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Old 02-14-2021, 04:12 PM   #4
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,208
Continued from above...

I had lofty plans of stopping, checking out, and photo-documenting the majority of the designated tent sites along the Oswegatchie. I had 4 days worth of provisions remaining for the 20-odd mile downstream paddle, which afforded me plenty of wiggle room for some poking around. However, as I paddled downstream I soon found myself with the sneaking suspicion that I should've already been spotting sites. My suspicions were confirmed when I did come across an obvious designated site- and discovered that it was site #9. Where sites #5, #6, #7, and #8 were I could not have said- I did see a couple of spots where faint paths climbed up and away from the river, but all were unsigned and any one of them could have just as easily been a game trail.

There are 44 total designated tent sites along the Oswegatchie River- and as it turned out, I would only spot about half of them. Many of these sites clearly get little use- and I suspect that a good number of them have lost their signage over the years, and likely grown in considerably from disuse. In the end, I only documented the more visible and the more well-used sites, for the most part.

Site #9 was plainly obvious, at least- and it was a nice and moderately well-used site right on the banks of the river. I did get out here to poke around a bit, and found a nice authentic woods toilet someone had constructed nearby. An old logging road also clearly once crossed the river here- decades, if not the better part of a century, ago.

Less than an hour's paddling downstream from site #9 brought me to the upper side of High Falls. Along the way, I passed the county line- appropriately marked with a metal highway sign.

My goal for the night was High Falls Lean-to #1, which I still needed for the lean-to challenge. High Falls #1 is on river left and across the river from the hiking trail, normally only accessible by boat (in particularly low water one can hop across the river at High Falls where it channels into cracks in the rock outcrop, but this is not possible in normal conditions). I figured I'd be able to take out on the left bank and access the lean-to easily- but it turned out that there is no official portage trail on this side of the river, and I instead ended up portaging my canoe and gear down a faint and brushy herd path with some steep scrambles that were anything but easy with a canoe on my shoulders. I later realized that the easier option- which I should've taken but didn't- is to use the actual portage trail on river right, and then cross the river by boat below the falls to reach Lean-to #1 when coming from upstream.

In any case, I was soon setting up camp for the night in High Falls #1.

Once unpacked and moved into the lean-to, I took the time to poke around and explore a bit. I'd visited High Falls thrice before- once while backpacking the High Falls loop, once during a longer trip through the Five Ponds Wilderness, and once during a return trip to backpack the High Falls loop with a side trip to Sand Lake, but this was my first return visit to the area in nearly 9 years. High Falls itself was absolutely raging.

I also took the boat across the river to check out Lean-to #2 and the two nearby designated tent sites. This far side of the river- which is accessible from the CL50 via a short side trail- clearly gets more use than the boat-accessible only side, and High Falls in particular can be a popular spot to camp. There were also a few other fire pits scattered around (some legal, some not so legal, and one directly under a "no camping" sign), indicating that there's even periods where there is overflow traffic.

Just above the falls lies the remains of an old foot bridge foundation. This was once the northern terminus of the Red Horse Trail, a trail that connected the High Falls area with the northern shore of Stillwater Reservoir, far to the south. The southern 5 miles or so of this trail as far as Clear Lake still exists, but the connection between there and High Falls was abandoned decades ago. Interestingly, the name is a bit of an unintentional misnomer. It was not actually a horseback riding trail- but rather the name comes from rapids along the Robinson River, which take on the appearance of galloping red horses during high water due to the red hues of the tannin-laden water.

I soon returned to Lean-to #1 and spent a pleasant afternoon reading and hanging out in camp. At one point I heard the voices of hikers across the river back at Lean-to #2, but the noise quickly disappeared and it was soon apparent that they'd moved on.

Sunset over the river brought with it some nice contrast and I was able to snap a decent photo before turning in for the night.

The next morning I was on the river by 9:30, again paddling down stream. The water was still high and moving quickly in spots, and I was again forced to dodge the occasional rock as I made my way down the river.

No more than half an hour of paddling brought me to the bridge where the Five Ponds trail crosses the river. I remembered from my prior backpacking forays into the area that there were a few nice designated sites here so I decided to hop out and re-acquaint myself with them.

Site #25 was on river left, downstream of the bridge. This was a nice enough site in a stand of fir trees, but a bit lacking in level ground.

Site #23 was also on river left, but just upstream of the bridge. This is a nice, moderately-sized site with plenty of room, and a nice view of the river through the trees looking directly upstream. There were also remnants of an old wood stove in the site.

A short path continuing upstream from site #23 lead to site #22. This was a large site right on the bank of the river, again with some nice views out and over the river. This was clearly the party site of the bunch- the one most frequently occupied by larger groups (and I don't doubt that it has occasionally been used for a permit hunting camp).

The first two sites had the normal array of July bugs buzzing around- but weren't too bad. Somehow, despite being only a hundred feet away, site #22 was much, much worse in this regard- the deer flies here were downright vicious. I only spend the amount of time it took to snap a few pictures before retreating back to the bridge.

I knew that site #24 had to be close by somewhere (given the obvious gap in numbering between #23 and #25), but it took a few minutes to find it. Across to river right on the bridge, and up on a steep hill to the south of the trail was the arrow marker and wooden site number. I followed a faint and brushy path obscured with deep ferns up onto the top the hill where I found the site. It was a decently nice site- a grassy clearing in the forest- apart from being located further away from the river. It clearly gets less use and serves mainly as an overflow site for the occasional busy period when the other 3 sites across the river fill up.

Content with my campsite explorations for the time being, I returned to the river and continued on downstream.

Continued in next post...
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