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Old 05-13-2020, 03:23 PM   #1
PA Kayaker
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Best resources and guidebooks for an ADK noob?

Hi all, first post on this forum. My wife and I are experienced kayakers and have recently relocated to the Philadelphia area from the Midwest. We have done a lot of paddling on the Great Lakes including several week-long trips to remote places like Isle Royale and Apostle Islands. We are now looking for a new place to plan our next wilderness kayaking trip and it looks like the Adirondack park is right up our alley.

There is a lot to be learned and the amount of information out there is a bit overwhelming. So my question is which guidebooks or resources would you recommend for someone to get familiar with the park and plan a remote paddling trip? Obviously this forum is a fantastic resource and I'll be reading back on a lot of the posts, but it is hard to know where to jump in with almost zero baseline knowledge.

When I search on Amazon there are literally hundreds of books on the Adirondacks. It looks like the Adirondack Paddler's Guide is a must-have -- are there any other must-have publications to get better acquainted with the history, layout and rules/regulations/policies of the park?

Also, what about maps? I've used the NatGeo Trails Illustrated maps for previous trips and they are very well-done. I see there are several for NatGeo maps for Adirondacks -- do I need them all? How do they compare to the Adirondack Paddler's Maps?

I see that there is another post a few down on remote paddling suggestions so that saves me from reposting that question! I am sure I will have more questions as I dig in but thanks for any advice. The planning is part of what makes these trips so much fun.
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Old 05-13-2020, 04:04 PM   #2
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Wihout question,Bill ingersoll's "Discover the Adirondack Series" of guidebooks. Pick up copies of areas you are interested in. They have very detailed trail descriptions, and lots of interesting history and stories of the areas as well. Available from local outlets and shops and directly here:

http://www.hiketheadirondacks.com/pa...ondacks_Series

Dave Cilley's "Adirondack Paddler's Guide: Finding Your Way by Canoe and Kayak in the Adirondack Park" and the accompanying map.

Phil Brown's "Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures"

Personally, I prefer to use actual USGS topo maps. I have hundreds, although in paper they have gotten rather expensive lately, but you can download them for free directly from USGS.gov, or go to caltopo.com to zero in to specific areas and print your own segments.
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Old 05-13-2020, 04:16 PM   #3
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Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, by Paul Jamieson and Donald Morris is a must have in addition to the Paddler's Guide. It's an older guidebook but it's got a lot of historical information to accompany the paddling descriptions.

The Nat Geo maps are not great for paddling navigation, at least in the Adirondacks. I'd stick with the Paddler's Maps from Paddlesports Press. One of the big advantages to the paddling maps over the Nat Geo maps is that the paddling maps show the location of designated tent sites (generally with a decent degree of accuracy, although I've noticed the occasional error in this regard so always have a backup plan just in case). Also, the paddling maps are better about identifying possible navigational hazards (rapids, low bridges, etc.) so you can better plan for these.

As far as regs go, you can view a summary of the most pertinent regulations on the DEC's website here. If you're the kind of person that likes to read the regulations themselves, then the full state land use regulations are available online here. The Paddler's Map does also contain a summary of the regulations printed on the map itself (and I'm sure they are probably also listed in the Adirondack Paddler's Guide). The most imporant regulations to be aware of are:
  • The 150 foot rule- within 150 feet of any roads, trails, or water sources you can only camp at an officially designated site, marked with a yellow plastic "Camp Here" disc. Note that this regulation is pretty strictly enforced in most areas- don't just assume that because a site appears to be well used that it is legal. Look for the "Camp Here" disc!
  • Overnight groups are limited to 9 (8 in some areas). For some areas, you can have an overnight group of up to 12 with a permit from the DEC.
  • Occupancy of any single tent site or shelter site is limited to 3 consecutive nights. For most areas, you can get a permit to occupy a site for up to 2 weeks from the DEC (permits for longer occupancy are also available during hunting season in the fall).
  • Tents and hammocks cannot be pitched inside of, or adjacent to any lean-to/backcountry shelter. If you're camped at a lean-to/shelter site, all occupants must sleep inside of the shelter. Bug nets are permitted inside the shelters provided that they don't use a frame.
Lastly, while it's not a regulation, keep in mind that lean-tos are intended to be shared between groups until they are full. One single group cannot claim exclusive use of a lean-to unless that group alone fills the lean-to to capacity. The advertised capacity of most lean-tos is 8 people, realistically in the summer the actual capacity can be anywhere from 6 to 8 people depending on the size of the lean-to.
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Old 05-13-2020, 04:25 PM   #4
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DSettahr has lots of additional good information. I almost forgot about the Jamieson book, the first edition was my first paddling guide. Heed well the DEC regulations and guidelines (to include Leave No Trace), DEC rangers are serious about them. Unsaid is that it is legal in most areas on most state lands (with some exceptions) to primitive camp anywhere if you are more than 150 feet from any roads, trails and waterways. Just be extra sure to follow LNT principles if you do.
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Old 05-13-2020, 05:22 PM   #5
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Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Kayaker,
Wldrns and Dsettahr have pretty much covered all the best guidebooks. This forum is likely the best source for info about the ADK's, but you can't carry it in the wilderness!
Isle Royale must have been really cool, have any photos to share?

