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Old 07-26-2010, 10:09 PM   #1
stripperguy
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Stillwater, Salmon, Clear, Witchhopple

Started out on a very rainy Friday at the boat launch on Stillwater Reservoir.



Between the high winds and heavy rain, and the fortunate timing, we decided to pay $8 each to get a shuttle on the tour boat. It rained on and off most of the day. The tour boat dropped us off near Big Burnt Lake.



We stayed at the Trout Lake leanto...in heavy rain we carried to Salmon Lake. In between downpours, we paddled to the head of the lake and past the 1st two beaver dams. At that point, my S-I-L decided to go for an impromptu swim, and we all decided to head back to the leanto so he could dry off and we could all eat dinner. We left the canoes at Salmon for the night.



Saturday morning we headed back to Salmon Lake and paddled up and past 6 beaver dams, finally taking out on the rt where a large deadfall completely blocked the stream. A short bushwhack up and over a ridge brought us to the Red Horse trail, about 1/2 mile from Witchhopple Lake. The lake is beautiful, even though we only paddled a little bit of it.




At Witchhopple, we met a dude from PA that had a Hornbeck and a hammock...he swamped going over the beaver dams and told us he would carry all the way out rather than battle the dams again. That was the only person we saw while there. The carry to Clear Lake is a little rougher than most trails, particularly wet around the end of Witchhopple Lake.



Clear Lake was...well...clear. The water was a cool carribean kind of blue-green. Maybe it was the weather, but none of us were really impressed.
So we carried back to Witchhopple and decided to try to navigate the outlet all the way back to Salmon. At the very 1st beaver dam, our buddy from South Africa decided to go for an impromptu swim.





We lined and drifted downstream for about 3/4 of a mile, until we were nearly at that deadfall where we stopped the upstream paddling. The deadfall had very deep water on both sides of it, and no easy access to the shore on either side. See how it's done...







We had a very quiet night and woke to a partly cloudy sky and no wind!!
The paddle out through Trout Lake was very pretty and easy.



And then we got out on the open part of Stillwater...I would not recommend open canoes for the uninitiated here... it gets pretty rough and the prevailing winds are in your face on the return to the boat launch. But the scenery, campsites and shoreline are gorgeous.





So that was it..a few days of fun and sweat. If I go back, I would spend more time at Witchhopple and less at Clear. But the paddle from Salmon to Witchhopple and back was great fun.

Oh, and we saw many of some kind of big bird...



Almost forgot, more photos are here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/tomaszew...StillwaterRes#

Last edited by stripperguy; 07-26-2010 at 10:26 PM.. Reason: Added link for photos
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Old 07-26-2010, 11:13 PM   #2
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great pictures! Looks like a great trip.
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Old 07-27-2010, 07:20 AM   #3
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I agree

The headwinds coming out of Stillwater are tough. I toughed it out once in the early '90s, but now I always paddle out just before dawn, and have avoided them.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:37 AM   #4
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Mike,


I envy you. That's a trip that haunts my dreams and that I intend to take. It's too bad the weather wasn't a bit more cooperative but your excellent pictures seem to indicate that you had a great time in spite of the rain.


You all seem to be substantial, solidly built guys, your boats sleek and slender, and the waters not particularly suited to flat-out cruising. In retrospect, do you think you might have been better off, and taken fewer spills, with a bit more beam and perhaps more reserve displacement? I ask because I'm currently giving thought to my next build, tend to lean toward sleek and efficient, and then worry about slender margins for error on solo trips.


By the way, that “some kind of big bird” is just a common scavenger of carrion—avoid paddling under them.


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Old 07-27-2010, 05:24 PM   #5
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Clear Lake was...well...clear. The water was a cool carribean kind of blue-green. Maybe it was the weather, but none of us were really impressed.
You hiked/paddled one of my favorite trails up the Red Horse. Clear Lake is quite mysterious. As you said the water is blue-ish, without any tinge of tannin whatsoever. You can see down many tens of feet unimpeded to boulders and ancient ghostly sunken trees below. The lake is completely dead without any flora or fauna life at all. But interesting nonetheless. If you go to the north end about 50 yards from shore where the ridge forms a kind of bowl around you, a whisper will be returned to you as an echo. A hop over a drainage to the northwest brings you in short order to Crooked Lake, and back to the usual type of Adirondack waters. Further north is the depths of the 1995 blowdown, with near 100% destruction still making travel difficult and dangerous.

