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Paddle through time on Seven Carries

November 17, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

PAUL SMITHS - It was cool and overcast, with a little mist falling as we launched the canoe on Little Green Pond near the state fish hatchery in Lake Clear.

The weather was quintessential fall, and with more than 9 miles to paddle and short days upon us, my uncle and I set out to paddle back to my car at Paul Smith's College, following the historic Seven Carries canoe route.

Tracing the route that people have been using for generations, we glided through the water to our first carry of the day, from Little Green Pond to Little Clear Pond, after just a couple minutes of paddling. We had considered launching on Little Clear, but that would have deprived us of one of the carries, and no one is impressed if you do a non-existent route called the Six Carries.

Article Photos

Bog Pond’s beauty is seen here in late October. The pond is the smallest among 10 bodies of water the Seven Carries canoe route passes through.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

The Seven Carries canoe route has a long history, and is quite fabled among paddlers. Originally, the route was a way for guests to go between two of the most popular hotels of the area, Paul Smith's and Saranac Inn.

The Seven Carries was so well known during the heyday of the great Adirondack hotels that the New York Times provided updates on who was at the hotels and whether or not they had paddled the route.

"Delightful weather and picnic parties have been the features of the closing days of July at Saranac Lake Inn on Upper Saranac Lake, where formal modes of entertainment are tabooed, and one leads the simple life," an article in the Times from August 1906 opens.

"Mr. and Mrs. William Barnum, accompanied by their guests, Mr. and Mrs. Julian W. Curtis, Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Levering, and Phelps Barnum made the trip from Upper St. Regis Lake to Saranac Inn by way of the seven carries and returned by the two-carry route."

That same article mentioned a rather famous guest, Mrs. W. Sheffield Cowles, "a sister of President (Theordore) Roosevelt, and an expert fisherwoman," noting that she was scheduled to spend August at the hotel.

Although neither hotel exists anymore, the canoe route is still an enjoyable paddle. Paul Smith's hotel burned down in 1930, but has been replaced by the college that bears his name. Saranac Inn is no longer a hotel and casino, but now sports a public golf course and restaurant.

Despite the number of carries, only one of them is on the longish side, while most are only a few hundred feet. The same goes for some of the ponds. For instance, Bog Pond, right in the middle of the route, took us just about five minutes to paddle across. And from the boat, we could see Upper St. Regis Lake.

After much discussion, my uncle Brad and I decided to tackle the longest carry earlier rather than later, so after paddling Little Clear Pond, we made the longest land trek of the day to St. Regis Pond.

There is no fishing on Little Clear Pond, since the state Department of Environmental Conservation uses the pond to raise fish stock, but after Little Clear, you're free to fish to your heart's content. Provided you don't break any special regulation or exceed the catch limit, of course.

St. Regis Pond is the longest pond of the route, and there was a little wind kicking up some ripples, but nothing serious. From St. Regis, you hop to Green Pond, then on to Little Long Pond.

Campsites and lean-tos dot the shorelines of most of the ponds, and Brad and I scoped out clusters of sites that would be great for group camping. Of course, since it was late October, no one was out camping, but we did see a trio of guys in blaze orange paddling past us in the other direction on St. Regis Pond.

Once you skip through Bog Pond, the canoe route hits the biggest lakes of the day, Upper and Lower St. Regis Lakes and Spitfire Lake between them.

Paddling on Upper St. Regis, we fought a bit of a headwind, but marveled at the great and not-so-great camps on the lake. From island cabins to mansions that hang out over the water, these lakes are an architect's and historian's dream come true.

We made our way through the slough between Upper and Spitfire, and quickly came upon Rabbit Island, a tiny little spit of rock with a handful of trees on it that played a huge roll in the study of tuberculosis.

Dr. E. L. Trudeau had a camp near the island, and used it in an experiment on the disease he had moved to the area to escape.

Trudeau infected a number of rabbits with tuberculosis, and kept half in captivity, while the rest were set free on the little island.

"On the island, however, all of the rabbits thrived, despite their infection," according to Historic Saranac Lake. Trudeau published the results of his experiment in 1887 in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, arguing that fresh air, rest and moderate exercise could slow or halt progression of the disease. There is a plaque on the island commemorating Trudeau and his experiment.

We made our way through Spitfire and were soon able to see the buildings of Paul Smith's College on the other side of a large marsh. Winding through the open channel of the marsh, Brad and I could see our alma mater in all of its glory.

And even though the relatively new student center and library dominated the view, the old cottages of the rich and famous, people who had made huge contributions to American history and had possibly done the same exact paddle we had, stood to our left as we reached the shore, a silent reminder of the history we were sharing.



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