Much of the best paddling (and camping), IMHO, involves at least some carrying. How heavy are those kayaks? A couple of lightweight packboats work quite well here, or a lightweight tandem canoe. Some of my favorite paddling requires lifting up and over beaver dams, sometimes 20 or more. A canoe is much easier to jump in and out of...


Here's my reply from that other thread:

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Originally Posted by stripperguy View Post
OK, do you prefer small water? Nevermind, who doesn't?
Early June is generally not so crowded...be prepared for black flies.

Lake Lila to Bog River via Harrington is a cool trip, but requires a car shuttle.
Or just Lows Lake via the Bog and Hitchins Pond.

Little Tupper to Lake Lila can be done with a bike shuttle, but carries are a bit over your preferred limit.

Anywhere in the St Regis area is nice, carries are mostly short. Long Pond is a relaxed trip, with a side trip up Long Pond Mt.

Essex Chain Lakes and a trip down the Chain Drain, while campfires are still banned at lakeside sites, there are other spots to camp. You can also spend some time on the Rock and Cedar rivers.

Cedar River Flow, although small motors are allowed, it's generally quiet once you're away from the put in sites. There's the added bonus of a resident moose, maybe you'll get lucky.

More details about any of these can be had for the asking.
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Old 05-13-2020, 06:00 PM   #6
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I would go to the Saint Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake (www.canoeoutfitters.com). They can give you information, sell you the proper maps, and rent you boats. They have an outpost on Floodwood pond and you can rent there (or, if you want to bring your own boats, you can put in there). I'm not too familiar with the SW Adirondacks, but I understand the Old Forge area is also a great canoeing center, and is probably closer to Philly (or perhaps not).
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Old 05-13-2020, 06:20 PM   #7
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SW Adirondacks, home of the village of Old Forge. It is the beginning of the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic, otherwise known as the "90 miler" race, officially 3 days to Saranac Lake (but off race it can unofficially be completed in a single day). OF is Also the beginning of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, over 700 miles, ending at Fort Kent Maine. A huge source of all things canoes and kayaks is in Old Forge, Mountainman Outdoors
http://www.mountainmanoutdoors.com

While I am at it I must also mention, in addition to Dave Cilley's St. Regis Outfitters referenced above, a couple of others, but by no means all there is.

https://raquetteriveroutfitters.com in Tupper Lake is another good one,

As is Brian (Mac) and Grace at https://www.macscanoeadk.com in Lake Clear.
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, by Paul Jamieson and Donald Morris is a must have in addition to the Paddler's Guide. It's an older guidebook but it's got a lot of historical information to accompany the paddling descriptions.

The Nat Geo maps are not great for paddling navigation, at least in the Adirondacks. I'd stick with the Paddler's Maps from Paddlesports Press. One of the big advantages to the paddling maps over the Nat Geo maps is that the paddling maps show the location of designated tent sites (generally with a decent degree of accuracy, although I've noticed the occasional error in this regard so always have a backup plan just in case). Also, the paddling maps are better about identifying possible navigational hazards (rapids, low bridges, etc.) so you can better plan for these.

