The Lila Traverse


Salmon Lake outlet. Photo by Phil Brown
Salmon Lake outlet. Photo by Phil Brown



The latest issue of National Geographic Adventure features an Adirondack canoe trip as one of its “50 Best American Adventures.” The trip in question is a forty-five-mile loop, beginning and ending at Little Tupper Lake. In between you visit Lake Lila, Lows Lake, the Bog River, Round Lake, and several smaller ponds and streams.


“So new is this route that it has no official name and several of the portages, or ‘carries,’  are merely flagged with tape,” the magazine says in its one-paragraph description.


It so happens that I did part of this route in late May, going from Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila. I can attest that the carry trails are “merely flagged.” Yet the truth is that this part of the route, at least, is not so new. The state bought the Little Tupper tract in 1998, more than a decade ago.


Frankly, it’s a shame that the state has yet to properly mark the carry trails after all these years. This is one of the premier wilderness canoe routes in the Northeast. The lack of trail markers and signs makes it seem as though the state is neglecting this wonderful resource (for which it paid $17 million). Is that the impression we want to leave with people who drive hundreds of miles to do this route?


David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, says the trails cannot be signed and marked until the agency writes a management plan for the Whitney Wilderness. He can’t say when the plan will be finished.


DEC is years and sometimes decades behind in writing management plans for Forest Preserve tracts around the Adirondack Park. The agency lacks the staff and money to get them done.


Something has to give. The public shouldn’t have to wait more than a decade for DEC to mark canoe-carry trails that are already in use. There must be a way to undertake small projects such as this, in a responsible manner, before a management plan is written.


About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Glen Larson says

    so how come there’s already marked foot trails in the Whitney wilderness ? Do you take all DEC tells you as gospel ? Many new trails & other facilities have been constructed before unit management plans are written & approved

    Prior to a management plan DEC built an elaborate parking area on Middle branch St Regis you wrote about in last issue. Then they closed it. Did you ask why ? It’s on private land. Bad survey, I’d guess. How about some investigative reporting ?

    They’ve already constructed & marked a trail from Clear pond (S of Bog lake) to RR bed as part of this loop. Any management plan yet ?

  2. Phil the Editor says

    Glen, that’s a good question. DEC considers the portage trails “new trails” that must be approved in the management-plan process. I’m guessing they would say the marked hiking trails, which follow logging roads, are old trails that can be marked without a management plan. The portages often follow old roads, but not always.

    As to the closure of the parking lot on Blue Mountain Road, it did turn out that the carry trail to the lot is on private land. DEC is now trying to obtain permission for the public to use the trail. I’m not sure if the lot itself is on private land, but it is now blocked by boulders.

    I don’t know the history of the trail from Clear Pond to the RR bed. It’s possible this was done while the property was still in the hands of the Nature Conservancy. ADK built a new hiking trail on Lyon Mountain before the parcel was transferred to the state. This avoids the legal problem.

    My feeling is that DEC is so far behind in the drafting of management plans that system is broken. That being the case, we need to exercise some common sense in determining what can and cannot be done while we’re waiting for plans to be written. In essence, DEC has marked the Lila Traverse trails already–but with surveyor’s tape instead of disks. So why not do it right?

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