It's really not a bad paddle from the dock to Big Burnt. Can be done in about 90 minutes even in a Hornbeck. But you are right, better be prepared and know how to handle the often high wind and waves upon the return trip. One of my favorite paddles of all time was in pea-soup fog starting from the launch. I could barely see the end of my canoe, certainly not anything beyond. I was immersed in my own little world. I just held a course with my compass at my feet to shoot between the islands and the shore. Five miles later the sun lifted the fog and I was right where I wanted to be.
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:59 PM   #6
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Bob,
One of the reasons we ventured there was your musings about various loops among those waters. And no, the rain didn't come into play much...the views would have been nicer, but I do love a sky with character. The heaviest rain fell while we carried, what better umbrella than a wood strip canoe!!
The boats-actually my South African buddy's canoe was referred to as "the war hammer", it was a bit heavy, tough to turn and once you got it going, tough to stop. It's nearly a USCA comp cruiser, but for a small deviation or two.
The impromptu swims were entertaining, even to those that took the dunkings. My son-in-law was bracing off the deep bottom for my benefit (which I didn't really need) when he ended up with his CG a bit too far outside of the boat. In a valiant otter type move, he made the sacrifice and flipped his legs out of my boat, saving my Nikon for sure. The other swim was just a result of fatigue or inattention, there was really no reason...he was already over the dam and safely in the boat. We all enjoyed it none the less.
The only other person we met dumped his Hornbeck and all his gear over one of those dams. I do believe that tandems have a distinct advantage passing over obstructions like beaver dams and dead fall snags. I paddle that DY Special solo mostly, and I'm not nearly so quick over obstructions as when I have a partner in the same boat. So no, I don't think we needed any more girth or freeboard, our two guys just needed a little more experience.

When you do go there, be sure to navigate all of Witchhopple Outlet, it's got a great feel to it with all the dead fall, riffles and beaver dams. When so much of life just blurs into oblivion, I expect those few hours we spent paddling that outlet will stick in my memory for the next 20 years or more.

Wldrns,
We did paddle most of Clear, and noticed the unique echo qualities...we didn't have enough time to venture beyond Clear...in retrospect, we should have spent more time on Witchhopple and gone to Beaverdam and Little Rock...I was told (a bit too late due to criss crossed emails) that there is a 5 foot high beaver dam between Witchhopple and Beaverdam-that must be quite a sight to see!!
On the return trip, we tried to take the direct route back to the boat launch through the largest water. While the whitecaps were small, the rollers were not. the closer we got to the biggest part of the reservoir, the closer the rollers got to coming over our bows. So we stayed away from the middle, and had smaller waves to contend with, but had to pay for that security with a longer distance paddled. I'd rather paddle an extra 15 minutes, than have to retrieve my gear and perform a wet entry in the middle of the reservoir. Maybe with a spray cover, or a little fuller bow, we could have cut right across the big stuff, but we had to work with the equipment that we brought.

As for paddling on that water in a heavy fog...I wouldn't do that! Those kayakers on Lake George just were run over by a motor boat on a clear day. Some of the folks I saw heading out in V hulls, pontoon boats and motorized rafts (yes, rafts!) clearly did not take any sort of safe boating courses or have much experience piloting a motor boat. I was uncomfortable around them in the broad daylight!
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Old 07-27-2010, 09:13 PM   #7
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Great trip report and we really enjoyed the pics!! Hope you guys wearing your PFDs on that return trip out!
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:38 PM   #8
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Wldrns,
We did paddle most of Clear, and noticed the unique echo qualities...we didn't have enough time to venture beyond Clear...in retrospect, we should have spent more time on Witchhopple and gone to Beaverdam and Little Rock...I was told (a bit too late due to criss crossed emails) that there is a 5 foot high beaver dam between Witchhopple and Beaverdam-that must be quite a sight to see!!
On the return trip, we tried to take the direct route back to the boat launch through the largest water. While the whitecaps were small, the rollers were not. the closer we got to the biggest part of the reservoir, the closer the rollers got to coming over our bows. So we stayed away from the middle, and had smaller waves to contend with, but had to pay for that security with a longer distance paddled. I'd rather paddle an extra 15 minutes, than have to retrieve my gear and perform a wet entry in the middle of the reservoir. Maybe with a spray cover, or a little fuller bow, we could have cut right across the big stuff, but we had to work with the equipment that we brought.

