found it was a lot faster and less buggy to head straight downhill from the summit to the lake rather than going back down the trail, and the terrain wasn't bad. I did Grass Pond Mountain from the south and it was very nice, but didn't have time to try going up from the Grass Pond end.

montcalm 07-01-2020 08:13 PM

My only suggestion is the time you spend on the Oswegatchie. The lower half goes very fast - you can do it in a couple hours... going downstream!

You may want to spend more time in the "nicer" parts of that trip i.e. Lila/Lows. You could easily spend two days on Lows and backtrack a little bit or do some climbing and hiking.

The other option would be portage the bit from Inlet to Wanakena and paddle out and spend a night on Cranberry. Even though the float down the Oswegatchie will go fast, the portage and paddle out to any good sites is a truck - that might be a bit of a long day.

I'd say some of the better sites on the lower Oswegatchie are in between the falls and the bridge. The lean to at Cage Lake Springhole is really nice, but will probably occupied.

stripperguy 07-01-2020 08:16 PM

Are you in a solo canoe or tandem? Watch the wind and waves on LTL with a later start, it gets rough.
My favorites sites on LTL are at the head of the lake, 11, 12, Camp Bliss. Rock Pond is a great spot to spend the night.
You can paddle quite a ways up Charley Pond outlet.
Besides Frederica, there is a nice short bushwhack up the unnamed knob just a tad NE of Frederica that gives different views of Lila.
You can paddle quite a bit of the Beaver River, it's very scenic in there.
As Zach said, the Harrington carry is grown in and has unseen boulders and muck holes underfoot.
Grass Pond Mt is a given, you shouldn't skip it, the bushwhack is nearly a maintained trail. IIRC, the path starts at the roadside cove near site 25...It's a fun scramble.

Nehasane 07-02-2020 06:18 AM

Agree with Stripper - that unnamed knob has a better view than the ledge on Frederica & you don't have to do that road walk.

Nehasane 07-02-2020 10:54 AM

Read Man of the Woods by Herbert Keith before paddling the O - it adds to the fun finding the places mentioned in the book:

Pat T 07-02-2020 01:53 PM

Sounds like a great trip! A couple of thoughts on the areas with which I am familiar:

Most of the campsites on the Oswegatchie, downstream of High Falls, were quite small. At least the ones we found were really small, with the exception of the area around one of the lean - tos. I don't have my maps with me so I can't give you an exact location or #. We stopped there on our way back from High Falls and were met by a quite aggressive paddler who did not even want us to get out of our canoes. We said HI politely, assured her we were not staying, and got out to stretch our legs and check out the area. It was lovely.

You could get some help with shuttles if you want it. Call me if you want. Or you could invite someone (EJ) to paddle in and meet you on the Oswegatchie! Remember, we do have two Hornbecks and two portage equipped backpacks if you want to borrow.

DSettahr 07-07-2020 11:16 AM

Thanks Aunt Pat. I think I'm all set on gear and a shuttle but I appreciate it. :-)

Any comments on the Bog River section from Lows Lower Dam to Little Tupper? I have the time so I'm thinking about adding this section. The guidebook describes numerous portages but none of them sound "official." Is this stretch worth doing with a lightweight boat that you'd generally prefer to avoid even light rapids with?

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

Wldrns 07-07-2020 12:13 PM

downstream from Round Lake there is (was) a well worn trail on the right bank. With numerous cascading water drops (pretty ones) it is definitely a carry until it levels out quite shallow and slow. Probably not paddleable without recent decent rains, then again toward the lower dam it's a carry.

stripperguy 07-07-2020 02:23 PM

Are you talking the Bog downstream from the lower dam?
If so, I don’t think it’s a good route with lower water and a fragile boat. Although, the carries are not that long...

If you’re referring to Round Lake Stream, that section is a fun combination of paddle and path carrying.

If you’re passing through Hitchins Pond, be sure to check out the water body behind site 8, there’s some cool old structures leftover from the days when Low was at the top of his game.

Nehasane 07-07-2020 03:34 PM


Originally Posted by DSettahr (Post 282202)

Any comments on the Bog River section from Lows Lower Dam to Little Tupper? I have the time so I'm thinking about adding this section. The guidebook describes numerous portages but none of them sound "official." Is this stretch worth doing with a lightweight boat that you'd generally prefer to avoid even light rapids with?

I think the part from the dam to Winding Falls (& then to Bog River Falls) is worth doing. But from Winding Falls to Round Lake you will be carrying most of the way.

dacipkowski 07-07-2020 04:50 PM


Originally Posted by DSettahr (Post 282202)
Thanks Aunt Pat. I think I'm all set on gear and a shuttle but I appreciate it. :-)

Any comments on the Bog River section from Lows Lower Dam to Little Tupper? I have the time so I'm thinking about adding this section. The guidebook describes numerous portages but none of them sound "official." Is this stretch worth doing with a lightweight boat that you'd generally prefer to avoid even light rapids with?

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

I did that section in June, but the other way. The portages trails were pretty obvious, some had markers others didnt. Most fo the raps, even with higher water, were to rocky to run. I suggest taking the old service road from Pa Falls to Round Lake Outlet and bypassing some of the lowest Bog River. That's what I did and it was a pretty easy old road to follow.

DSettahr 07-07-2020 10:21 PM

After reading the description in the guidebook more closely as well as reading some of the responses, and given the low water levels this year, I may just skip the Lower Lows Dam to Round Lake section and hold off on that for a future trip (perhaps try the Little Tupper/Lila/Lows loop at some point). This gives me an extra day to poke around and/or devote to splitting up the LTL to Lila portion over 2 days, if needed.

Nehasane 07-14-2020 02:49 PM

DSettahr 07-16-2020 12:38 AM

I got back from doing this trip earlier today. It was amazing. I didn't speak to a single person for nearly 7 full days (saw other groups from a distance at times on Lila and Low's, even waved to 1 or 2 other paddlers across the water, but no other contact). Lucked out on the Oswegatchie portion... epic rainfall amounts meant that I was able to float over every single beaver dam except one (which as I understand it, is incredibly unusual for any time period outside of the spring freshet). Will try to get a proper trip report up at some point, but it will take some time (gotta edit the hundreds of photos I took along the way first).

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