The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Enjoying the Great Outdoors at Lake George:

Paddling to the Island

June 20-21, 2008



Situated between high, forested mountains, Lake George has long been a favorite vacation destination for water lovers. Its crystal clear water is mostly spring fed and a wealth of islands and small bays invite the intimate exploration possible only by canoe and kayak. This is a large lake, 32 miles long, and it might best be explored by sea kayak, over the course of several days. Resorts and services of all kinds line the shore, and camping is available on 50 state-owned islands. The Lake George Islands campsites, divided into three groups, Glen Island, Long Island, and Narrow Island, are located on Lake George, America's "Queen" Lake. Lake George Islands campsites are accessible by boat only and are spread out over much of the lake. Each of the three camping islands has its own headquarters, to make site registration as convenient as possible.

After campers choose the area in which they wish to camp, they must continue to a private marina to park and launch. Upon arrival, paddlers will also need to paddle over to the appropriate ranger station island to sign in.  Plan your trip accordingly.

For kayakers, the lake and surrounding mountains provide a diversity of scenic paddling routes and a number of other recreational activities including swimming, fishing, hiking, and birding.  Most sites are well-forested and private. All sites have a dock for at least one boat, a fireplace, a picnic table, and a toilet facility. Picnic areas have charcoal grills, fireplaces, and tables, and picnic shelters that hold up to 15 people each.

You can get more campsite information and make reservations for these NY State campgrounds via ReserveAmerica.