As for paddling on that water in a heavy fog...I wouldn't do that! Those kayakers on Lake George just were run over by a motor boat on a clear day. Some of the folks I saw heading out in V hulls, pontoon boats and motorized rafts (yes, rafts!) clearly did not take any sort of safe boating courses or have much experience piloting a motor boat. I was uncomfortable around them in the broad daylight!
Witchopple is a very nice paddle, and you begin to feel you are really alone out there. The passage to Beaverdam Pond is a channel winding through beaver meadow and weeds. A short take out or two as I recall. Prime moose country - look for tracks for sure. Over the dam into Beaverdam Pond itself did not impress me. I remember an unpleasant mucky landing on the east on my through to places beyond. Little Rock is better, I've circumnavigated around it on foot, though I've not paddled it.

I wasn't too worried about motorboats in the fog. Anyone would have to be nuts to be out in a boat in those conditions. There couldn't be 2 of us!! But otherwise I do know there is a curvy but very well defined route that the motorboats take to avoid submerged shoals. Stay far left or right of that in a canoe and you should be ok. It's amazing how your other senses are enhanced and you realize intense pleasures about paddling and navigating when vision beyond 10 feet is taken away.

Many years ago when I was much younger and quite inexperienced, I soloed a big 17 foot grumman canoe loaded with gear to the far reaches of Stillwater for a couple of days. I found myself in a driving wind and rainstorm on the day I was to paddle out. I rigged a spray cover from a tarp, but couldn't even muscle turn the boat to head into the wind after exiting a protected bay. I was smart enough to decide to remain and luckily my wife knew enough about my itinerary and my caution that I would stay put if the weather got bad. I survived an extra day enjoying fresh fish and bullfrog legs while waiting out the weather. Staying close to shore is definitely the way to go if conditions are marginal, but you will paddle a lot farther and safer that way.
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:02 PM   #9
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Stripperguy,

I think we crossed paths last Friday - we noted a vehicle with two nice cedarstrip canoes on top as we made our way out on the dirt road to Big Moose. Ours was the blue Pontiac Vibe with 2 strippers aboard. We spent Tues-Fri at Stillwater, paddled out as the rain was picking up. Good for you for carrying all the way in to Clear Lake! And thanks for the great photos and report on the Red Horse chain. We hiked (no canoes) to Witchhopple a few years ago, and I've been eying the map curiously wondering how those lakes would be to paddle. This time, we stayed at a site on the Reservoir and did a day trip through Raven, Lyons and Bear Ponds. I would rate it as just okay. Lyons was nice (nice rocks to jump in off of, and we had it to ourselves) but it's kind of a letdown to reach Bear Pond and see camps there (even if no-one was at home). The carry trails along that route seem improved from a few years ago when we tried it and got lost. They are now well marked and reasonably cleared the whole way. Next time, we are going to have to carry in to Salmon and Witchhopple - you have inspired us.
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:16 AM   #10
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Macfox,
I remember seeing a vehicle with 2 strip canoes on top on our way in...there were very few other vehicles and I remember those boats!
As far as paddling Witchhopple, it's easier than it seems. There's the 1st carry to Salmon, that's 1 mile with little elevation gain. Then the paddle up Salmon and Witchhopple Outlet, 6 beaver dams at the moment. If you continue upstream directly to Witchhopple, you'll spend 1/2 hour or so lining....or take out at that big log across the stream and pick up the trail. That requires a teeny bushwhack and maybe 1/2 carry. So for a total of 1 1/2 mile carry, you can spend most of your time on water and explore all of Witchhopple. I'd call that a bargain!!
Salmon had 2 adult and 2 juvenile loons, the connecting stream was delightfully pristine, and what we saw of Witchhopple was jaw dropping gorgeous!
Sorry to hear about Raven, Lyon and Bear...I was thinking about trying those out but now...maybe not.
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Old 07-29-2010, 09:12 AM   #11
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Sorry to hear about Raven, Lyon and Bear...I was thinking about trying those out but now...maybe not.
On the other hand you might rejoice compared to how it used to be in there. When I started exploring north of Stillwater many years ago, the "trail" was an active logging road with big trucks and heavy machinery rumbling down the road. Areas around and beyond Bear were off limits, as were what are now side-trails. Now at least there are large boulders blocking the way for motorized vehicles past Raven and the road is slowly being reclaimed by nature. The main path to Bear Lake will remain evident as a former road for a long time to come.

However, there are many side trails to explore, some quite old and overgrown log roads (with tall blackberry thorns, both yum and ouch) that randomly go nowhere in particular. Quite confusing as they may be, they are good for practicing navigation skills for those of us who care for such things without the crutch of a gps.

