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Cranberry Lake - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Destination Report
Nearest City: Cranberry Lake, NY
Difficulty: Moderate
Submitted by: MikeT View Profile

Description:

The Lake:

Cranberry Lake is the third largest lake in the Adirondacks with 7,040 acres of water and 55 miles of shoreline (40 miles state owned). There are 46 free, water accessible campsites along the shoreline and on some of the many islands. The lake’s shallowness (maximum depth 38 feet, mean depth 6 feet), coupled with ten miles of fetch, can the give you some wild rides in exposed areas of the lake. Prevailing winds from the southwest often blow down the wind slot, hitting Bear Mountain, Hedgehog Mountain and other terrain features to create some “interesting” paddling conditions. Northeast winds can strike Indian Mountain and Cat Mountain with much the same results: confused water in the central portion of the lake. Been there and done that in canoes; and been there and done that in kayaks; and kayaks are a lot more fun! I can comfortably paddle a kayak on Cranberry on days when I wouldn’t even unload a canoe off the car.

However, the beauty of paddling on Cranberry Lake is that there is usually someplace to hide: islands, bays and coves abound. The most sheltered area of Cranberry Lake is the southwestern arm, where the East Branch of the Oswegatchie River enters the lake. Rebecca and I have paddled comfortably there when there were 30 mph+ winds thrashing the main body of the lake. Packbasket Adventures lodge is located here.

More secluded parts of the lake include:
Bear Mountain Flow (swampy and buggy in season),
the end of Brandy Brook Flow (a bit of a Heart of Darkness paddle),
the end of Dead Creek Flow and Black Duck Hole (camp site #31 - picture perfect, but buggy in season).
Campsite #11 on Catamount Island is nice, as is campsite #19 on Joe Indian Island.

The Scene:

For most of the year on Cranberry, paddlers have the potential to interact with power boaters, on and off the water. Therefore, we need to keep in mind some basic of paddling etiquette. Connecticut Sea Kayakers have done a good job in this area:
www.connyak.org/Public%20Affairs/Paddlers_Etiquette.html

All the usual suspects run their power boats and jet skis up and down Cranberry Lake from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are clearly marked boat channels, but much of the periphery of the lake is too shallow and full of submerged debris for power boaters to speed. If boat traffic in the Thousand Islands gets rated a "7" (http://adkforum.com/showthread.php?t=9285), then boat traffic on Cranberry would be rated a "4".

While Cranberry Lake offers many opportunities to explore out of the way coves and islands, and to observe wildlife (e.g. in Bear Mountain Flow), during most of the paddling season, Cranberry Lake is NOT a wilderness paddle. However, for those paddlers with the inclination, skills and gear, paddling on Cranberry Lake from ice out until mid May, and then again from mid October until the lake freezes over, can subjectively feel like a "wilderness" type paddling experience.

In their book "Quiet Water", Hayes and Wilson emphasize Cranberry Lake's flora, fauna and solitude. Dave Cilley's "Adirondack Paddler's Guide" takes a rather straightforward approach to planning a paddling trip on Cranberry Lake, and merely mentions that "Motors are allowed on the lake…." Jamieson and Morris in "Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow" state that while Cranberry Lake is "…. the only large lake to be nearly surrounded by Forest Preserve", the motorboat traffic is "…. fairly lively in the summer".

If you want to paddle Cranberry Lake when there are the fewest motor boats, then the time to be there is before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. I paddle on Cranberry most weekends from ice out (usually mid April) till freeze up (varies). Early season the air temperature may be warm, but the water is still very cold - a dry suit or a dry top and dry pants are in order. Late September and the month of October is the prime time. The weather can be spectacular; water is still relatively warm; there are no bugs, fewer people, and few to no motor boats. However, Cranberry is a big lake (for the Adirondacks) – there is potential for lots of fun, but also for lots of waves and weather.

There are five places to put in:

  1. Emporium Marina in Cranberry lake Village (charge unknown, located in a high boat traffic area and in the wind slot)
  2. Cranberry Lake Lodge (private - charge unknown; located in a high boat traffic area and in the wind slot)
  3. Public boat ramp on Columbian Road in Cranberry Lake Village (free and not a place you want to be with a canoe or kayak between Memorial Day and Labor Day due to high power boat traffic)
  4. Cranberry Lake Public Campground day use area ($4 to $6 for one car; I have also seen large groups use this put-in, no idea as to charge; nice put-in, but it’s located in the wind slot)
  5. Wanakena put-in near Pine Cone Restaurant (free, less power boat traffic, sheltered from wind, longer paddle to get to main body of lake).
Food and lodging options, as well as après paddling activities are strictly limited. Local restaurants include: Cranberry Lake Lodge, The Windfall, The Pine Cone Restaurant and Stone Manor Diner. However, before showing up hungry at any of these establishments, it would be a good idea to call ahead and make sure they are open, as their hours of operation vary with the season.