As far as regs go, you can view a summary of the most pertinent regulations on the DEC's website here. If you're the kind of person that likes to read the regulations themselves, then the full state land use regulations are available online here. The Paddler's Map does also contain a summary of the regulations printed on the map itself (and I'm sure they are probably also listed in the Adirondack Paddler's Guide). The most imporant regulations to be aware of are:
  • The 150 foot rule- within 150 feet of any roads, trails, or water sources you can only camp at an officially designated site, marked with a yellow plastic "Camp Here" disc. Note that this regulation is pretty strictly enforced in most areas- don't just assume that because a site appears to be well used that it is legal. Look for the "Camp Here" disc!
  • Overnight groups are limited to 9 (8 in some areas). For some areas, you can have an overnight group of up to 12 with a permit from the DEC.
  • Occupancy of any single tent site or shelter site is limited to 3 consecutive nights. For most areas, you can get a permit to occupy a site for up to 2 weeks from the DEC (permits for longer occupancy are also available during hunting season in the fall).
  • Tents and hammocks cannot be pitched inside of, or adjacent to any lean-to/backcountry shelter. If you're camped at a lean-to/shelter site, all occupants must sleep inside of the shelter. Bug nets are permitted inside the shelters provided that they don't use a frame.
Lastly, while it's not a regulation, keep in mind that lean-tos are intended to be shared between groups until they are full. One single group cannot claim exclusive use of a lean-to unless that group alone fills the lean-to to capacity. The advertised capacity of most lean-tos is 8 people, realistically in the summer the actual capacity can be anywhere from 6 to 8 people depending on the size of the lean-to.
Awesome, thanks for details guys. I've just ordered Phil Brown's Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures (no longer available on Amazon, but found it on Barnes and Noble) and Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow used from Amazon. I'll call St Regis Canoe Outfitters tomorrow to order the Adirondack Paddler's Map & Guidebook.

Thanks for the tips on the maps also! And it sounds like the rules on tent sites and shelters are similar to those at Isle Royale. We are pretty familiar with LNT; in fact when you get to Isle Royale as soon as you get off the ferry they require you to listen to a lecture on LNT, regardless of how many times you've been there before (and listened to the same lecture).
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Old 05-13-2020, 11:04 PM   #9
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Isle Royale must have been really cool, have any photos to share?
Isle Royale is a pretty amazing place. It is one of the least visited national parks (it's not easy to get to), yet has one of the highest return rates and longest average stay. In other words, once you experience IR, it keeps calling you back. My wife and I have taken five trips there.

I've got tons of pictures, but here are few good ones:













Also, here is what the shelters at IR look like. They are mostly only at campsites on Lake Superior (as opposed to inland sites). They are actually screened in, so when you can score one of these it's a lifesaver from bugs. From DSettahr's response, it sounds like the ones in Adirondacks are not enclosed...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by stripperguy View Post
Much of the best paddling (and camping), IMHO, involves at least some carrying. How heavy are those kayaks? A couple of lightweight packboats work quite well here, or a lightweight tandem canoe. Some of my favorite paddling requires lifting up and over beaver dams, sometimes 20 or more. A canoe is much easier to jump in and out of...
Mine is 55 lbs and my wife's is around 40. We have done a fair amount of portaging, and while we don't enjoy it, we realize it is often the price of admission for the best locations. At IR, any type of wheeled carts are not allowed, so you've got to carry your boat. Here's a carrying pack I made to make that easier:



However, we also have wheeled carts from NRS that break down and stow into the hatches. We've used these on other trips (in Canada) and they make portaging significantly easier. Sounds like these are OK to use in the Adirondacks?


Thanks again for all the insights.

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Old 05-14-2020, 07:14 AM   #10
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I believe carts are ok but the carries I have been on in ADK's may not be 100% cart friendly. Yours seem small enough that it looks like you could lift them with the boat.

