Canoeing: Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip | Adirondack Mountains, NY | August 2007

The William C. Whitney Wilderness Area in the Adirondacks of New York is one of the newest Wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park. It's home to Little Tupper Lake and Rock Pond, along with a host of other smaller ponds, hills and remote areas. It was purchased by the State from the Whitney Family, which owned a large portion of the area, hence the name of the wilderness area.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Our trip began at the Whitney Headquarters, which is the only official boat access point on Little Tupper Lake. It's also appears to be home to the area Forest Ranger and has a small visitor center where you can learn about the area and get some brochures regarding the Whitney Wilderness along with other nearby areas. There's a large parking lot and you have to carry your boat a few hundred feet down to the beach that serves as the boat launch area. We had the canoe and a kayak since there were three of us on the trip.


Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Once we were across the lake and down a bit from the Whitney Headquarters we came across an island that was just screaming "swim here" so we pulled up, hopped out of the boats and enjoyed the water.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Our plan was to make our way down the lake towards the Rock Pond Outlet that first day and find an open camp site at the far end of the lake. In the Whitney Wilderness, unlike most of the rest of the park, you can only camp at designated spots, so we had to find a camping area that was both open and fit our need for two tents. We found one spot about halfway down the lake, but it was almost too small for the two tents, so we decided to continue on along the lake shore and see what else we could find. A lot of the sites were already taken, but eventually we did find a spot about 3/4 of the way down the lake and only a short paddle away from the Rock Pond Outlet.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
While the weather was pretty nasty when we had left the Catskills to make our way up to the Adirondacks, the further north we got, the better the weather got. By Lake George the rain had stopped and when we pulled into the Whitney Headquarters area it was sunny. The rest of the day was just as nice and we ended the evening with some swimming as the sun was setting.

The next morning I woke up and made my way down to the lake just as the sun was starting to rise. There was a slight fog across the lake and the colors of the sunshine playing in the fog and the clouds was really neat.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Once we had gotten up, we set off in the boats for the Rock Pond Outlet and eventually Rock Pond.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
The only problem with that plan was that we got a bit sidetracked and ended up making our way up the Charlie Pond Outlet instead. It wasn't until we came across a trail crossing with a sign that said "Charlie Pond Stream" that we realized we had gone up the wrong outlet. Luckily we saw the sign before we had gone up even further.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Even though it wasn't the right outlet, it was still a nice paddle through some really beautiful areas and it gave us a chance to explore something we probably wouldn't have ended up doing. Too bad Charlie Pond was on private land - it would have been fun to continue on up there, as the area really was something to look at.

We made our way back down the Outlet to Little Tupper Lake and then found the right stream and started our way up the Rock Pond Outlet. This outlet was a bit wider and deeper than the Charlie Pond Outlet and we quickly made our way up to the carry right before you get to Rock Pond. Here the old road across the creek is washed out and there's a series of small rapids and rocky areas that make it basically impossible to paddle upstream. You have to hop out of your boat and carry it about a quarter of a mile. At that point the beavers have built enough dams that the river is deep enough to continue paddling up from.
Little Tupper lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper lake Canoe Trip
Once you were around the carry, there were a couple of beaver dams you had to make your way over. They weren't so big that you couldn't just pull the boat up and over them.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
The outlet starts to widen and soon you are in Rock Pond, which is a fairly small (compared to Tupper Lake) lake that has a fairly round shoreline. There were a number of small rocks outcropping throughout the lake (hence the name maybe?) and there was also a fairly large island in the lake. There were campsites around the lake.
Little Tupper lake Canoe Trip
Little Tupper lake Canoe Trip
We did a bit of exploring around and then ended up back near the outlet where there was a large rock outcropping and dipped into the lake and had a fairly sandy (though a bit silty) bottom that made it easy to swim. We relaxed there in the continuing sunshine (another perfect day weatherwise) and went swimming and had lunch as we watched other folks paddle up the outlet and into the lake.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
For the more adventuresome you can make a carry from Rock Pond to a series of other ponds and eventually make your way over to Lake Lila. This would be quite the trip with several long carries required between ponds and streams before you get into Lake Lila. It would also take some navigational skills as the carries aren't marked and only slightly maintained. Basically you would have to strike out and make your way from each point - quite the adventure I would think.

