The Adirondack Canoe Classic
(a.k.a The 90-Miler)
Adirondack Canoe Classic, Day Two Start - Photo by Alexandra Roalsvig, provided by The Town of Long Lake.
The weekend after Labor Day, is an exciting time in our neck of the woods (or water in this case) as the Adirondack Canoe Classic challenges paddlers to make the 90-mile voyage from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, New York. Also known as the first section of the popular Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the 3-day flat-water course winds and twists through back country rivers and streams, across our iconic lakes, and into the hearts of our one-of-a-kind Adirondack communities. Since its establishment in 1983, this race has grown to 600-plus paddlers in everything from solo kayaks to 7-person war canoes -- and a little of everything in between.
Then there is the cannonball...
Nope, I'm not talking about this kind of cannonball.
The Cannonball is really one for those who don't feel that ninety miles in three days is quite challenging (or crazy) enough. Also referred to as the "Outlaw 90-Miler," it is an unsanctioned, lesser-known race in which paddlers navigate their way from Old Forge to Saranac Lake in one day... yes, I said one day. Through my research, I've learned there are really only two rules to compete:
- It must be complete in 24 hours.
- The boat must pass the cedar tree near the Saranac Lake Boat Launch on Lake Flower.
(Can I add that I love the fact that a tree marks the end of this race?)
But for most it is a Leisure trip
While the Adirondack Canoe Classic and the Cannonball attract a variety of paddling enthusiasts, for most this 90-mile Blueway Route offers either a sweet multi-day long distance paddling trip or a variety of relaxing day and half-day trips.
About The Route
The first thing that you need to know is that the 90-Miler Blueway and the 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic race courses are actually two slightly different routes. This is actually a little-known fact — even among locals. The 90-Miler Blueway is a straight-through route (with portages), while the 90-Miler Race Course has distinct put-in and take-out locations for each day of the race (again with portages in between).
THE 90-MILER BLUEWAY (ALSO THE COURSE FOR THE CANNONBALL)
The course for the 90-Miler Blueway (or the first 90 miles of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail) covers 16 lakes, 3 rivers ,and a number of ponds. The route goes as follows:
- Leave Old Forge via the Moose River.
- Follow the Fulton Chain of Lakes to Inlet (First through Fifth lakes).
- Your first portage will take you across Route 28 to Sixth Lake.
- Continue on through Seventh and Eighth Lake where you will then portage through to Browns Tract and on to Raquette Lake.
- From Raquette Lake it travels via the Raquette River to Forked Lake and then Long Lake.
- After passing the full length of Long Lake, you will navigate down the Raquette River to the Raquette Falls Carry.
- Once back to the Raquette River you will then reach Stony Creek Ponds.
- Indian Carry will then lead you to the Saranac Lake (Upper, Middle, then Lower).
- Finally comes First Pond, Second Pond, Oseeta Lake, and then Lake Flower in the Village of Saranac Lake.
90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic Race Course
Map by Nancy Bernstein
- Day 1: Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake
- Day 2: Long Lake to "The Crusher" Boat Launch in Tupper Lake
- Day 3: Fish Creek to Lake Flower in Saranac Lake
The major difference between the Blueway route and the race course are the put-in and take-outs between days. Day one changes course in Raquette Lake where rather than going on to the Raquette River, it diverts into Utawana Lake and then Blue Mountain Lake. On day two, after the Raquette Falls Carry it does not continue into Stony Creek Ponds, but rather it continues down the river to The Crusher Boat Launch in Tupper Lake. On Day three the put-in takes you from Fish Creek Campground through additional sections of Upper Saranac before catching up with the Blueway route near the Indian Carry put-in.
Before You Go
From enjoying a short half-day trip along sections of the route to tackling the entire 90 miles in 24 hours, the key to a successful trip is preparation.
On the water...
Whether you are training to compete in the Adirondack Canoe Classic or planning a multi-day paddling trip through the 90-Miler Blueway, a good deal of preparation needs to happen before you hit the water. From spending time in your boat getting comfortable with your paddling crew, to packing for the multi-day backcountry excursion, preparation is key to a safe and successful voyage. Remember that paddling with a boatload of gear is much different that paddling with a day-trip bag, so the more you can mimic what your boat will be like when you set off from Old Forge, the better.
On Dry Land...
Along with practice time on the water, it is equally important to practice portaging with your paddling partners. Quick and efficient portaging is even more important if you plan on participating in the Adirondack Canoe Classic where you will encounter 5.25-miles of carries and multiple boats trying to get into and out of each put-in and take-out along the way. Again, don't forget that on race day (or trip time) you will be lugging some extra gear, so make sure that your practice time takes that into account.
PLANNING & PACKING...
Packing for your trip will greatly vary depending on how you plan to tackle the route. If you are particpating in the Adirondack Canoe Classic, you will be reliant upon a pit crew to help move your vehicle from put-in to take-out and as a result they can be responsible for some of your travel gear as well. You also have the added luxury of a race crew along the course to come to your aid if something were to go wrong, however like any paddling trip, you should always prepare for the worst.
As for packing for a multi-day paddling trip, how you plan to tackle the route will determine what gear you need to bring along. Do you intend to camp along the route or use the waterway to explore the different communities that offer up some waterside accommodations?
- If you plan on camping along the way, here are some quick reads that will help guide you to finding the right gear:
- If a warm meal and a bed are more your style, here is some info to help you get your plans in motion:
(Tip: Use the handy location search to narrow down your options based on which Blueway Community you are in.)
Tap into Local Knowledge...
While planning your trip, take advantage of speaking to those who have taken the route before. If it is the race you are interested in, speak to paddlers who have participated in the past so you know what to expect. If it is taking a trip along the Blueway that's calling your name, than I'd highly recommend that you contact a local outfitter along the route in advance of your trip. They will be able to offer up some of the best insider knowledge of the route, the portages, the best campsites ,and what to look out for along the route. This is also a great time to pick up a topographic map of the route if you don't already have one - not to mention any last minute supplies that you may need.
And You're Off!
However you decide to slice it, the 90-Miler Blueway is a route you'll surely enjoy. If you do get a chance to make the voyage, make sure to schedule some extra time to stop into some of the communities where you can explore and grab some warm grub (trust me... you will be glad you did). Swim in locations that make you feel as though you are the first to have discovered them, soak in the scenery, and maybe even catch a fresh trout or two — what a great Adirondack Experience.