Aerial photos of Duck Hole draining

With water recedes, mudflats are starting to appear in Duck Hole. Photo by NYSDEC.
With water recedes, mudflats are starting to appear in Duck Hole. Photo by NYSDEC.

In the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, we ran a debate on whether the state should fix the dam at Duck Hole in the High Peaks Wilderness. Now that the dam has been breached, the debate is whether the state should rebuild it.

This afternoon, we obtained several aerial photos taken after the rains of Hurricane Irene broke the dam. They were shot Monday by Kris Alberga, a forester with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The top photo shows Duck Hole as one looks southeast toward Preston Ponds. Much of the water has drained, exposing numerous mudflats.

The photo to the right shows water running over the broken dam. This is the start of the Cold River, a tributary of the Raquette. The structure on the right is a lean-to.

Waters flow into the Cold River at the broken dam. Photo by NYSDEC.
Waters flow into the Cold River at the broken dam. Photo by NYSDEC.

The photo below shows Duck Hole as one looks north toward the Sawtooth Mountains. The narrow bay is the Roaring Brook inlet.

Tom Martin, DEC’s regional forester, told me earlier today that he expects Duck Hole will dwindle into “a couple of small ponds with wetlands around them.”

Martin said he didn’t know whether DEC will rebuild the dam.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said most hikers would like to see the dam rebuilt. Others question the wisdom of maintaining such a structure in an area classified as Wilderness.

When I have time I will post the debates that ran in the September-October issue of the Explorer. Tom Wemett of ADK’s Northville-Placid Trail chapter wrote in favor of repairing the dam. Bill Ingersoll, the guidebook writer, took the opposite side.

A view of Duck Hole looking north. Photo by NYSDEC.
A view of Duck Hole looking north. Photo by NYSDEC.

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. Emil says

    Wow thats to bad! I was just there on July 29th on the start of my end to end NPT hike. I really hope they rebuild it.

    Duck Hole was used for holding timber until the spring when the logs were sent downstream to the mills.

  2. Kevin says

    Copy/pasted from a facebook exchange I was having with friends…

    “Duck Hole isn’t going anywhere. It was a small wetland even before the dam. There just won’t be enough water for fishing, loons, or paddling. Plenty of other places to fish, paddle, and loon watch. Loses a little of its charm and the character we come to expect of the place, but it’s now being returned to the original pre-human state. Some would say, as god intended.”

    They’re likely only going to rebuilt the crossing at Marcy Dam as well, since it’s obvious from the current photos of the mostly drained area there that it’s filled with silt and not a viable habitat (Duck Hole still was, and yet repairs to marcy Dam were always considered of higher priority for “aesthetic” reasons only – ie – despite logic and reason).

  3. Tom Wemett says

    It was a sad day on Monday, August 29th, when I found out from Kris Alberga, DEC Forester, that Duck Hole Dam breached. I’m the webmaster for and have been spearheading an effort to save Duck Hole Pond and get the Dam repaired. Hurricane Irene has changed the focus now from “Save Duck Hole” to “Restore Duck Hole”. As the article above indicates I wrote the “pro” side of the debate on saving and repairing Duck Hole. Please read that article to see why dozens and perhaps hundreds of hikers and paddlers are so passionate about keeping Duck Hole alive and well. This is a setback perhaps but there still are plenty of supporters to carry on with a campaign to now restore Duck Hole and repair/replace Duck Hole Dam. More information at:

  4. Ken Bezio says

    Thank you for all the great coverage. We go into the Backcountry all the time and are sick over the damage from Irene!

  5. Steve Buck says

    What will happen to the levels of the Cold River if the Duck Hole is returned to it’s original state? I am *so* happy that I made my first (and apparently only) trip to the Duck Hole a month ago. It is somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time – ever since reading about Red Smith and Noah.

  6. Joey says

    Well, we don’t allow logging on State lands anymore, Correct? So do we need to spend the money to fix this dam? IDk, … just asking?

    What is perplexing to me is the fact that when we drive through these beautiful ADK forests along the roadways, all we see are dead trees in the woods. Why continue the policy of NOT allowing reforestation management when IF we did, the State’s budget deficit would be gone in a year or 2 and our forests would grow back better than ever. Even inexperienced people can see the difference in the forests that were logged off and replanted within the past 60 years and the ones that are forced to remain dormant and ROT!!! Let’s change this policy and get NYS back into the logging business! That right there would be a HUGE jobs enticement as well as have a positive economic impact on the poorest communities all across the North Country of NYS. Comments??

  7. Carl Hoffman says

    I went there last September and was there on what was possibly the absolute best days color-wise. Like Ginger I’m glad I went.

    To my mind, long-standing “improvements” to wilderness areas like dams and bridges should be maintained and replaced when necessary.

  8. chris g. says

    Was there in Oct.’09,Oct.’85, Oct.’86. Could use the trail over the dam way back then. Damn should be replaced.Was a viable trout habitat in’09. Carried in my 17′ wenona then thru Preston ponds and caught some!Glad the damn didn’t let go while I was on it that rainy weekend.That would have been a quick ride to NYC.That place is too perfect with the waterfall at one end of it to let go. Would the state allow a private fund raising effort to assist in restoring it? I’ll contribute!

  9. Mark says

    Always wanted to back there…my first trip was in July 1977 when there still a ranger outpost there…….many fond memories of swiming above dam, jumping off into the water, or being under the falls….hope it can be restored…….

  10. kris says

    Duck Hole Pond…RIP

    Will miss you, but I tend to respect nature more in its most untouched fashion. So return to the way things were, and I’ll still admire your beauty.

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