As temperatures rise and the days grow longer, the bountiful lakes, ponds and rivers of the Adirondacks transform from their solid winter state of ice back to liquid blue. With most trails a muddy mess in the spring (especially those in the High Peaks), now is the perfect time of year to get your nature fix by exploring a wilderness waterway by canoe or kayak. The following Adirondack bodies of water are excellent spring paddling destinations that not only offer beautiful scenery, but also stellar opportunities for viewing wildlife.

Credit: Joey Priola

Thirteenth Lake

Located within the Siamese Ponds Wilderness between the towns of North Creek and Indian Lake, two-mile long Thirteenth Lake is an easily accessible gem for not only paddling, but also hiking and camping. Even on a beautiful summer weekend, it’s easy to find peace and quiet at Thirteenth Lake, especially by paddling to the southern end of the lake away from the Thirteenth Lake parking lot. From the parking lot, a wheelable trail leads approximately 100 yards to the boat launch. While electric motors are allowed on Thirteenth Lake, they’re typically much quieter than their gasoline counterparts, and the vast majority of boats on the lake are typically of the motorless variety anyway. Paddling south from the boat launch, rocky ledges on the western shore that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing will beckon, as will several campsites that are peppered along the lake shore. Four accessible campsites are mere steps away from the parking lot, and several more that can only be accessed by foot and/or boat are scattered about the lake, with the three campsites at the southern end of the lake that can only be accessed by boat providing the most solitude. To hit the triple crown of camping, paddling, and hiking all in one trip, swap your paddle for a pack and boots and take a trail from the lake to destinations such as Hour Pond (7.2 miles roundtrip and 1,000 feet elevation gain from parking lot) or Peaked Mountain (8.6 miles roundtrip and 1,400 feet elevation gain from the parking lot). While hiking these trails and paddling the southern end of Thirteenth Lake, keep an eye out for moose, which are known to frequent these areas.

Credit: Joey Priola

South Inlet

Flowing into the southern end of Raquette Lake proper, South Inlet is a quiet and beautiful spring paddle and a great way to get away from the crowds, motorboats, and choppier water of the main body of Raquette Lake. From the parking pull-off on NY-28, a short carry leads down to South Inlet. Alternatively, if you’re camping at nearby Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake (2022 opening date of May 20th), you can paddle over roughly a half mile from the campground to the opening of South Inlet. The further you paddle away from the road, the quieter it gets, and soon the only sound you’ll hear is the dip of your paddle and possibly the slap of a beaver tail. South Inlet is an excellent place to view spring wildlife such as great blue herons, river otters and beavers, especially at dawn and dusk. From the boat launch, one can paddle a little over 2 miles south (against a gentle current) until reaching a picturesque waterfall. The pretty cascades are located at the turnaround point, making this is an excellent place to get out of the boat for a picnic lunch and to take a dip in the chilly water before turning around and paddling back the way you came.

Credit: Joey Priola

Rollins and Floodwood Ponds

Whether as a daytrip or an overnight at one of the 200+ waterfront campsites at Rollins Pond Campground, Rollins Pond is a fabulous spring paddling destination that links to several other ponds to keep the paddler occupied for a full day, or days. Note: If paddling before the campground opens in mid-late May (2022 opening date is May 20th), Rollins and Floodwood Ponds can be paddled by parking at the Floodwood Outpost of Saint Regis Canoe Outfitters, located at the northwest corner of Floodwood Pond. Rollins Pond is roughly 2 miles in length, and a day could easily be filled by paddling its winding shoreline and exploring quiet bays. A handful of small islands also dot the pond and make for interesting photography subjects, especially on a calm dawn when the glassy surface of the pond facilitates perfect reflections. Before getting out on foot to explore any of the islands, first paddle around to see if there are any nesting loons, and if there are, don’t disembark.

On the northern end of Rollins Pond, a narrow creek leads 100 yds to Floodwood Pond. The creek is typically deep enough to paddle in spring, but if rocks or the current impede travel, it’s best to get out and wade the rest of the creek. Floodwood Pond is smaller and quieter than Rollins, as it lacks a developed campground. Camping is still an option at Floodwood, however, as several primitive first-come, first-served campsites are located along the pond and its islands. For a more ambitious day, an 8-mile loop can be made by linking Floodwood, Little Square, Copperas, Whey, and Rollins Ponds, with 2-3 short portages depending on the water level of the ponds.