A downstream cruise on Hatch Brook and the Salmon River reminds us that wildness and natural beauty do exist outside the Blue Line.
Although you begin this eight-mile trip in Porcaville, just inside the Adirondack Park, you’ll spend most of your time winding through marshes and forestland north of the park boundary. The trip ends near the hamlet of Chasm Falls.
For the first mile, Hatch Brook flows through private land. You’ll pass several camps on the right bank. The stream is narrow and twisty and often clogged with alders. As you travel farther downstream, the alders become less of a nuisance.
Once you enter state land, the little stream seems quite wild. Given the tightness of the channel, however, the views are limited to the alder thickets, grassy banks, treetops, clouds, and perhaps a leaping brook trout. Look for wildlife tracks on the mudflats along the water’s edge.
You encounter beaver dams at 2.2 and 3.4 miles, but you should be able to get around or over them without exiting your boat. At 3.8 miles, you pass under a wooden snowmobile bridge and shortly thereafter reach the Salmon River.
The sandy confluence of the two streams—your halfway point—is a picturesque spot for a snack and a swim. Adirondack paddlers might be struck by the flatness of the landscape here, with wild, green meadows stretching into the distance. The only prominent bump on the horizon is Owls Head Pinnacle to the north.
The Salmon is wider than Hatch Brook and without the alder gantlets of its tributary. It’s also less twisty, but you will find some sharp turns—most notably the Oxbow at 5.3 miles and the Eye of the Needle at 6.2 miles, where the river’s northward course is deflected by a steep hillside. Occasionally, you will be treated to views of the cliffs on Titusville Mountain to the west.
At 6.7 miles, you come to a quarter-mile straightaway at the end of which is a house on Studley Hill Road—a sign you are nearing the end of your trip. As you approach the house, the river turns right. This is known as the Big Bend. After making the turn, watch out for partially submerged boulders.
Less than a mile from the house, you’ll reach the exit: a fishing-access site on the left bank. You could extend the trip three-quarters of a mile by paddling to the dam at Chasm Falls, but you’ve already seen the best scenery and the fishing-access site is a better takeout.
Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. You can find more than a dozen other Adirondack Paddling articles on his Examiner home page.
DIRECTIONS: From the village of Saranac Lake, drive north and west on NY 86 to NY 3 in Paul Smiths (about 12 miles). Turn right and go 17.5 miles to County 26. Turn right and go 4.1 miles to a junction. County 26 turns right here, but you want to go straight onto County 27. Continue 3.5 miles to the bridge over Hatch Brook. The put-in is on the south side of the road. For the takeout, turn around on County 27 and almost immediately take a right onto a dirt lane. Follow the lane through a pine forest 0.4 miles to its end. Turn right onto California Road (no sign) and go 2.2 miles to its end. Turn right onto Studley Hill Road (no sign) and go 2.3 miles to a fishing-access site on the right.