On the way back down we stashed the boats at the carry and followed the Rock Pond Trail in hopes of finding "Frenchmen's Mine," which was marked on the map that we had of the area. We weren't sure what exactly the mine was, but we figured it would be worth exploring and since we had brought our hiking boots, we wanted to at least do some walking.

The trail was an old logging road from the Whitney Estate and while it was overgrown, the roadway was in great shape and was an easy walk. The only problem was the horse flies were horrible - they got some really good bites in, even with all of us covered in bug spray. I think the flies just laughed at it while they landed on us and bit.

We ended up hiking about 3/4 of a mile or so when we came across a beaver pond that had been built partially across the road which made for some very swampy and wet going.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip - Rock Pond Trail
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip - Rock Pond Trail
We weren't sure exactly how much further the mine was and considering how wet we'd probably get trying to get around the beaver pond, we decided to just turn around and head back to the boats.

Just from this short hike though, I think I can reasonably conclude that the hiking opportunities in the Whitney Wilderness aren't as exciting as the boating possibilities. The trails aren't maintained very well (I don't think that this trail has ever been cleared since it was marked - and even the markers are sorely lacking). We found a trail junction sign at the beaver pond that had been knocked over and it looked like it had been lying there for years. Not only are the trails not really maintained, the woods themselves aren't that interesting. It seems like they were logged quite heavily before the land was sold to the state - so the trees are all about 15 years old or so and the woods is very uniform and pretty much uninteresting. Also judging from the maps, besides the occasional pond or stream, there's not much to look at or see in the area hiking wise. Oh well, the lakes and the boating routes really make up for any lack of hiking opportunities.

By the time we got back to the boats and made our way back down to our campsite on Little Tupper Lake it was time to start making dinner. That was followed by another evening swim and then quickly falling off to sleep as it got dark.

One thing we noticed as we got back onto Little Tupper Lake though was how quickly the waves get really big on this lake. The material from the State warns about this and it's true. It doesn't take much wind to make some good sized waves on the lake. We came out of the Rock Pond Outlet and the lake was extremely rough and it made it hard to just paddle across the small portion of the lake to our campsite.

The next morning we were heading back to the Whitney Headquarters and once again the wind was picking up by mid-morning just as we were leaving the campsite. We made it across the lake to the opposite shore (where the headquarters was down the lake) and while the trip across the lake was a bit challenging with the wind and the bigger waves, once we got to the shore, we were able to hug it and then make our way across the various bays that are somewhat protected without too much trouble. We stopped a few times along the way to stretch and check out some of the other camping sites.

Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip
Once we got back to the Headquarters area and had the boats loaded up we headed to Lake Lila, which is about an 8 mile drive or so from the Whitney Headquarters. The Lake Lila Road is a small dirt road off the Sabbattis Road (which is the road that also accesses the Headquarters area). It was quite the ride as we made our way down to the parking lot.
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip - Lake Lila Sidetrip
Little Tupper Lake Canoe Trip - Lake Lila Sidetrip
From the parking lot, it's a short walk down to the Lake where there is a really nice beach and some unofficial trails that let you walk along the shoreline. There's also a campsite not too far from where the trail and canoe carry come down to the lake. If you were to bring your boat to Lake Lila - it would be a bit of a carry - the trail from the parking lot to the lake is about three tenths of a mile down to the lake and while it's not steep, there's a good slope down to the lake.

We spent some time having a late lunch at the lake and got some swimming in before we started on our way back.


For More Information
If you are looking for a guidebook and maps to the William Whitney Wilderness area, the Adirondack Mountain Club publishes the Adirondack Trails - Central Region guide that also includes a map. The Adirondack Paddlers Guide and Map also cover the Whitney Wilderness Area.

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