Hikers know Newcomb as one of the gateways to the High Peaks, but this little town offers something for paddlers as well. After all, this is where the Hudson River begins.
One fun trip starts at pristine Rich Lake and ends at the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson at Cloudsplitter Outfitters. En route, you’ll pass through tiny Belden Lake and the much-larger Harris Lake.
You can rent canoes and kayaks at Cloudsplitter and/or arrange for a shuttle through them. If you have your own boat, you can leave a second car or a bicycle at the outfitters; just let them know.
The paddle to the bridge is only five miles, but you can extend the trip by continuing down the Hudson another mile, turning around at the first rapids.
Rich Lake is part of the Huntington Forest, which is owned by the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Generally, the public is not allowed in Huntington Forest, but the college does allow paddlers to use Rich Lake (for day trips only). No motorboats or pets are allowed.
Rich Lake is a beautiful, unspoiled water body. You may want to spend time exploring its shorelines. However, the following directions are for the most direct route to the lake’s outlet.
From the put-in at a sandy beach, paddle toward the north shore, angling right to round a narrow peninsula, reached in just under a half-mile. Then head east through property managed by the state Visitor Interpretive Center. You’re nearing the VIC when you see an observation deck on the right shore. As you approach the VIC, you can see the fire tower on Goodnow Mountain to the southwest.
At 1.2 miles, the lake’s outlet passes under a wooden footbridge. At 1.5 miles, you come to a short carry trail on the left, just before another footbridge. The portage—about a tenth of a mile—follows one of the VIC’s smooth hiking trails.
At the end of the carry, you put in at Belden Lake. Paddle east across this little lake to the outlet, where you encounter a small rapid. If the water level is high enough and if your boat can withstand bumping or scraping rocks, you can paddle through the rapid. Otherwise, line your boat.
The rapid ends in a pool, with a few camps on the right shore. At the end of the pool is another short rapid, followed by marshy flatwater and more signs of development. At 2.7 miles, you pass under Newcomb Lake Road, which leads to Camp Santanoni—an old Great Camp deep in the state-owned Forest Preserve. Because the road is closed to motor vehicles, visitors must hike to the camp.
There is another short rapid on the other side of the Newcomb Lake Road bridge. This one is a little rockier than the other two, so you may want to line your boat.
You’re now on Harris Lake. The north side of the lake is Forest Preserve and undeveloped except for a state campground. The south side, which is close to Route 28N, has several houses and camps as well as a town beach. As you paddle east, you may want to focus your attention on the views of the High Peaks to the northeast.
Harris Lake is about a mile and a half long and is open to motorboats. The lake is narrow at the start but soon broadens. Head for an island on the eastern end. Soon after passing the island, turn right to find the marshy outlet.
About 4.75 miles from your starting point at Rich Lake, you reach the Hudson River. At the confluence, signs on a tree on the far bank point left to Mount Marcy and right to New York City. Turning right, you’ll reach Cloudsplitter Outfitters in a quarter-mile (and New York City in about three hundred miles).
You could end your trip as soon as you reach the outfitters, but we recommend continuing your journey down the Hudson. You have about a mile of flatwater, bordered by marshes and woods, before reaching the first rapids. On the way downriver, you’ll enjoy views of Vanderwhacker Mountain to the southeast (a prominent peak with a fire tower), and on the way back, you’ll be treated to views of Santanoni Peak and other high mountains.
To reach Cloudsplitter Outfitters, call 518-582-2583.
Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.
DIRECTIONS: From the Hudson River bridge on NY 28N in Newcomb, drive west 3.5 miles to Rich Lake Lane on the right (0.6 miles past the entrance to the state Visitor Interpretive Center). Although it’s a private road, the public can use it to access Rich Lake. Bear left at a fork immediately after the turn and turn left onto the lake’s access road at 0.1 miles. You soon pass a parking lot on the left, but keep going a bit farther to the end of the road. After unloading your boat, return to the parking lot.