Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Bog River Flow

Hitchins Pond has always been a favorite place to paddle for me. It's a relatively small impoundment that can barely take a day to explore, but it's filled with wildlife including bald eagle, loon, beaver, heron, bear, and many others. We've personally seen all but bear on Hitchins. The rocky shores, narrow channels, marshy plains, mountain views and the meandering nature of Hitchins makes it a fun place to paddle.

Our weekend on the Bog River Flow was as good as it gets. Despite the packed parking lot at the put-in Friday night, there were few people actually seen on the water either paddling or camping.

We put in at 5am Saturday and paddled 17 miles by 4pm. Putting in at 5am is a lot different than starting a hike at that time. The water is so peaceful and combined with the mist makes your first strokes seem dream like.

I'd guess it's similar to making first tracks on a powdery downhill run after a fresh snowfall. You almost feel as though the water is waiting for you to break it's surface with a paddle stroke, while seemingly effortlessly gliding on the glassy surface. Hiking in comparison makes you work for every step from the start.

In the process of getting a full days paddling in and finding a campsite by 4pm, we secured one of the finest campsites on Lows Lake. A beautiful island covered in blueberry and raspberry bushes, with two sandy beaches and a view towards the western half of the lake, the mountainous north shore, and mid-summers northwestern sunset.

A weekend forecast that called for rain, but never dripped a drop, meant we had the entirety of the Bog River Flow to ourselves, aside from a swimming bear, and the loons.

Lows Lake has the second highest concentration of nesting loon pairs of any NY body of water. Something that became quite evident Saturday night as I watched the golden orange 1/2 moon set in the western sky while laying by the dying camp fire. It was like a loon party, with hoots, wails, yodels and tremolos coming from all directions.

Sunday after a late breakfast of fresh berries picked from the island, some lounging around and a family swim, we left our wonderful camping home and paddled across Lows Lake to Grass Mountain.

A steep 30 minutes later we were on the 2200ft summit of Grass Mountain, looking down at the lake, our boat, and out at the panorama of the Adirondacks, including the eastern High peaks.

While it can be said that the Adirondacks are no more than a weekend wilderness, the fact that there aren't any places to get away is misunderstood. I've heard people say, "the Adirondacks are no more remote than Ohio."

I have to disagree with that. Few places in the US are more wild today than 100 years ago. The state continually buys land from the big paper companies as it becomes available, and almost yearly a major conservation easement is signed opening up land for the public to use. The patchwork of public and private land that makes up the area within the Blue Line is getting less and less patchy.

Gov. Pataki's administration was able to secure over 800,000 acres of additional land during his terms (falling short of his ambitious goal of 1 million). Cell phones still don't work, many of the paddling routes never see a road or town, and there is the ability to string together large routes taking days or weeks to essentially navigate the whole park in a traverse.

While I would classify very few Adirondack adventures as truly remote, you definitely can be far enough from the real world to make it feel a whole lot wilder than it is. And certainly, the Adirondacks are no less remote than Algonquin in Ontario which is overused and over regulated.

Paddling into the Five Ponds Wilderness via the Bog River Flow is a perfect example. From Lows Lower Dam to the western edge of Lows Lake is a continuous 14.5 mile wilderness paddle, with only one short portage from Hitchins Pond to Lows Upper Dam. Another 3 mile portage takes you into the Five Ponds Wilderness and the Oswegatchie River where you can paddle nearly 16 more miles, all while gaining access to one of the more remote sections of the park.

The Five Ponds Wilderness is over 107,000 acres and contains some of the largest untouched old growth in the United States. I've personally never seen pines as big as those in the Five Ponds, where the White Pines are often as big as they can naturally grow. Having made it hundreds of years without the chop of a loggers ax, these pines are truly astonishing.

The Bog River impoundment which forms the Bog River Flow, includes Hitchins Pond, Lows Lake, and Bog Lake, can take several days to explore. It is ringed with rocky peaked mountains on the north shore which can be summited for excellent views of the impoundment, as well as views of the High Peaks Wilderness to the east.

While Lows Lake isn't necessarily my favorite place to paddle, the mountains and view points offer rewarding views not often part of a paddling trip. Getting out of the boat and hiking 1000ft to the summit of a mountain with a 300* panorama is a true reward.

From the Bog River Flow it is also possible to portage and paddle into the Whitney Canoe Area and Like Lila Primitive area via the Bog Lake. These areas all offer thousands of acres of wilderness paddling and 50+ additional miles of paddling if one continues down the Beaver River into the Stillwater Reservoir.

So while the Adirondacks might not be remote, they certainly are America's premier weekend wilderness.

Blogged with Flock


  1. Ahhh - those berries... Why there's no blue/rasp berries in CA? Unfortunately by the time I get to the East Coast to Princeton the season will be over. Well, at least we can go climbing - Gunks and Seneca, Adirondacks and the Whites. Or maybe some paddling?

  2. hey, paddling is good if you are burned out of climbing...nice change of pace. fall is excellent.

    of course I will gladly climb as well.

    I've actually got a free weekend the 3rd weekend of September, perfect paddling weather!!!

  3. We're planning an early August trip on the Bog River/Lows Lake. Can you remember what number campsite you stayed - the island with two sandy beaches, etc.?

    Beautiful images and an advetnure nicely told.


  4. This area is great, but it has become popular as of late. We go every year and Aug 2009/2008 all the camps where full. It was never this populated. Oh well it is still a nice canoe/camp. Fishin is so-so.

  5. My son and I just returned from a four day canoe trip in the Bog River Flow and lows lake including a side trip to Clear Pond. The place is dream like and beautiful. Hiked up low ridge for a view of the entire area. Breathtaking!! Caught plenty of bass at Clear Pond. 8/17/10