There are numerous other much lesser visited ponds in the area to explore as well, both east and west of the main haul road. Some are very worthy of carrying in a pack canoe. But I'll leave the description of those for the explorers among us to discover.
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Old 07-29-2010, 02:46 PM   #12
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Clear to Oswegotchie

Anyone have any thoughts or experience with trying to get from Clear with a pack canoe to the Oswegotchie. I think a Ranger once told me that there was a trail going that way in the 30's-40's but faded from lack of use and maintenance. At this point I don't know the route it took.
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Old 07-29-2010, 06:00 PM   #13
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Anyone have any thoughts or experience with trying to get from Clear with a pack canoe to the Oswegotchie. I think a Ranger once told me that there was a trail going that way in the 30's-40's but faded from lack of use and maintenance. At this point I don't know the route it took.
Gerry
Retired Ranger Terry Perkins (who lives right there at the Stillwater landing, actually on an island) has made that trip often, maybe almost annually. The old Red Horse Trail, that currently ends at Clear Lake is what you are probably referring to. It's a total bushwhack now from there north to the Oswegatchie and Five Ponds trails. North of Clear the 1995 blowdown was virtually 100%. I've spent some time in there, including a traverse with a Hornbeck from the Low's Lake/Oswegatchie trail via the headwaters of the Oswegatchie. I bushwhacked and pond hopped west through the heart of the blowdown to Witchhopple then down the trail to Stillwater. A great trip if you are into total isolation and rough going via some very interesting ponds.
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Old 07-29-2010, 10:12 PM   #14
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stripperguy...............any wildlife encountered - besides the eagle?
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Old 07-30-2010, 06:28 AM   #15
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poconoron,
yes...we saw several Bald Eagles, a few groups of Mergansers, quite a few Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, a Beaver, too many Loons to count, 2 does and 2 fawns, one of them nursing, a couple turtles, some little white faced mouse that was looking for a handout at the leanto, and a Chipmunk that was gnawing through our food bag...
And I just remembered, a Hummingbird at Salmon Lake, it actually perched on a tree limb for a moment, and then flitted away

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Old 08-15-2010, 05:43 PM   #16
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Mike,
You recommend paddling and lining from Salmon to Witchopple but make no specific suggestion for Trout to Salmon. Is that strictly a carry?
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Old 08-15-2010, 06:46 PM   #17
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Bob, From Trout Lake (it's really just a bay, those maps lie!) to Salmon Lake is strictly a carry, one mile on the nose. We saw one or two stillwaters along the way, but not nearly worth the effort of climbing in and out. The trail is in good shape, but the planking was extremely slippery for all of us. We had a side discussion about balance and reactions for us skiers and snowboarders vs others without the sliding/gliding experience...but that's another story altogether. Every single one of us slid multiple times on the placed wood. So, if it's wet when you go, watch your step!!
The paddle from Salmon to Witchhopple had 6 beaver dams to climb over. We took out at the dead fall tree upstream from the 6th beaver dam. It's a short bushwhack to the trail at that point, and thence another 0.50 mile to Witchhopple. On the return trip, we paddled (sort of) and lined the entire way back to Salmon. I think there were 2 more beaver dams right near Witchhopple. That section took about 45 minutes and was the highlight of the day for all of us, such a nice feel to that section of water.
I suppose you could line upstream as well, bit I'm not sure if that would be more or less effort than the bushwhack and carry. The outlet of Witchhopple was quite bony in spots, we had to lift the boats to clear some of the rocks. We had empty boats, with gear the the boniness would be more of a consideration. The dude we met at Witchhopple, in a fully loaded Hornbeck, was so traumatized by swamping over the dams on the way upstream, that he carried the entire distance between Witchhopple and Salmon on his way out.

Now, strictly an opinion from yours truly:
Unless you have lots and lots of time and energy, don't bother to carry to Clear. Concentrate on Witchhopple, Beaverdam and Little Rock. Unless, of course, you have some alternate, more ambitious plans.

From the sound of your questions, you must be going soon? Enjoy the trip, let me know if you need anything else...
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:01 PM   #18
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.......From the sound of your questions, you must be going soon? ...
Don't I wish!!!! When you're past the three-score-and-ten milestone and come down with Lyme, make no plans you wouldn't bet your sweetheart on.
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:06 PM   #19
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Wonder why it cost yall $8 apiece for the shuttle & it cost my friend, Bern $16 apiece to take the family to B.R. Station a couple weeks ago? .....kinda weird lol
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:10 PM   #20
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Doh- I just realized he had a return trip & you didn't. Color me dumb.
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