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Adirondack camping season gets underway

Wilmington Notch campground opens Friday

May 4, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

FISH CREEK - Despite some snow at the beginning of the month, the camping season officially kicked off a few weeks ago when Fish Creek campground opened its gates on April 7.

Fish Creek, situated between Lake Clear and Tupper Lake on state Route 30, is the largest campground the state Department of Environmental Conservation operates in the Adirondacks. It is also open the longest each season, with camping allowed from the beginning of April until after Columbus Day in October.

Most other DEC campgrounds open on May 19 - in time for Canada's Victoria Day and before Memorial Day weekend. Wilmington Notch campground, near Whiteface Mountain, opens earlier, on Friday, May 5.

Article Photos

Men relax at a campsite at Fish Creek Campground in May 2016.
(News photo — Justin A. Levine)

Fish Creek has 355 campsites, dozens of bathrooms, a shower building, dumping station, multiple garbage and recycling centers and at the height of the summer, may have upward of 2,000 people staying there.

The Fish Creek caretaker, Jesse Gonyea, has worked in DEC campgrounds for more than a decade and has been in charge of those at Lake Eaton and Rollins Pond before taking over the helm of the state's flagship Adirondack campground last summer.

Gonyea said despite the weather opening weekend, there were still some stalwarts staying there.

"It was slow, but there were campers," Gonyea said. "It snowed Friday night, (but) I want to say we had probably five campers in here."

The campground opens in stages as seasonal staff is brought on, and there are about 50 sites open for camping now.

Gonyea said that during the week there may only be one or two campers, but had 10 reservations slated to arrive this past Friday. He also expected some campers without reservations to show up as well.

Gonyea said there weren't any hiccups while getting the park ready to open, and even though there was still snow on the ground opening day, the park's water and sewer systems hadn't suffered any breaks over the winter.

He said the second weekend of camping was busier, with more than a dozen sites occupied.

Gonyea said that running the most recognizable public campground in the Adirondacks can cause a little bit of stress.

"Just with getting the kinks out of the system, we're like the dummy campground that has to fix all the problems" before the others open, he said. "When things come up, they go through us to fix them all.

"But it's been good. Normally, the kinks get worked out in week one, week two."

Gonyea said there hadn't been any problem with campers breaking rules, other than a few stragglers who set up on sites that aren't open for camping.

"Some people didn't realize we were open, so they camped on sites that were closed," he said. "So I learned the first day to go through the whole park, not just the sites that are open. So I've had to hunt some people down, but nothing out of the ordinary.

"It's been pretty smooth."

Gonyea credited his assistants with aiding in his transition to Fish Creek in the middle of the camping season last summer.

"They've been here longer than I have, and they know a lot, so they help me out a bunch," he said.

Gonyea had been caretaker at Rollins Pond, also one of the largest campgrounds in the Adirondacks and accessible only through Fish Creek. When full, the two parks together could have more than 4,000 campers.

"Being at Rollins, it's just as busy. But being here, you're seeing both campgrounds' traffic, and that's a lot to handle," he said. "I wasn't too worried coming down here, I was excited for it. I figured if I've been doing this campground thing for a while, I may as well run the biggest one we have."

Although Gonyea is happy with his role at Fish Creek, he said Lake Eaton campground in Long Lake will always be a special place to him.

"Six or seven seasons at Eaton, which was much calmer," he said. "But it still had its busy times, too.

"My favorite park - they're gonna kill me - is Lake Eaton," he said. "It's the perfect size. It's not so big that it gets overwhelming, and it's not so small that you get bored trying to find things to do."

Gonyea said the peace and quiet of the early season at Fish Creek reminds him of his time at Lake Eaton, but he looks forward to having the campground bustling again.

"I'm looking forward seeing who we got for new staff, looking forward to seeing who's returning. I'm just excited to get going and actually have it be summer again."

For a full list of opening and closing dates for DEC campgrounds, as well as the nightly price list, go to



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