Photo: Canoeing Adirondacks

Paddlers serenely glide beneath dark clouds and bright sunbeams on Lake Yellowstone.

Photograph courtesy of Raquette River Outfitters

By Jim Gorman and Robert Earle Howells

The uniquely American notion of wilderness protection took root in these black-water streams and humpbacked mountains in the 19th century, when New York State set aside large swaths of the Adirondacks as "forever wild." It turns out, "forever" is a mighty long time—and the wilderness is in constant need of tending. But thanks to recent efforts by conservation groups and the state, Adirondack Park is experiencing boom times.

Nearly one million acres have changed hands from private to public in the past ten years, including vital acquisitions that unlocked a grand flat-water paddling circuit nestled between the park’s marquee High Peaks and Five Ponds wildernesses. So new is this route that it has no official name and several of the portages, or "carries," are merely flagged with tape. With polished navigational skills and determination, paddlers enter a remote sanctuary where moose are staging a remarkable comeback, ferret-like fishers lope along lakeshores, and oversize coyotes, possibly crossbred with wolves, howl in the night.

Put in at the north end of island-studded Little Tupper Lake and proceed south to paddle the circuit clockwise. This gets the stiffest carries out of the way early. The route will take at least four days. Using marshy outflows, numerous ponds, and meandering brooks, you’ll string together Rock Pond, Lake Lila, languid Bog River, and Round Lake to return to Little Tupper. All of it, forever wild.

Need to Know: The Adirondack Paddler’s Guide and Map, by Dave Cilley (Paddle Sport Press, $45), is essential reading.

Originally published in the March/April 2009 edition of National Geographic Adventure magazine.


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