The beaver dam thing may be more challenging. I have crossed them with canoe and a small 12' sail/oar boat. Usually it is thus: push bow up against dam, move to bow and exit boat, haul boat over dam and re-enter. On a sea kayak of course this is challenging. Some channels are not wide enough for you to parallel park you kayak close to something solid enough to step out on. I sometimes wear shin high rubber boots. My Teva Sandals are great but when standing on a beaver dam you are standing on a bunch of pointed ended sticks glued together with mud. The occasional scratch happens.

I have run into dams on outlets from both Cedar River Flow and Little Tupper Lake but both of those are plenty big to explore and camp with a kayak even if you can't drag it over the dams. And a sea kayak such as yours would be advantageous on Little Tupper which gets windy.
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Old 05-14-2020, 09:09 AM   #11
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To follow up on my earlier recommendation of St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, after I posted it, I actually connected to their site (www.canoeoutfitters.com). If you haven't already done so, look at that site; there's a very good list of the various areas they serve, with excellent images.
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Old 05-14-2020, 09:29 AM   #12
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As Stripperguy indicated, the Adirondack region is canoe country with many portages ("carries" in the local vernacular) for longer distance travel or to get to the more remote and interesting lakes and ponds. Kayaks are notoriously difficult to carry, though you seem to have a modified "knupac" method that should work well. Wheeled carts are definitely allowed and popular anywhere you might like to attempt to use them, but are not always functional or practical on some of our trails. There are many protruding rocks, roots, and humps that make carts frustrating to use, especially low slung carts with longer boats or if they have a continuous axle that goes wheel to wheel, as it gets caught on those obstacles as you attempt to wheel over them.
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Old 05-14-2020, 09:46 AM   #13
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Yes, portage carts are allowed- even in Wilderness Areas within the Adirondack State Park.

Unlike the federal gov't, which does not distinguish between bicycles and carts with regards to Wilderness Area regulations (and prohibits the use of both in federal Wilderness Areas), NY State does consider the two to be different. So in our state Wilderness Areas, carts are allowed while bicycles are not. And not just portage carts either- game carts, wheel barrows (I've seen groups using them), etc., are all ok in our state-designated Wilderness Areas.

Whether a portage trail is actually wheel-able or not is another matter entirely. YMMV on this. If it's a longer portage, it may be worth doing some research on the route in advance to make this determination before you show up in a canoe/kayak.
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:44 AM   #14
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You are correct that lean-to's in the Adirondacks are not enclosed. Depending on weather, location, and numerous other factors bugs may be fierce from now into August. I'd recommend a head net. You could use an insect shield (bug net) in the lean-to, but as someone said, it may not have a frame.
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
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Also, here is what the shelters at IR look like. They are mostly only at campsites on Lake Superior (as opposed to inland sites). They are actually screened in, so when you can score one of these it's a lifesaver from bugs. From DSettahr's response, it sounds like the ones in Adirondacks are not enclosed...?
Yeah, like mmaute says, they're open in the front. The "Adirondack" design that is most commonly used in the Adirondacks (and Catskills) is a bit more rustic than the one in your photo. For a good sense of what most of them look like, you can check out this thread containing a photo collection of some 273 lean-tos located across NY State.

Just how bad the bugs are varies quite a bit, on the specific location, the time of year, and the climatic conditions (wetter years usually mean worse bugs). For most of the Adirondacks, bugs are a mid-May through mid-August concern (but they can last later at lower elevations). FWIW, I've had trips in June where I slept fine in a lean-to without a bug net, and I've had trips in September where I wouldn't have been caught dead without my bug net while sleeping in a lean-to.

Some folks will carry a big sheet of bug netting and throw it across the front of the lean-to... which I've generally suspected really isn't all that effective (many of the lean-tos have lots of other smaller holes that bugs can still use to get in). Also, while tarps and nets across the front of the lean-tos is fine, you're not supposed to use nails/staples to affix them, so you'd have to tie it off with string.

What I do is carry a bug bivy- I have a solo bug bivy that I use if I'm traveling alone, and a 2 person bug house that I'll use if I'm traveling with a partner. If I end up camping at a tent site, I'll just use the bug bivy/bug house in combination with a tarp- that way I'm not carry both the bug netting and a tent.