The Cranberry Lake Public Campground is well maintained and well run, with several sites that would allow direct access to the lake. In the busy season this a popular place, so reserve early. Also be advised that if you plan camping there on any of the major summer holidays, the campground will be a very busy place.

As far as I can determine the Cranberry Lake Public Campground does not have RV hook-ups. If you need that kind of a camp site, you might try the Camper's Village Campground. This is a small operation, so it would be best to reserve a site early.

As regards other lodging, both Cranberry Lake Lodge and Stone Manor have rooms to rent. An internet search for Cranberry Lake vacation rentals turns up several other options; most of cabin/cottage rentals are by the week.

Columbian Road has the high end lakefront housing and I assume would also have the high end lakefront rentals. Realtors who might handle that type of rental include: La Valley Real Estate (Tupper Lake); and Cranberry Shores Realty (Cranberry Lake)

The Packbasket Adventures lodge operation is located in Wanakena. I saw a PBS program on their facility and they recently (2007) won some kind of small business award.

For a more complete guide to Cranberry Lake area resources, suggest checking out the information put together by the non-profit Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation: cranberrylake50.org/area_resources.htm

Hiking

For those whose knees have not become "tired" from too much telemark skiing and technical climbing, the Cranberry Lake region affords some great hiking opportunities. The information below has been taken from a New York State DEC publication "Trails in the Cranberry Lake Region: Official Map and Guide" (2005). A free copy of this brochure is available at DEC regional offices, or by contacting the DEC by e-mail http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/379.html

Below is just a small sample of the many hiking opportunities in the area:

  1. Bear Mountain Trail [red markers] (2.4 miles) – This is a loop trail, beginning at a parking lot adjacent to Campsite 27 in the Cranberry Lake Campground and ending in Loop IV. Several great views of Cranberry Lake!
  2. Campground Trail [yellow markers] (2.2 miles) – This trail connects the Bear Mountain trail with the Burnbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail.
  3. Burnbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail (6.8 miles) – A south branch of this trail leads to Brandy Brook Flow on Cranberry Lake.
  4. Cat Mountain Trail (0.7 mile) – Paddle down to the end of Dead Creek Flow and pick up the Cat Mountain Trail at the Janack’s Landing lean-to. Short, but steep, the trail ends on the summit of Cat Mountain - spectacular views!
  5. The High Falls Loop [red markers] (15 miles) – This trail begins in the Hamlet of Wanakena at the start of the Dead Creek Flow Trail. Be prepared for beaver activity and more rugged trail conditions than those encountered in the above described hikes.
In addition to the above described hikes, a 50 mile hiking loop around Cranberry Lake has been recently developed.

Check out trip report and videos from an early spring 2009 Cranberry Lake 50 hiker:
adkforum.com/showthread.php?t=11266

Invasive Species
Please clean your boat to help slow the spread of zebra mussels and other unwanted species:
http://www.protectyourwaters.net/ and http://www.adkinvasives.com/

Accommodations:

In and near Cranberry Lake Village food and lodging options, as well as après paddling activities are strictly limited.
Local restaurants include: Cranberry Lake Lodge, The Windfall, The Pine Cone and Stone Manor Diner. However, before showing up hungry at any of these establishments, it would be a good idea to call ahead and make sure they are open, as their hours of operation vary with the season.

The Cranberry Lake Public Campground is well maintained and well run, with several sites that would allow direct access to the lake. In the busy season this a popular place, so reserve early. Also be advised that if you plan camping there on any of the major summer holidays, the campground will be a very busy place.

As regards other lodging, both Cranberry Lake Lodge and Stone Manor have rooms to rent. An internet search for Cranberry Lake vacation rentals turns up several other options; most of cabin/cottage rentals are by the week.

Columbian Road has the high end lakefront housing and I assume would also have the high end lakefront rentals. Realtors who might handle that type of rental include: La Valley Real Estate (Tupper Lake); and probably your best bet, Jan Ploff Realty (janploofrealty.com) located on Columbian Road.

The Packbasket Adventures lodge operation (www.packbasketadventures.com/) is located in Wanakena. I saw a PBS program on their facility and they recently won some kind of small business award.

Outfitting:

Trip Planning Assistance and Equipment Rentals (this is not meant to be a comprehensive list as there are several other good outfitters in the area).

