Kayaking Long Lake, NY

Sunrise over the Adirondacks

Although it is more populated than I prefer, Long Lake is a must-do trip that every paddler in upstate New York must journey.   For my trip, it provided everything from mist-covered glass-like water, two foot waves churned by 20-knot headwinds, spectacular waterfalls, and some of the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets I have seen in a long-time.  

Long Lake is appropriately named due its 14-mile length from its southern-most to northern-most tip.  Its spans a stretch between Raquette Lake to its south and Tupper Lake to its north.  Longer expeditions can incorporate Long Lake, the Raquette River, and Tupper and/or Saranac Lakes.

My trip started at about 0400 in the morning on 20 August.  Just driving in the Adirondacks region, I knew the trip would be scenic since I was compelled to pull over to take a picture of the sunrise over High Peaks.  

I put in at the state-run public launch situated about a third of the way from the southern end of the lake (just north of the bridge that bisects the lake).  The launch has plenty of parking and is rather popular due to location near the town of Long Lake and one of the only public options for putting any boat in on the lake.  

It takes a couple of miles of paddling north to where the summer homes on the lake thin out and it offers any sense of seclusion.  It was also at about this point where the lake fog became rather thick and faded the shoreline out - bolstering that atmosphere of isolation that only early hour paddling can provide.

I paddled from the put-in on Long Lake to the upper falls on the Raquette River, a 14.5-mile segment; 9-miles from the put-in to north end of the lake where the Raquette River begins to flow and 6-miles from the beginning of the river to the upper falls portage site.  There is an option of portaging about a mile to the other side of the falls to continue on the Raquette River to Tupper or Saranac Lake, but opted against this.  The portage site did, however, give me an opportunity to rest and poke around the falls.  

Lower Falls on the Raquette River

After my pitstop at the falls, I decided to head back to Long Lake and stake claim to one of several established campsites / lean-tos.  This leg of the journey proved challenging due to the upstream travel and the significant headwind that channeled down the river.  Where I had traveled over 5mph up to the falls, I averaged a mere 3mph going back with my GPS registering only 1-2mph in a few places.  

Sunset over Long Lake

Once I made it back onto Long Lake proper, luck on my trip continued as a family was just clearing out of the lean-to at Plumley Point.  I quickly established camp; that is to say I rolled out my ground pad and sleeping bag in the lean-to.  With my priorities of work complete, I took in a swim to cool off from the 80 degree heat and cloudless sky and then devoured a Mountain House meal made for two while watching the sunset and a deer that was grazing about 30-feet from my site.  

Once darkness arrived, I took a stab at some astrophotography.  While I personally feel my results were mediocre at best, in my defense, this was largely due to moon coming out and washing away any chance of getting the brilliance of the stars or the Milky Way (which would have been in the center of the lake at 0100 that morning).  Before it did come out, you can just make out traces of it on left edge of the image below.

 Night sky looking South down Long Lake

Night sky looking South down Long Lake

While the clear skies lasted through the night, calms winds did not.  I woke up around 0300 with the wind gusting at 20-30kts.  Checking the weather forecast (Long Lake is one of the few places I have Kayaked where I was able to get some cell reception), I saw rain was incoming and expected to arrive to the area around 0800-0900 in the morning.  Since I was awake, I decided to return to the launch and beat the wet weather.  

The strong winds were a challenge, but the moon illuminated the water like it were daytime.  It proved to be a unique paddling experience that I hope to do again (just hopefully in calmer winds).  And when the dawn arrived, it casted pink, magenta, purple, and orange hues across the sky that reflected on the water (see top photo) - giving me a stunning vista to take in.

Early Dawn on Long Lake