Adirondack St. Regis Wilderness Area – Nine Carries Canoe Trip

Solitude and Wilderness is what we were after and like Nessmuk “We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it” and so we went to make it as smooth, as restful and pleasurable as we could”. Nessmuk was the pen name of George Washington Sears who wrote for Forest and Stream magazine and published “Woodcraft and Camping“. It may have been his travels and writings that planted in my mind the idea of canoeing this region that he so enjoyed.  It could be argued that Nessmuk’s travel writing and paddling of his canoe the Sairy Gump was the start of modern ultra-light camping and I think he would have been pleased to paddle the modern two person 40lb Wenohna Escapade that St. Regis Canoe Outfitters rented us for our trip.

Using the Adirondack Paddler’s Guide and Adirondack Paddler’s Map we were able to “stay found” and embarked on the Nine Carries Route into the pristine St. Regis Wilderness in the heart of the Adirondack lake country. The route included paddling Long Pond- Nellie Pond-Kit Fox Pond-Little Long Pond West-Fish Pond- Ochre Pond-St. Regis Pond & Little Clear Pond.  We decided to run the trip in reverse getting transported to Little Clear Pond and having the freedom to paddle back to our vehicle located on Floodwood Road, Lake Clear, NY at the St. Regis Canoe Outfitter at our own leisure. While it is possible for experienced paddlers to undertake this entire trip in one full day our plan was to spend 4 days and 3 nights from Saturday afternoon on September 15th until Tuesday morning on the 18th. The route included 9 portages (Aprox. 5 miles total with the longest about 1.6 miles), approximately 15 miles total distance and rated a 10/10 for most wilderness in the Adirondack Paddlers Guide.

Paddling in this region at the start of autumn would have been enough a reason to take this trip but the pursuit of trout fishing has become a pleasure of ours. There is a technique popular in the Adirondack lakes for trout fishing known as the “Wabbler and the Worm“.  It consists of a swival and a wabbler or a shiny oval spoon and then from the wabbler is extended 18″ to 24” inches of line with a hook and worm.  We tried the local technique with no luck, maybe we weren’t fishing where the fish were. Eventually we did seduce one brook trout from under a floating pond log to slurp at a panther martin spinner with worm.  In getting caught up in the appropriate tackle, I’m reminded to simplify my approach through Nessmuk’s wisdom as he writes “There is no one variety of bait that the angler finds so constantly useful as the worm”.

While we brought a modern tent to make camp quickly, the first night we were lucky enough to find an Adirondack Lean-to.  Traditionally the lean-to structure would be crudely assembled in the woods with balsam or spruce poles leaned from the back towards a high supporting front ridge pole.  The backside and floor would be covered with evergreen boughs while the front side would be left open to the radiant glow and heat of a camp fire.  The modern lean-to that we sheltered in for a night had the luxuries of peeled logs, a shingled roof, floor boards and a stone fire structure with a back wall that reflected heat into structure providing us extra warmth on a cold autumn night. Thanks to the Adirondack Mountain Club for the maintenance of these wonderful structures.

On the portage route the forest varied from conifer swamp species of  black spruce, tamarack, speckled alder and white cedar to Northern hardwood forest species of hemlock, yellow birch, paper birch, white pine and red maple. Along the trail the tracks of those animals who inhabit the forest were also frequently found. The ease of travel on the portage trail compared to the bushwhacking required off trail is surely recognized by both “man and beast”.

To step out into wild places for the chance to breath clean fresh air, drink crisp cold water and dwell in beauty has become a passion.  Traveling in the wilderness is an opportunity to exercise your true character, gain confidence, betray civilized society if for only a short while and build towards a life style of self reliance.  I’m thankful for the skills shared from previous campers, for the chance to explore and discover, take the winding trail and live to experience and share the natural world another day.

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“If you are a woods man you will strike but one match”. – Nessmuk

“If In Doubt, Scout – You Have to Go to Know”



  1. I noticed in your lean-to pic that you have a tent set up inside it.This is against the DEC rules and regulations!

  2. Did you enjoy the portage from Ochre Pond to Fish Pond? My brother did that one last year. Quite a chore for a 65 year old and my bro has a pacemaker/defribillator! We began this trip at 11:00 pm on Little Clear in the fog and moonlight! We also went in to St. Regis lean-to the previous November. Snowed everyday and the St. Regis mountain is awesome covered in snow!

  3. That portage was beautiful, we kept going past the smaller ponds. I was used to carrying the 65lb aluminum canoe from a previous trip so it was nice to rent a kevlar Wenonah,I think it was 45lbs. Actually, we dropped a piece of fishing rod and had to walk part way back to find it. Good for your bro, I hope if I were in his shoes I would have the same courage. Would love to spend more time out there and see st. Regis area in the winter!

    • I’m glad to find someone that has read Woodcraft by “NESSMUK” also. I have a 1995 fiberglass Wilderness Systems 12 ft. 36 pound kayak that I made my own portage yoke for. We were planning to do the 740 mile NFCT but my knees gave out so we cancelled that idea! Have you done other trips? We do Bog River,Shingle Shanty Brook to Little Salmon pond,Little Tupper Lake to Rock Pond,th Oswegatchie River and others.Did we pass each other on the water? Here’s to wet paddles SOON!

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