Paddlesports Press of Saranac Lake recently released the Adirondack Paddler’s Map, a waterproof, double-sided foldout of the northern Adirondack canoe country. It is a full-color, shaded-relief topographic map measuring about 36-by-44 inches. Though the generous size can be unwieldy, that can be excused, as it covers hundreds of miles of our paddling waters. It is absolutely beautiful! The cartography, based on state and federal geographic data, is by John Barge and Meg Van Dyck-Holmes.
The map is the brainchild of Dave Cilley, owner of St. Regis Canoe Outfitters. He notes that the map’s scale of 1:50,000 (1 inch = 0.8 miles) is small enough for paddlers to plan multiday trips but large enough for navigational purposes. All contours, unfortunately, are in meters. This is one of its very few drawbacks. American users generally have a much better feel for topography labeled in feet.
Regardless, this is the best and easiest-to-read shaded relief map I’ve ever run my eye over. The topography virtually stands out in three dimensions, without being overly busy. It gives a real sense of the terrain through which you’ll paddle.
The coverage area includes the St. Regis Canoe Area, the Five Ponds and Whitney Wilderness Areas, Lake Lila and the Bog River region, the Saranac Lakes, the Raquette River, and several waterways in the northwestern Adirondacks acquired by the state in 1999. Inset boxes highlight numerous paddling opportunities, such as the South Branch of the Grass River, Massawepie Lake and the interconnected waters from Lake Kushaqua to Paul Smiths. Other insets provide information on state campgrounds, the state locks on the Saranac River, the Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smiths, camping regulations, outdoor etiquette and a Whitewater Classification Scale.
For navigational purposes, the map is delineated with GPS gridmarks. In addition to the standard landforms marked on topographic maps, geographic and access features of particular interest to paddlers are also plotted: canoe launches, parking areas, portages, rapids, falls, dams, hiking trails, lean-tos, state campgrounds and picnic areas. Land ownership is subdivided into private, Wilderness, Wild Forest and other Forest Preserve categories. Being able to identify campsites, both primitive and numbered, is particularly helpful for trip planning. I could pick out with ease the wonderful site (#32) I once had on Martin Island in Lower Saranac Lake. The map can be used to locate other sites with scenic vistas.
A disclaimer reminds paddlers that a map of this scale, though ideal for planning, is not a substitute for a more detailed topographic map and local knowledge. Still, this is a breakthrough for Adirondack paddlers. I hope Cilley someday will publish similar maps for other parts of the Park.