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Paddling guidebook highlights wild flatwater routes

November 14, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - For the News , Lake Placid News

Adirondack Explorer editor and Saranac Lake resident Phil Brown is plying new water with his recently published book, "Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures."

While a handful of Adirondack paddling guidebooks have been published over the years, none has the combination of being dedicated soley to the growing sport of flatwater canoeing and kayaking, and included trips throughout the entire Park, until now.

"Essentially, there's some good paddling books out there, but there was no guidebook that focused both on the entire Park and that just focused on flatwater paddling," Brown said. "There was a book that Barbara McMartin had done years ago (on flatwater paddling), kind of a slim book aimed at young adults. The Adirondack Mountain Club books split the Park up into sections, and they included whitewater and flatwater, and to my mind those are separate sports. Dave Cilley has a guidebook, but it doesn't cover the whole Park, and it covers whitewater and flatwater. It just seemed like there was a need."

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Published by the Adirondack Mountain Club and Lost Pond Press, which Brown founded in 2006, "Adirondack Paddling: Great Flatwater Adventures" is a full-color guidebook that highlights dozens of trips on the Park's lakes, ponds and rivers, with an eye toward wilderness paddling.

"Obviously you can go paddling on any of the big lakes, and you don't need me to tell you where the big lakes are, although there are some trips on big lakes in the book," Brown said. "But I think people are less familiar with smaller streams, smaller rivers, backcountry ponds - places like that, where you can get away from motorboats and development. I gravitated towards the wilder waterways."

The book divides the Park into four regions: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. Each of the 60 trips begins with a summary of its distance, any carries or shuttles involved, whether motorboats are allowed on the route, GPS coordinates for put-ins and takeouts and the name of the National Geographic map that covers the area. That's followed by a detailed narrative of the route, driving directions and color maps.

Each of the trips can be done in a single day (in some cases a long day), and there's an appendix that offers recommendations for multi-day trips.

Brown said he spent several years researching the book.

"I enjoyed doing it," he said. "I was able to see a lot of places that I might not have seen otherwise."

Asked to list a couple of his favorites, Brown named the East Branch of the St. Regis River, featured in the book's Northwest region.

"It's very accessible yet very wild when you get out there," he said. You can go upstream for a good 10 miles. That's a 20-mile round trip. It's a beautiful stream, it's wild. You can't ask for much more than that."

While not as wild as the East Branch of the St. Regis, Brown named a route in the Paul Smiths area, found in the book's Northeast region, as another favorite. The trip follows Jones Pond to Osgood Pond and then up the Osgood River before returning back to Osgood Pond and following a series of man-made canals to Church Pond.

"It's a trip with a lot of variety," Brown said. "You go through marshes, streams, some interesting habitat, what they call Canadian muskeg-bog habitat. Then you've got the these 19th-century, hand-dug canals at the end. It's like the finishing touch."

One feature of the book that's sure to generate some discussion among paddlers is a measurement that Brown invented called the "meander quotient." Described in length in an appendix, it's basically a measure of each river's twistiness.

"It was done mostly for fun," Brown said. "You hear people argue sometime about which river is twistier, like whether the Oswegatchie is twistier than the Schroon. I tried to measure that and find out. It's not meant to be scientific. It's just meant to provoke some discussion."

The Jordan River, near Carry Falls Reservoir in the St. Lawrence County town of Colton, had the highest meander quotient, using Brown's formula.

While his name is on the cover, Brown noted that the book is largely the work of a group of Saranac Lake residents. Lake Placid News Outdoors Writer Mike Lynch helped Brown research some of the routes, provided some of the photos and helped proofread. Sue Bibeau, who designs the Explorer, did the layout. Mary Thill did most of the copy editing, with help from with Explorer advertising director Betsy Dirnberger. Another Saranac Laker, Matt Paul, created the color maps.

Brown said the response to the book so far has been "very positive." He noted that he'll update it as the state acquires the former Finch Pruyn lands, which include several potential flatwater paddling opportunities like the Essex Chain of Lakes, Boreas Ponds and 14 miles of the Hudson River.

"Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures" is available on the ADK website,, and at the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid.



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