Adirondack Exposure though located in the Old Forge area runs trips on Cranberry Lake.
Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters is located in Saranac Lake.
Raquette River Outfitters has locations in Long Lake and Tupper Lake.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters has locations in Lake Clear and Saranac Lake.

Fees:

Cranberry Lake Public Campground day use area ($4 to $6 for one car).
Emporium Marina in Cranberry lake Village; charge unknown to put in a boat.

Directions:

From Syracuse, New York, follow I81 North to Watertown, New York. In Watertown you will pick up New York State Route 3; proceed east on Route 3 to Cranberry Lake Village.

From Plattsburg, New York, pick up New York State Route 3 and proceed west on Route 3 to Cranberry Lake Village. It is a scenic drive.

Resources:

Maps:
Dave Cilley's Adirondack Paddlers Map has proven to be the most useful as it has the shoreline campsite numbers and contains much other paddler specific information.

However, my copy of both the 1st, 2nd and 4th (2010) editions of this map omitted shoreline campsites #27, #28, #44, #45 and #46. So you may want to pick a free New York State DEC publication entitled: "Trails in the Cranberry Lake Region: Official Map and Guide" (2005). In addition to hiking trails, this brochure has all 46 designated shoreline camp sites correctly marked. A free copy of this brochure is available at DEC regional offices, or by contacting the DEC by e-mail http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/379.html

For exploring the little islands and coves, I also take along a set of 7.5 minute series of USGS Quadrangles: Cranberry Lake, Five Ponds and Newton Falls (http://store.usgs.gov/)

For activities requiring detailed water depth information (e.g. fishing and sailing), recommend the Western Adirondacks New York Fishing Map Guide, published by Sportsman's Connection (2004) which contains maps that show Cranberry Lake water depths. However, not all information contained in this book may be up to date. For example, my experience is that it is no longer possible for the public to use the Ranger School as a put-in.

Books:

  • Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, 3rd edition (1988, revised 1994), by Paul Jamieson and Donald Morris.
  • Probably more useful to flat-water paddlers, Quiet Water New York, 2nd edition (2007) by John Hayes and Alex Wilson.
  • Adirondack Paddler's Guide, 2nd edition (2009), by Dave Cilley, is a useful book - especially when used in conjunction with Dave's Adirondack Paddler's Map, 4th edition (2010). Both the book and the map are available at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters store locations (Lake Clear and Saranac Lake), or by contacting Dave at http://canoeoutfitters.com/

Web Cam
Cranberry Lake Lodge has a web cam that, besides protecting their gas pump, gives a good view down the lake to the south:
www.cedarpath.com/crancam.html

Photo Gallery:
Scanned color photographs taken using Kodak, single use, water resistant cameras. Time of year is mostly late fall and early spring. Sorry no particular order, but if you wade through them, you'll get a feel for the place.

http://www.paddling.net/photography/gallery/viewGallery5.html?gid=112

GPS Waypoints

Anyone interested in receiving a copy of these fifty-six (56) field checked waypoints for Cranberry Lake can e-mail me (click on "MikeT" link at top of report). Caveat is that though these waypoints have been field checked and Goggle Earth Version 5.0 checked, a GPS unit should never be a substitute for having a map and a compass, and the skills to use them.

I carry two compasses, one on the deck and one attached to my PFD. I occasionally use my very basic GPS unit; and in addition, I always carry a second, identical, completely programmed back-up GPS unit, plus extra batteries. If you use any technology, it can and sometimes will fail.

