Lens Lake

Floating islands charm visitors

By Robin Ambrosino

Lens Lake remains unspoiled even though it is only a short drive from civilization. Photo by Alan Cederstrom.

As you drive to Lens Lake, you get the feeling you are retreating from civilization. The roads narrow, the houses become fewer and fewer, and the scenery changes from bucolic landscapes to cool, shadowy places surrounded by towering pines.

The day Dave and I visited in May was sketchy weather-wise. There were alternating periods of rain and sunshine while we canoed on the lake. But that didn’t diminish our enjoyment. With the clouds moving fast overhead, we had a sense of being shrouded in a magical world with a chorus of spring peepers as a backdrop.

At first glance, the lake looks like a small pond. That’s due to the large floating bogs on either end. One of the delights of this trip is passing through the channels that wind through these mossy-looking islands, which support one of the richest collections of plant species in the Adirondacks. Up close, we could see dainty flowers sprouting among cranberry bushes and the other low-lying brush. The sphagnum mats are said to be four to five feet thick.

Map by Nancy Bernstein.

As we paddled, we realized the lake is longer than it seems at first. Approaching the northern end, we disturbed a pair of mergansers that immediately raced across the water before lifting off and flying across the lake. We also came upon a pair of loons, which were much more tolerant of our presence. We followed them at a respectful distance and watched as they dove and resurfaced.

Although Lens Lake is an easy drive from Glens Falls and the Capital Region, there are few signs of development here. No homes are visible from the water. The only indications of human presence were the lake’s concrete dam near the sandy boat launch, a small dock owned by a fish-and-game club and an aluminum rowboat stowed against a tree.

Lakeshore owners contend that the natural ambience will be disturbed if Keith McHugh builds a summer home on a ridge above the lake. If he cannot obtain a permit for the house, he may build a rustic cabin closer to the shore. The cabin, too, probably would be visible from the water. As we paddled past McHugh’s property, we saw a picnic table in a small clearing near the lake, a stack of cordwood and a deteriorating dock.

For the moment, though, we didn’t want to dwell on human squabbles. On the opposite side of the lake, a mist drifted above the shore, obscuring and then slowly revealing the balsams and pines. And when we saw a rainbow drawn by the setting sun, Dave and I agreed that a more enchanting outing would be hard to find.


At the four corners in Stony Creek, go west on Roaring Branch Road (this turns into States Road). After crossing the creek, go left on Lens Lake Road. Access to the public boat launch is located by turning right onto an unnamed dirt road just before the pavement ends.

About Adirondack Explorer

The Adirondack Explorer is a nonprofit magazine covering the Adirondack Park's environment, recreation and communities.

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