Lake George is 32 miles long, 3 miles wide at its widest point, with a maximum depth of 195 feet.  The lake offers some of the best recreational boating opportunities in the Northeast. All types of watercraft are allowed on the lake. The water in Lake George allows light to penetrate exceptionally deep, resulting in a two-story fishery, with landlocked salmon and lake trout found at 50-180 foot levels, while bass and pike tend to gather in weed beds. Over 50 miles of hiking trails lead to mountains overlooking the lake and to remote mountain ponds.  Lake George was created at the end of the last ice age when glacial deposits dammed up two ancient rivers that flowed through the valley.  In 1885, the New York State Forest Commission, known today as the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), was given charge of the Forest Preserve.  During the late 1930's, and through the 1940's, the Commission expanded development of the island campgrounds, with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Tom K and I left the Jersey Shore at about 10 am on Friday morning and with a few brief pit stops, arrived in Bolton Landing, NY at about 4 pm.  Upon a recommendation from some friends, we reserved a room at the Adirondack Park Motel for the night and were not disappointed. The room was clean and cozy, the owners were friendly and just a short walk down the hill from our room was a very rustic boat house, overlooking Lake George.  After getting settled in our room we took a ride into Bolton Landing to explore.  The weather was perfect so we ate dinner outdoors at Cate's Italian Garden.  After chowing down on some really good pizza, we walked around the town a little more and then took a ride farther up Route 9N.  For about 15 miles there was nothing more than woods and a scenic overlook which we couldn't really appreciate because it was dark out, so we headed back to the motel.  After a good night's sleep, we awoke early Saturday morning and were treated to fresh baked cinnamon muffins, some fresh fruit, coffee and juice which we brought down to the boathouse to enjoy while we admired the view of the lake from some relaxing rocking chairs.
After checkout, we drove down to Main Street in the town of Bolton Landing to explore a bit before we were to meet the rest of our group. After walking around a bit, we met up with the rest of our group at about 1 pm.  We had lunch and a few beers at Fredericks Restaurant & Lounge, and then made a stop at the local grocery store for some last minute provisions.  Before heading over to the boathouse on Green Island we made a stop at the Lake George Kayak Company to pick up some last minute gear and to prepare for our launch.  The owners and staff at Lake George Kayak are very helpful and the store, in addition to offering kayak & canoe rentals, is well stocked with paddling gear, clothing & accessories, guidebooks & maps.
Kayakers for this trip included myself, Tom K, Dene, Amy and our trip organizer, Maureen.  Anthony, Kathleen, Keith and Charlene rented canoes from Lake George Kayak Company and had plenty of room to pack all of their stuff, in addition to some of the "extra" stuff from some of the kayakers.  After all of our stuff was loaded into the canoes, the canoeists launched first, to get a head start to the island while us kayakers crammed the remaining gear into our hatches.  The rest of us launched from the boathouse on Green Island at about 3 pm under gray, ominous skies, winds from the south at about 5-10 mph and an air temp of about 85.  The rain began falling about 5 minutes after we launched and it actually felt good in the afternoon heat.  We paddled in the rain, away from Green Island and northward towards the Narrows and into the more open water of Lake George. After less than one mile of paddling, the lake roared with some very loud thunder, the winds picked up, and the rain became heavier.  We also saw lightning over the mountains in the distance.  We quickly decided to paddle across to the nearest shore and ultimately sought shelter inside a boathouse which appeared to belong to a local rowing club.  Ironically, every time the rain appeared to stop and we poked out of the boathouse, thunder boomed and lightning crashed so we went back in.  This happened a few times and finally after about 35 minutes the storms seemed to pass for good.
The sun poked in and out of some clouds and when it finally seemed safe, we continued our paddle towards our island campsite on the lake.  Our  campsite was situated on one of the islands in the Narrows between the Tongue Mountain range to the west and the Black Mountain range to the east.
We could see some other storms passing through the area in the distance but none of them directly over us.  We caught the edge of one storm which dumped a little more cooling rain on us but there was no more  lightning or thunder.  Although the paddling distance from our launch site to our island campsite in the Narrows Group was only a bit more than 2.5 miles, we didn't arrive to the island until about 4:30.  Despite the delay, we were all very glad to land safely on the island. We were also glad to see all those in the canoes had also arrived safely and had started setting up camp.
Within about an hour, everyone had their gear unloaded and their tents up.  The campsite which Tom and I shared had a wooden platform for our tent in addition to a wooden dock and swimming area.  The view from our dock was spectacular and the water in the lake was crystal clear. One great thing about camping on the islands is that virtually all the island campsites have spectacular views.
After our campsite was set up, we began working on setting up a tarp canopy to shelter our communal gathering and dining area. Once the shelter was assembled, Happy Hour began!  We snacked on cheese and crackers and a nice red wine and then relaxed in our camp chairs to enjoy a spectacular view of Lake George and the surrounding mountains.  While we were relaxing in our camp chairs and just enjoying the beautiful scenery, a steamboat called the Mohican had passed our island with a bunch of waving tourists, so Amy gave them a few loud and very passionate samples of her Wisconsin Loon Call.
Within a short while, Anthony had built a very nice fire and as a result, we crowned him as our fire king.  After relaxing by the fire and enjoying the view a bit longer, a few of us took a refreshing dip in the lake.  Since most of us are accustomed to the salt sea and bay water of the Jersey Shore, the chilly, crystal clear water of Lake George was invigorating.  While some of swam, Amy took charge of the grill and the cooking. On our first night of camping on the island, we feasted on marinated steak and chicken, and a savory blend of wild rice and of course, some more red wine!  A few visiting geese stopped by to forage for leftovers but when they saw we were eating chicken, they seemed to move quickly away from our campsite.
As night fell, the wine reserves dropped and the laughter increased.  At about 9 pm, we watched a vibrant display of fireworks over the lake to the south.  They appeared to be coming from the Sagamore Hotel on Green Island.  A family with some young children from a neighboring campsite soon strolled over onto our site and parked themselves on a rock to get a better view of the fireworks.  This irritated one of the more territorial campers in our group but the rest of us calmed her down. Amy let out a few more of her loud Wisconsin Loon calls and we continued to watch the rest of the fireworks.  After a grand finale of fireworks, we laughed and joked around the campfire well into the night.  With telescoping forks, we toasted marshmallows and capped off the evening with some smores, made with Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate.  Despite some other loud campers with a bass-blaring boom-box on the other side of the island, we all slept like babies.


Circumnavigating Dome Island

Hiking Black Mountain

Starry Night Paddle



Adirondack Park Motel Lake George Association

ReserveAmerica Campground Reservations

Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks Lake George Day Hikes & Climbs

Upyonda Farm Environmental Education Center

Bolton Landing Chamber of Commerce Lake George Island Camping


Bolton Landing Marina Lake George Hiking: Tongue Mountain Range  
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Lake George Association

Fredericks Restaurant & Lounge

Lake George Island Camping

Geology of Lake George and the Adirondacks

Lake George Kayak Company

Huddle Bay Motel & Cottages Lake George Land Conservancy  
  Lake George Steamboat Company  
Adirondack Paddlers Map Lake George Reflections: Island History and Lore

Quiet Water New York: Canoe & Kayak Guide

Best in Tent Camping: New York State National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map  
  New York State Atlas & Gazetteer



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