Paddlers on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail reach Forked Lake via a half-mile carry from Raquette Lake. Once on Forked, they paddle east to the Raquette River and then on to Long Lake or, if they’re feeling ambitious, Maine.
Day-trippers can launch at the same place (without having to carry), but they would be advised to paddle west to the charming stream known as Brandreth Lake Outlet.
From the put-in, it’s a mile and a half to the large marsh at the west end of the lake. As you paddle up the lake, you will be treated to views of nearby Pilgrim Mountain to the northwest and smaller hills straight ahead. If you turn around, you’ll see Blue Mountain to the east.
You’ll have no trouble finding the broad outlet in the marsh. If the water is high enough and if you don’t mind paddling or carrying over a few beaver dams, you will be able to travel nearly three miles upstream before encountering a long rapid. So between the lake and outlet, you can get in about nine miles of paddling.
You won’t find much current as you paddle through the grassy marsh. You soon pass a beaver lodge on the left. About a half-mile from the lake, you come to a low beaver dam that you should be able to paddle over. After this the stream becomes narrower and more twisty and the forest starts to close in.
The grassy banks give way to alders. In one short stretch, the alders are so close that they interfere with your paddling, but don’t be discouraged: the stream soon broadens again.
At 1.75 miles from the lake, you come to a short rapid at a bend in the stream. Pull over to the left for an easy ten-yard carry. A quarter-mile beyond the rapid you reach a large beaver dam. You’ll probably need to carry over this as well.
From here you can continue another mile. Winding through the wild marshland, you enjoy a sense of being far from the madding crowd. Eventually, you pull alongside a beautiful forest and then reach a long rapid, a sensible turnaround spot.
The downstream run will pass quickly. As you paddle up Forked Lake, you’ll be able to take in views of Blue Mountain and other sizable peaks in the east.
Note: in spring and summer, the state operates a campground at the east end of the lake.
Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.
DIRECTIONS: From the junction of NY 28N and NY 30 in Long Lake, drive south on NY 28N/30 for 3.1 miles to North Point Road. Turn right and go 8.7 miles to a dirt road on the right (reached 0.8 miles after crossing the Raquette River). Drive down the dirt road to the parking area near Forked Lake.