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Old 02-22-2021, 09:05 PM   #41
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,208
A few questions:
  • Would you be paddling with another person?
  • Is it a beefier portage cart with mountain bike-like tires that can handle rougher terrain?
  • Can the portage cart strap on at or close to the center of the canoe so that it can take all (or nearly all) of the weight?
  • Will you be carrying lots of pain killers? Whether in pill form (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) or liquid form (alcohol).
  • Are you a masochist?
The more of the above questions that you can answer "yes" to, the more doable it is.

Little Tupper, Lila, Lows, and the lower Owegatchie can individually all be enjoyed pretty readily via aluminum canoe. Each has enough to offer by itself that it could probably keep you busy for a weekend. Some considerations:
  • Little Tupper can get windy in the afternoon. Trying to paddle west up the lake against the headwinds solo and in a larger canoe could be a bit of a challenge. This is a good one to get an early start on if heading west up the lake.
  • Lila does have the 0.3 mile portage from the parking area to the put in.
  • Lows has 1 short portage around the Upper Dam, but even if it takes 10 trips back and forth to shuttle gear this portage is no big challenge. At low water, there is also another very short portage around a piece of floating bog mat jammed in the outlet.
  • Beaver dams become more prevalent the further up the Oswegatchie you travel. The lower stretch isn't too bad- but you can count on crossing quite a few of them to get even as far as High Falls. I would suggest paddling as far upstream with overnight gear as you like, grabbing a tent site and setting up base camp, and exploring further upstream via day trips from camp.
In terms of trying to do a longer traverse with an aluminum canoe... I think the stretch I would pick personally would be the Low's-Oswegatchie Traverse. The portage trails between Lows and Big Deer Pond and the Oswegatchie Headwaters were in the best shape overall out of all of the portage trails- and probably the most friendly to a portage cart as well. You'd still have epic numbers of beaver dams to deal with- but at least by going from Lows you'd be pulling your canoe over and down the dams, rather than up.

Little Tupper to Lila is probably doable, but the beaver activity on the Rock Pond to Hardigan Pond portage would make it kind of tough to do with a heavier boat- whether on your back or on a cart.

I would very much not want to do the Lila to Harrington Brook portage with a heavier canoe, due to the rough shape of that portage trail. As it was with a lightweight canoe- and with making separate trips, one for the canoe and one for gear- I was still pretty wary about twisting an ankle.

FWIW, though: My friends and I have often talked about doing a paddling trip for our annual backcountry get together. And in our discussions of potential trips, the Lows-Oswegatchie Traverse has nearly always been on the short list of options. But we tend to be a bit larger of a group, and not everyone owns their own canoe- so it's almost certain that we'd have 1 or 2 aluminum canoes in our flotilla. Even with the understanding that all group members are responsible for helping to get all boats over any portage, I still can't help but expect that the Big Deer to Oswegatchie Headwaters portage in particular would likely be an all day affair for us.
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