Paddling the West Ausable

The view of the West Ausable from the put-in off River Road. Photo/Phil Brown.
The view of the West Ausable from the put-in off River Road. Photo/Phil Brown.

Last week’s snowstorm notwithstanding, this is paddling season. In fact, the additional snowmelt from the storm will improve paddling on Adirondack rivers.

This is a good time of year to explore the West Branch of the Ausable River on the outskirts of Lake Placid—a river that attracts schools of trout fishermen but is often overlooked by paddlers.

From a put-in at a steel bridge off River Road, you can do a 5.4-mile flatwater cruise to Monument Falls off Route 86. You’ll need to spot a second car or bicycle at the takeout. There is one carry around rapids. You can avoid it by ending your trip at the Route 86 bridge instead of continuing to the falls.

Although the river is never far from roads, the wildlife don’t seem to mind. You’ll see lots of ducks and other birds. The river also offers impressive views of the High Peaks, the Sentinel Range, and Whiteface Mountain.

The winding river is usually canoeable throughout summer, but it’s best paddled in spring when water levels are higher. Be prepared to navigate a few riffles.

From the put-in, it’s 3.5 miles to the Route 86 bridge. About 0.75 miles beyond, you’ll come to a flume at the head of some Class II rapids. Take out on the right to follow a rough path for 0.25 miles to a put-in below the rapids. If you’re comfortable in whitewater, you can shoot the rapids below the flume.

Less than a mile from the rapids, you’ll come around a bend and find a spectacular view looking downriver at Whiteface Mountain. After rounding the next bend, you’ll hear Monument Falls. Take out on the right just above the cascade.

DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of Route 73 and River Road, near the Olympic ski jumps, driver 1.1 miles down River Road to a pulloff on the left near the Intervale Way bridge. This is the put-in. To reach Monument Falls, continue 3.1 miles down River Road to Route 86, turn right and go another mile to a pulloff on the left, where there are two stone monuments commemorating the Forest Preserve.

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.

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