The 19,600-acre Essex Chain Lakes Complex opened to the public in the summer of 2014 as a prime destination for Adirondack paddling, camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. The region contains the eight lakes in the Essex Chain as well as numerous other lakes and ponds. The Hudson River forms the eastern boundary of the complex, and small hills and mountains dot the entire area.
The Essex Chain Lakes Complex spans three towns and two counties – Minerva, Newcomb, and Long Lake in Essex and Hamilton counties.
In Newcomb, there is a sign for the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area at the intersection of Route 28N and Pine Tree Road. Take Pine Tree Road for a couple hundred feet to a right turn on Goodnow Flow Road. Take the Goodnow Flow Road for 4.3 miles to a right turn on Woody's Road. Travel on Woody's Road for 1.5 miles to its end. Woody's Road is paved for three-quarters of a mile before becoming a seasonal use dirt road from April 1 to November 1. At the end of Woody's Road, turn left onto Cornell Road (there is a sign indicating a left turn for the Essex Chain Lakes at this location). Follow Cornell Road for approximately 4.4 miles to the parking area for the Essex Chain Lakes. Cornell Road is a one lane dirt road with a speed limit of 15 mph. High clearance vehicles are recommended, but low clearance vehicles can make it in with great care!
Paddling and portage
Paddlers can spend the day or camp at one of the designated sites. Campsites along the lakes and ponds are first come, first served and do not require a permit.
From the parking area, a quarter-mile carry begins on a dirt road with a right turn onto a short trail that leads downhill to the shores of Deer Pond. Paddle directly across Deer Pond, and carry an additional half-mile to Third Lake. The half-mile carry begins on a trail that leads uphill from Deer Pond to an old dirt road. Most of the carry is along this dirt road before a left turn on a trail leading downhill to Third Lake. At 216 acres, Third Lake is the largest lake in the chain. Heading southwest takes a paddler to Second Lake. A short carry is required to reach First Lake and an additional carry of four-tenths of a mile is needed to reach Grassy Pond.
Heading northeast from the put-in at Third Lake, a paddler can traverse Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Lakes without any more carrying. There are future plans to add a carry to Eighth Lake. There is ongoing work to improve the carry trails.
All the lakes have wooden signs that indicate what number lake you are entering. There is a dirt road between Fourth and Fifth Lakes with a large culvert underneath that paddles can use to change lakes. A rope with knots is hung along the length of the culvert so paddlers can pull themselves through! In high water, it may be necessary to get out and take your boat over the road.
The campsites are primitive with wall-less privies. There are no fires allowed at the campsites located along the lakes and ponds.
There are a number of plans underway to add winter recreational opportunities in this newly opened area, so stay tuned for additional announcements.
Find out more
Read the blog post, Paddling the Essex Chain Lakes.