We’re cruising over the sparkling surface of beautiful Lake George, in New York’s Adirondack Park. Located slightly over 3 hours from the concrete and steel of metro New York, it never ceases to amaze me that this vast natural paradise (its beauty is often compared to Lake Tahoe in Nevada, and Lake Como in Italy) is only an easy drive from the most densely populated area in the country. And, through the years the surrounding area has been able to maintain a balance between development, recreation and wilderness.
In 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote that Lake George was the most beautiful water he had ever seen. More than 200 years later… it still is. Created by glaciers, Lake George is a boater’s dream–32 miles from tip to toe, and up to 3 miles wide, her waters are clear and deep and well marked. Lake George is partially fed by underground springs, is 320 feet above sea-level, has 109 miles of shoreline, covers 28,000 acres, over 300 islands and is bordered by the Adirondack Mountains that cascade steeply into its shore. Much of her shoreline is wilderness, the rest is vacation homes, lakeside resorts, camping, marinas and restaurants. The west side of the lake up into Bolton Landing is dotted with lodging, camps, turn-of the century estates, and lavish vacation homes, after which the landscape becomes a wilderness preserve. The east side of the lake is primarily vacation homes through Pilot Knob.
Throughout the centuries the waters of Lake George have been prized for many reasons; as a major fur-trading route, it played a prominent role during the French and Indian War, and the American Revolution. Her waters still hold testament to these wars in the form of various shipwrecks and other artifacts preserved by the cold waters at the bottom of the lake. Some of our forefathers traveled on the lake during wartime including, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Aaron Burr, and others, and returned later for some R&R. Historians agree that Theodore Roosevelt’s many visits to the lake and the Adirondacks shaped his devotion to conservation. In the mid-1800s Lake George Village, located at the southern end of the lake, became the playground of wealthy industrialists who traveled to stay in its magnificent hotels and bathe in the lake’s waters. Eventually, many of these visitors built magnificent estates along the shoreline, some of which still stand today, restored to their former glory.
Today, Lake George Village offers a large selection of attractions, entertainment, shopping, dining, lodging, marinas, bathroom facilities, public docking and a public and private launches. Many of the lakeside restaurants and lodging have docking for their patrons.
We’re heading north up the lake to Dollar Island to meet friends who have steaks waiting to hit the grill. I’m looking forward to a pre-dinner swim. Nothing compares to the crystal clear waters of Lake George to wash away a weeks worth of stress. We pass a group of boaters circled around Calf Pen, a sheer rock ledge that plunges 43 feet into a deep sheltered cove. Many consider Calf Pen a rite of passage as each summer, cheered on by a crowd of boaters, they jump from higher to higher ledges until they make the ultimate plunge from the top.
Continuing north, we pass Bolton Landing, home to the historic Sagamore Resort. The town of Bolton offers public docking, bathroom facilities, marinas and launching. Bolton Landing is a great destination for shopping and dining and most lodgings offer docking for their patrons. You can even get deli delivery to your camping island headquarters just in case you have a pickle urge. On the north end of Bolton, Northwest Bay’s sheltered waters are superb for water-skiing, wakeboarding, and other water sports, as are many of the other bays located in its basin.
Heading out of Northwest Bay you arrive at the entrance of the Narrows, a mile wide, 3 mile long section of the lake lined by towering wilderness mountains and dotted with lush islands. Before entering, stop your boat, drift and take in the beauty. I have been on Lake George my entire life, yet the view from the mouth of the Narrows still brings tears to my eyes. Spiritual moment aside, and back to business. All of the islands are state owned and available for camping and day use. With playful names such as Pleasure, Little Gem and Phantom, each island has its own unique personality, with sheltered docks and most importantly, seclusion. In order to preserve the natural characteristics of the islands and prevent overuse, docking is limited. Some Lake George Islands are very private, offering only one or two docks. That means if you have a permit and reservation for an island that has one dock and someone decides to pull their kayak up and interrupt your day, you have the right to ask them to leave. It is your island for the day. Islands and bays are available with docking for larger cruisers as well. Camping is not permitted on these islands, however, why would you want to rough it when you can spend the night in your $300,000 luxury suite. Day permits are available on Long Island, Glen Island and Narrow Island Headquarters www.reserveamerica.com If you do not have the time to purchase a day permit, there are many bays and sheltered coves available for dropping anchor. Larger bays such as Log Bay, are host to families, groups and boating clubs that tie-up and enjoy socializing. Most of the bays have shallow waters, secluded beaches and sandy bottoms perfect for barefoot’n.
20 miles north of Bolton is the small town of Hague. There’s easy docking and bathroom facilities at the town beach, and a short stroll into town rewards you with delightful restaurants and shops. Turn-of-the century B&B’s and rustic lodges welcome you to spend the night. Before settling in, it’s the perfect time to take a sunset cruise past the Waltonian Islands to view the wilderness area known as Anthony’s Nose. Further north lays the legendary Rogers’ Slide, a rock face that drops 800 feet straight into the waters. This is a favorite location for rock climbers. History writes that during the French and Indian War, Major Robert Rogers of the Rogers Rangers, was being pursued by a group of Indians. He managed to fool them into thinking that the Great Spirit had helped him make it safely down the rock face and this stopped their pursuit.
Recreation and history is just part of what brings folks here from all over the country. Lake George is known as a world-class fishing destination. Her waters are crystal clear, allowing light to penetrate exceptionally deep. This causes a two-story fishery with Landlocked Salmon and Lake Trout found at 50-180 foot levels, while Bass and Pike tend to gather in protected areas such as bays and the perimeters of the islands.
Nearby streams and brooks are favorites for fly-fisherman who come to cast their line for the elusive Brook Trout. www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6091.html
Other lakes in the area with public launches include Brant Lake and Schroon Lake. Brant Lake is a 6-mile long, spring fed, glacial carved gem. Most of its shoreline is private, however there is a public launch and marina both located on the south end of the lake. Brant is ideal for waterskiing and fishing. Nearby 9 mile long Schroon Lake also has a public launch site and full service marina. Both lakes offer lodging with docking. www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/23860.html
Back to Lake George, situated in the Narrows is West Dollar Island–my final destination. This day use island has docking and picnic areas. It is well forested with hardwoods and pine, and bordered by boulders that reach deep into the surrounding waters. Our friends welcome us. The men tend to the grilling and the women chat. I slip into the lake and lie back. Looking up at the towering range above me, I can’t imagine any place on this earth that I would rather be. Good company, good food, and a boat on beautiful Lake George…Yes, the good life. www.visitlakegeorge.com
Map of Lake George and surrounding region: http://www.adirondacknorthway.net/mappages/lake_george_topo.php
All boats on lake George must be registered with the Lake George Park Commission.
For information regarding applications: http://www.lgpc.state.ny.us/Boat_Registration.html
Private vendors issuing registrations:
Lake George Navigation Rules:
Boater safety courses and boater age requirements:
Courtesy of Warren County Tourism Department
The Lake George Area in New York's Adirondacks