One other word of warning about bugs- I'm sure you've encountered "no-see-ums" on paddling trips elsewhere. We do get them pretty bad in parts of the Adirondacks, so it's always a good idea to make sure that bug netting is no-see-um proof.

It also worth mentioning that most lean-tos tend to be pretty popular, and they are all first-come, first-serve (with a few exceptions of reservable boat-access lean-tos in some of the campgrounds- but these aren't too common). So it's always good to have a backup plan for when the lean-to you wanted is already occupied and you're forced to pick a nearby tent site instead.
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Old 05-14-2020, 12:50 PM   #16
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What I do is carry a bug bivy- I have a solo bug bivy that I use if I'm traveling alone, and a 2 person bug house that I'll use if I'm traveling with a partner. If I end up camping at a tent site, I'll just use the bug bivy/bug house in combination with a tarp- that way I'm not carry both the bug netting and a tent.
Thanks. Awesome, more gear to buy; I always need a reason. We have head nets that we've used in really buggy places but have always slept in a tent or screened-in lean-to. We discovered the Thermacell several years ago which has been a god-send but isn't really a long-term solution.
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Old 05-14-2020, 01:25 PM   #17
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you will always find the wind will change to blow in the wrong direction when you set out a Thermacell.
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Old 05-14-2020, 01:44 PM   #18
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You look pretty tall, so you may have been a victim of this trick. When the black flies get intolerable, find the tallest guy in camp. Sidle up close to him (post Covid-10), making idle conversation, maybe stand a little low in a depression if you can. Try not to be too obvious with bending at the knees. Knowing that the flies always head for the highest point victim, after they have all left your immediate vicinity you can slip away for a minute or two of relief.
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Old 05-14-2020, 02:46 PM   #19
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Thanks. Awesome, more gear to buy; I always need a reason. We have head nets that we've used in really buggy places but have always slept in a tent or screened-in lean-to. We discovered the Thermacell several years ago which has been a god-send but isn't really a long-term solution.
You can also just plan to avoid lean-tos, at least during bug season (and even during the height of the summer tourist season, which lasts through Labor Day). You wouldn't be alone in this- there's a number of folks in the community that generally avoid the lean-tos as a rule.

Tent sites do have their advantages- they're usually less likely to already be occupied, they usually have more firewood in the vicinity, they're less likely to be trashed (and less likely to have resident rodent populations that will chew through your gear).

In contrast, lean-tos are more likely to be heavily used than tent sites... and unfortunately, more likely to be abused. There's a few lean-tos even that are so popular, they will go weeks at a time without being unoccupied for even a single night. As soon as one group moves out and the lean-to becomes available, another group will move in (even if they were already setup elsewhere nearby and moving means breaking down camp and setting it up again). No exaggeration: I once even watched a group swim across a lake (with their overnight gear) to snag an open lean-to because they were afraid if they took the time to hike around, it would already be occupied by the time they got there.

It's usually a good idea to assume that any of the more accessible lean-tos are at least occasional party spots. This includes especially any lean-to that is accessible by motor boat, as well as lean-tos that are less than 5 miles by trail from the nearest road. Paddling can be a bit more variable, especially if there's portages- like I stated above, multiple portages tend to keep the more rambunctious crowds away.

I will also add that while some paddling routes in the Adirondacks (like the ADK section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail) have an abundance of lean-tos, others have only a few (like the St. Regis Canoe Area) or none at all (like Low's Lake).

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Knowing that the flies always head for the highest point victim, after they have all left your immediate vicinity you can slip away for a minute or two of relief.
I remember when I worked at a summer camp, we'd walk everywhere with shovels held upright, with the blades over our heads. We found that with the blade of a shovel held above, the deer flies always went above your head to the blade, rather than at your head.
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Old 05-14-2020, 03:07 PM   #20
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Thanks. Awesome, more gear to buy; I always need a reason. We have head nets that we've used in really buggy places but have always slept in a tent or screened-in lean-to. We discovered the Thermacell several years ago which has been a god-send but isn't really a long-term solution.
I've used a sea to summit mosquito shelter in lean-to's with decent success. I think they also have a two person version.

https://seatosummitusa.com/products/...-insect-shield
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