  1. Cranberry Lake Village: Public Boat Ramp Put-In
    N 44° 13.244' W 74° 50.794'
  2. Cranberry Lake Village: Emporium Marina Put-In
    N 44° 13.267' W 74° 50.250'
  3. Village Swimming Beach: Put-In(Use during OFF SEASON ONLY when Beach is closed)
    N 44° 13.280' W 74° 50.172'
  4. Thompson Bay
    N 44° 13.075' W 74° 49.818'
  5. Cranberry Lake Public Campground: Day UseArea Put-In (Dog Island)
    N 44° 12.190' W 74° 49.818'
  6. Camp Site #1 (Union Point, Sandy Beach)
    N 44° 11.012' W 74° 49.569'
  7. Camp Site #2 (Small Sandy Beach to Right of Camp Site)
    N 44° 11.132' W 74° 48.338'
  8. Camp Site #3 (Burnt Rock)
    N 44° 11.011' W 74° 48.200'
  9. Camp Site #4 (Brandy Brook Flow)
    N 44° 11.168' W 74° 47.970'
  10. Brandy Brook Flow (Nice Sandy Beach)
    N 44° 11.563' W 74° 47.562'
  11. Bear Mountain Flow (Small Island Sandy Beach)
    N 44° 11.746' W 74° 47.470'
  12. Bear Mountain Flow (Good Lunch Spot)
    N 44° 12.160' W 74° 47.397'
  13. Bear Mountain Flow (Swampy Beach)
    N 44° 12.359' W 74° 47.392'
  14. Bear Mountain Flow (End of Flow)
    N 44° 12.676' W 74° 48.210'
  15. Camp Site #6 (End of Brady Brook Flow)
    N 44° 12.233 W 74° 46.714
  16. Camp Site #10
    N 44° 11.487 W 74° 47.095
  17. Hedgehog Bay
    N 44° 10.777' W 74° 47.620'
  18. Camp Site #11 (Catamount Island)
    N 44° 10.304' W 74° 47.627'
  19. Camp Site #12 (East Inlet)
    N 44° 10.178' W 74° 47.437'
  20. Barber Island (Cranberry Lake Biological Station)
    N 44° 09.388' W 74° 48.043'
  21. Chair Rock Flow (Entry into the Flow by an Island)
    N 44° 08.779' W 74° 48.189'
  22. Camp Site #17 (End of Chair Rock Flow)
    N 44° 08.426 W 74° 47.741
  23. Wildcliff Point
    N 44° 08.818' W 74° 48.651'
  24. South Flow
    N 44° 08.598' W 74° 49.050'
  25. West Flow: End of (Sandy Beach on Rocky Point)
    N 44° 08.482' W 74° 49.417'
  26. Camp Site #18 (West Flow)
    N 44° 08.396 W 74° 49.536
  27. Coles Point
    N 44° 09.348' W 74° 49.027'
  28. Buck Island
    N 44° 09.505' W 74° 48.631'
  29. Deremo Point
    N 44° 09.533' W 74° 49.291'
  30. Witchhobble Point
    N 44° 09.681' W 74° 49.651'
  31. Long Point (Joe Indian Island)
    N 44° 09.985' W 74° 49.389'
  32. Camp Site #20 (Joes Point - Joe Indian Island)
    N 44° 10.114' W 74° 49.440'
  33. Camp Site #19 (Joe Indian Island)
    N 44° 10.203' W 74° 49.616'
  34. Camp Site #25 (Joe Indian Island)
    N 44° 10.053' W 74° 50.217'
  35. Hawks Island
    N 44° 09.947' W 74° 50.133'
  36. Elephant Rock (Shanty Rock Flow)
    N 44° 09.702' W 74° 50.414'
  37. Kimbal Island (SE corner)
    N 44° 09.860' W 74° 50.395'
  38. Arnolds Point
    N 44° 09.852' W 74° 50.904'
  39. Unnamed Island (Outhouse; Good Stop on Way to Janacks Landing; High Traffic Area)
    N 44° 09.561' W 74° 51.498'
  40. Camp Site #28 (Janacks Point)
    N 44° 09.159' W 74° 50.685'
  41. Black Duck Hole (Sandy Beach)
    N 44° 08.389' W 74° 51.411'
  42. Camp Site #31 (Black Duck Hole)
    N 44° 08.514' W 74° 51.393'
  43. Camp Sites #36 and #37 (Janacks Landing)
    N 44° 06.759' W 74° 53.539'
  44. Lansings Point
    N 44° 08.403' W 74° 52.437'
  45. Flatiron Point (Rock with "Wanakena" Painted on It)
    N 44° 09.209' W 74° 52.563'
  46. Wanakena Put-In (Near Pine Cone Restaurant)
    N 44° 08.303' W 74° 54.930'
  47. State Ranger School
    N 44° 08.756' W 74° 54.024'
  48. Wanakena Flow (Pee Spot)
    N 44° 08.928' W 74° 53.474'
  49. Camp Site #41 (Pea Vine Trail Lean-To)
    N 44° 09.191' W 74° 53.023'
  50. Norway Island
    N 44° 10.359' W 74° 50.002'
  51. Camp Site #45 (Green Bay)
    N 44° 10.495' W 74° 50.685'
  52. Gull Rock
    N 44° 10.685' W 74° 50.193'
  53. Birch Island
    N 44° 11.050' W 74° 50.193'
  54. La Fountain Bay
    N 44° 11.255' W 74° 50.521'
  55. Matilda Bay
    N 44° 12.559' W 74° 50.374'
  56. Chipmunk Bay
    N 44° 12.829' W 74° 50.393'


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