Overnight Paddling Escapes

February 16, 2011

Few wilderness escapes are as satisfying as paddling to a secluded camping nook. In every corner of the Northeast there are opportunities to launch into lakes, rivers, and bays and, within a few miles, be setting up camp where only boats can reach. In the quietest moments, your only company might be the waves lapping against the shore and the loons calling across the water. By practicing Leave No Trace, you’ll leave these remote havens pristine for future escapes.

Third Machias Lake
Washington County, Maine

Located in the remote reaches of Washington County, Third Machias Lake is quiet and peaceful. You can access the lake at the southern tip, where it empties into the Machias River. Paddle north around the large boulders scattered here by a retreating glacier, past several small islands, then set up camp at one of two sites located on the peninsula and island that separate the lake’s northern and southern halves. Beyond, you’ll find another 3-mile stretch of lake, then the inlet of Fourth Lake Stream—a great spot to find moose and beaver.

Distance: 6 miles (out and back)
Info: Quiet Water Maine (AMC Books)

Moosehead Lake
Greenville, Maine

Sugar Island is just a short paddle from Lily Bay State Park on the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake. The island—Moosehead’s largest, at 4 miles in length—provides a vast stretch of shoreline to explore, as do the lake’s many coves and inlets. A remote campsite, tucked into a secluded cove on the island’s eastern edge, offers views of nearby mountains and the rising sun. For a more remote experience, venture onto nearby AMC lands and explore Second, Third, and Fourth Roach ponds.

Distance: 6 miles (out and back)
Info: www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl

Squam Lake
Holderness, N.H.

With 60 miles of meandering shoreline and numerous islands (many privately owned), Squam Lake offers extensive opportunities for exploration. Known for its beauty—the film On Golden Pond was set there—Squam is a popular spot, and paddlers should be aware of the lake’s motorboat traffic. Launch from Piper Cove in Holderness, site of the Squam Lakes Association. That organization maintains several campsites on the southern rim of the lake. Two island sites, Moon and Bowman, are a 2-mile paddle away. Advance reservations required.

Distance: 4 miles (out and back)
Info: Quiet Water New Hampshire and Vermont (AMC Books); www.squamlakes.org

Waquoit Bay
Falmouth, Mass.

Nestled in a shallow bay on the southern coast of Cape Cod, Washburn Island lies within a National Estuarine Research Reserve. When you paddle in from White’s Landing in Falmouth along the Childs River and into Waquoit Bay, you’ll be entering one of the most studied coastal ecosystems in the U.S. Loop around to the east side of Washburn Island where 10 campsites line the bay. Paddle a little farther, and you can explore the beaches separating the bay from open ocean. Advance reservations are required for camping.

Distance: 6 miles (out and back)
Info: www.waquoitbayreserve.org/camping.shtml

Lake Lila
Long Lake, N.Y.

Osprey and loon patrol the 1,500 acres of Lake Lila, while trout, salmon, and bass lurk below the surface. The lake lies within the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, so the shoreline is protected and motorized boats are prohibited. After a short carry (0.3 mile) from the parking area on the northern end of the lake, you can create a multi-day paddle of your choosing. Twenty-four campsites dot the shoreline and several of Lila’s small islands. Beaver River and Shingle Shanty Brook provide additional options for exploration.

Distance: Varied
Info: Quiet Water New York (AMC Books); www.dec.ny.gov/lands/9165.html

Round Valley Reservoir
Lebanon, N.J.

At 2,350 acres and 2.5 miles across, Round Valley is New Jersey’s second largest body of fresh water. Campsites, clustered on the eastern shore at the base of Cushetunk Mountain, are accessible only by boat or hiking trail. As you’re paddling, keep an eye out for the wide variety of birds known to frequent the area, including hawks, vultures, osprey, and many songbirds. The reservoir is a popular fishing spot, so paddlers may want to avoid busy summer weekends. Advance reservations are required for camping.

Distance: 5 miles (out and back)
Info: Quiet Water New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania (AMC Books); www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/round.html

Delaware River
Dingmans Ferry, Pa.

Forty miles of the Delaware River run through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. With numerous primitive campsites along the shore, paddlers can create trips of varying distance, in conditions ranging from flatwater to Class I. Launch at Dingmans Ferry and paddle south, into the Wallpack Bend (10 miles) where several campsites nestle in a large S-curve. The following day continue on to Smithfield Beach (10 miles) before shuttling back to the start. Few signs of civilization will be visible. Instead, the wildlife, flood plains, and mountains of the 67,000-acre park will accompany you downriver.

Distance: 20 miles (one way)
Info: www.nps.gov/dewa/index.htm

Contributors: John Brunner, Bill Fischer, Ariel Goldberg, John Hayes, Kathy Kenley, Jerry Monkman, Jeff Pacuska, Alex Wilson.

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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.