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The put-in is at the sandy beach next to the bridge at Long Lake. Raquette River Outfitter has an office in town and they offer shuttle service to take your car to the state boat launch at Tupper Lake for $50. I think other outfitters also offer the same service.
I didn't get on the water until 4 p.m., Saturday, and there were some motorboat and jet ski traffic, with 2 float planes taking off. The motorized traffic tappers off fairly quickly once you paddle away from the town.
There was a consistent strong head wind coming from North and NE. I'd estimate wind velocity to be at least 15 mph by the way the flags on shore were being whipped around. There was some chop but I can't estimate how bad it was. However, for someone who doesn't like lake paddling, it wasn't bad at all. I'd estimate the height of some of the chop to be to near my diaphragm, but most were no more than 1 foot or so.
There are several lean-tos and campsites along the east shore of the lake (there is 1 cluster of lean-to's on the west shore, called Camp Riverdale, at the North end of the lake.) There are 2 lean-to's at Plumley Point; I picked the southern one to spend the night. It's a wonderful spot on a knoll overlooking the lake, with a small beach access. The lean-to is in very good condition and the surrounding area is pretty open. There are several trees perfect for hanging your food. Distance from put-in is just over 8 miles.
The next day, heading North, the outlet to the river wasn't too difficult to find. I used the ADK paddler's map. It's a great map: water resistant, topographical, color coded between private/public land, and has all the trails, lean-tos and campsites clearly marked.
There were a pair of bald eagles near one of the first lean-tos once you enter the river.
It's a little over 7 mile paddle from Plumley Point to the portage for Raquette Falls - you can miss it. First, there's the sound of the falls, then, it's marked by a large white sign atop a large boulder in the middle of the river. The take-out is a small sandy beach on the right side.
The portage is about 1.25 miles. The first 1/4 mile is uphill on a rocky path. You must carry your craft, a cart will not do. The rest of the portage is thru a hiking trail dotted with large boulders and roots that will confound wheeled travel. I did this trip by myself so several times, when the wheels got caught by rocks or roots, I had to put the bow down, lift up the back, push the kayak forward past the obstruction (scraping the bow all the while,) pick up the bow and proceed until the next time it got caught. It took me well over 1 hr. to cover a distance that would've taken me 10 to 12 minutes to run (the portage was the most difficult portion of the trip.).
Once you see a lean-to along the carry route, you've only got 1/4 mile to go. The put-in is another, larger, sandy beach - a great place to rest and have lunch.
Once you get going again, there are several lean-to's and campsites dotting the bank along the right hand side of the river (as you're facing downstream). It's about 6 miles to Axton Landing from the end of the portage. There's a boat launch there if you elect to shorten the trip, or start from there to avoid the portage.
The width of the river, I'd estimate, is probably 20 to 30 feet across. The current is very gentle, slower than a slow walking pace and with wind kicking up ripples, the flow of the river is not apparent at all if you're trying to pick your way through some of the oxbows. What worked for me was to look at which way the vegetations under the water is leaning to determine the direction of flow.
It's another 6 miles to Trumblee Landing. 1 of the lean-to's there overlooks 1 arm of the river, and it sits on a 10-foot high bluff. this lean-to shows sign of heavy use, some of the floor boards are loose, because it's at the end of a 1-mile hiking trail from route 3/30, which means you can hear faint motor vehicle noise from the lean-to. When I got there, someone had left 2 beer cans, 1 beer bottle, some foil, and a large candy wrapper. I packed out the beer cans/bottle and foil, and burned the wrapper.
What this lean-to lacks in physical condition is more than made up for by it's great view. The edge of the lean-to is less than 6 feet from the edge of the sheer drop-off of the bluff. With a fire going, it was great.
1 drawback to this site is the lack of a good tree to hang food from; the growth is too dense near the lean-to for me to find a suitable tree. I ended up hanging my food from a tree growing over the river at the foot of the sheer drop-off. The sheer drop-off and a lack of sandy beach did pose a problem for landing the kayak, but there is just enough room at the foot of the drop-off to fit.
The next morning, I shoved off around 9:30. There is a short cut-off a little ways downstream that will shave 1 mile off an oxbow. The entry to this cut-off, which is on the left hand side, wasn't too hard to find, there's a marked campsite right before it. However, in low water, I think it will pose a challenge because there are several downed trees lying across your path and the water depth was mere inches at places and I had to scoot myself along at times. I'd estimate the width of this path to be around 5 or 6 feet across.
At some point after the cut-off (not sure how far, don't have map with me…) no more campsites or lean-to's are available until you get to Tupper Lake. At one point after the cut-off, the river will carry you right next to route 3/30. Wave hello to the couch potatoes with their motorhomes and pop-ups.
The distance from Trumbley Landing to the state boat launch at Tupper Lake is around 7.20 miles.
To give you an idea of how you'd do on the trip, my total paddling time was around 11 hours. Total portage (2 trips, 1 for kayak, 1 for 70lbs of gear) took 2 1/4 hours. The headwind on Long Lake slowed my travel - it took me 3 hours to cover 8 miles, which is slower than my usual pace of 3 to 3.5 mph the rest of the way, especially considering my arms were freshest that first day.
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