Paddling the Boreas Ponds
On April 15th New York State announced that they had purchased the Boreas Ponds Tract from The Nature Conservancy. This land acquisition opens up the ponds and surrounding lands to the public for the first time in more than a century. The ponds offer the unique juxtaposition of views of the High Peaks set against a picturesque waterbody.
Access to the ponds is along the Gulf Brook Road, which is currently gated at the southern end. Future access and use of the road is uncertain and will likely be a significant part of the upcoming land classification debate. The NYS DEC is planning to develop an interim recreation plan which may call for some portion of the road to be opened this summer.
As of the writing of this piece it is a 6-mile walk down the dirt road to access the LaBiere Flow just south of the Boreas Ponds or a 7-mile walk directly to the ponds. To access the ponds for paddling it is relatively easy to pull a canoe on a cart down Gulf Brook Road. The first 2-miles of the road climbs about 600 feet, making it a bit more challenging to pull a canoe up. The remainder of the road is flat and much easier.
The LaBiere is a small impoundment on the Boreas River just south of the Boreas Ponds. It is possible to paddle about 0.7 miles upstream of the dam along the flow. The easiest carry option to the Boreas Ponds is 0.5 miles up the LaBiere Flow where the flow comes close to the road. From here you can pull out and carry a half-mile to the Boreas Ponds.
The LaBiere Flow is worth exploring, but if your primary destination is the Boreas Ponds it is easier to keep pulling your canoe along the road than it is easy to launch, pullout, carry, and re-launch. The flow offers great views of Marcy, Panther Gorge, and Haystack and is worth exploring if you have the time.
Access around the private hunting camps and lodge on the ponds is restricted. The leases on these buildings are valid until 2018. After which time many of the camps will likely be removed.
The put in and primary view of the Boreas Ponds is at the dam. From here you can get a sense of the view that can be had from the ponds but it is like looking through a hole. By walking up and down the dam you can see different parts of the Great Range but you can't take in the entire view.
Once on first pond you will begin to appreciate the incredible mountain vistas that can be had from the center of the Boreas Ponds. After passing into Second Pond you will be able take in views from Allen to Boreas Mountain with Skylight, Marcy, Haystack, and Gothics taking center stage. Third Pond is at the far north of the ponds and is smaller than First and Second Pond. You can paddle up the inlet to a road, intrepid explorers can carry over the road and continue farther upstream. A round-trip to the far end of Third Pond with side excursions around the islands in Second Pond will cover about 5-miles.
The unique and amazing paddling experience on the Boreas Ponds is well worth pulling a canoe 7-miles down the Gulf Brook Road. The total trip distance to get into the ponds and paddle both the LaBiere Flow and Boreas Ponds is 20-miles. The trip can be accomplished in a day but many may consider doing it as an overnight. Unfortunately, there aren't many great camping spots on the ponds. Much of the shoreline is thick spruce-fir forest or wetland, neither of which are conducive to good camping opportunities. There are potential sites along the west side of Second Pond with good views of Boreas Mountain.