It’s time to go laking
By Ed Lange
In keeping with the current trend of using nouns as verbs, this episode of Guy Stuff takes on the subject of the joys of summertime laking. If successful Olympic athletes can “medal” and if kids can “text” or “message” a friend, or a houseguest can “gift” a hostess, or we can “Google” some information, or a corporate executive can “leverage” a deal, then doggone it, you and I can “lake” if we want to. So, it’s time to go laking.
New York may not compete with Minnesota as a land of 10,000 lakes, but we do lay claim to a wealth of them—more than 3,000 according to one source. And the Capital Region enjoys its fair share of “large bodies of water surrounded by land” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Current English Usage. In fact, while researching this article (yet another noun used as a verb), I found so many lakes in the Capital Region that I have to limit the list to those that are at least 100 acres in size. Apologies go out to the smaller lakes scattered throughout every county of our area. Terrific little lakes beckoning to kayakers, swimmers and fishermen such as Crystal Lake, Myosotis Lake, Collins Lake and dozens of others.
Our four-dollar per gallon gasoline prices constrain the lake list even further. An arbitrary distance of 60 miles as-the-crow-flies from the center of the Capital Region (wherever that may be) seems like a reasonable range for a lake to be thought of as conveniently in our region.
With these blatantly random criteria established, I encourage you to inflate your inner tube, tie your canoe, kayak, or Sunfish to the top of your car, grab your fishing pole, wiggle into your swimsuit, hitch your ski boat or sailboat to your car, dig out your beach toys, fill up your cooler, stuff beach towels into a tote bag – and go laking! The fresh water has warmed nicely after weeks of basking in the summer sun, and all of the lakes listed here can be reached in an easy day trip.
10,000 Acres and Larger
Lake George, Warren County (28,479 acres, 44 sq miles). “The Queen of American Lakes.” Surely the most famous and most commercialized of all lakes in our region, and therefore the busiest and most crowded. Amusement parks, commercial ship tours, the Million Dollar Beach, souvenir shops, arcades, boat launches (permit required), motels, campgrounds, and every conceivable lake activity under the summer sun.
Great Sacandaga Lake. Saratoga/Fulton Counties (24,707 acres, 42 sq miles). Despite its nearly equivalent size, Sacandaga is vastly less commercial than Lake George. It does offer numerous marinas, shoreline restaurants, NYS campgrounds and boat launches, sailing clubs, sandy islands, excellent fishing, and a few samples of the commercial entities found at Lake George, but the lake is more get-away-from-it-all. Due to its wide open expanse, it’s an excellent lake for sailing and has sand beaches.
1,000 Acres and Larger
Schroon Lake, Warren County (4,105 acres, 6.5 sq miles). Boating of every type, fishing, a sandy town beach, music festivals, summer home of the Seagle Music Colony, arts and craft fairs, shopping, waterfront B&Bs, motels, campgrounds, and even a golf course are available at Schroon Lake. New York operates two boat launches: a paved launch for all types of boats on County Route 62 off of Route 9, and a hand launch site for small craft on Route 9, 2 miles north of Pottersville.
Saratoga Lake, Saratoga County (3,764 acres, 5.9 sq miles). Home of the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club since 1957, Saratoga Lake is the largest lake within the rather nebulous boundaries of the Capital Region. New York State operates a pair of excellent launch ramps at the northern end on Route 9P. Unfortunately for sailors, there is a low slung bridge between the ramp and the main body of the lake. The bridge is high enough for power boats to pass under it, but sailors cannot raise their masts until passing beneath it.
Harriman Reservoir, southern VT (2,150 acres, 3.4 sq mi). Unlike Somerset, its neighboring reservoir, the seven-mile long, snake-shaped Harriman Reservoir allows all types of boats on its waters. The Green Mountain Flagship Company operates the Mt. Mills steamship which plies the mountain lake’s scenery through Labor Day, although it probably gives a wide berth to the nude beach at The Ledges. A paved launch ramp provides access for personal watercraft – 2 miles west of Wilmington off Vermont Route 9.
Somerset Reservoir, southern VT (1,600 acres, 2.5 sq mi) For those who prefer the more tranquil and natural way of life, the Somerset Reservoir awaits. Jet skis are not permitted and power boats may not exceed 10 mph – effectively eliminating water skiing. Swimming is permitted in designated areas. Bring your kayak, canoe, sailboat, rowboat, or small fishing boat and enjoy Somerset’s beautiful – and officially state-designated – wilderness.
Peck Lake, Fulton County (1,370 acres, 2.1 sq mi). One of the most unusual lakes in our region, Peck Lake was completely privately owned by the Peck family for many years. Although it has since been subdivided for private homes, the lake remains strictly regulated. No jet skis are allowed. Powerboats may mount a maximum of 40 horsepower. Water skiing permitted in certain areas and hours. The Peck’s operate a full service marina including boat rentals and a boat launch. In all, the lake remains semi-private with a reputation for great fishing.
Brant Lake, Warren County (1,357 acres, 2.1 sq mi). Yet another long, narrow lake, Brant Lake boasts private and rental waterfront homes on the shores of its clear Adirondack waters. The lake is open to all types of boating, swimming and fishing, and New York operates a paved launch ramp on Route 8, one mile northeast of the town of Brant Lake. Hiking and mountain biking are also special activities given the scenic beauty of the southern Adirondacks.
Cossayuna Lake, Washington County (659 acres). All types of boats. Paved NY State Launch ramp on East Shore Road off of County Route 9.
Onota Lake, Pittsfield, MA (617 acres). Located within the city limits of Pittsfield, access to the lake is by way of Burbank Park. Paved launch for all types of boats.
Pontoosuc Lake, Pittsfield, MA (480 acres). Just north of Pittsfield, the paved boat launch is located on Hancock Road off of Route 7 at the south end of the lake. Public beach.
Canada Lake, Fulton County (554 acres). All types of boats. Full-service marina and launch.
Caroga Lake, Fulton County (473 acres). Two, two, two lakes in one! Amusement park, public beaches, state campground and boat launch.
Copake Lake, Columbia County (410 acres). All types of boats allowed. Beautiful private and rental lakeside homes.
Burden Lake, Rensselaer County (374 acres). All boats.
Kinderhook Lake, Columbia County (350 acres). No gas motors.
Round Lake, Saratoga County (321 acres.) Cartop launch. No motors.
Grafton Lakes State Park, Rensselaer County (294 acres, 5 ponds combined). Two ponds allow electric motors, three allow no motors.
Taghkanic Lake, Columbia County (168 acres.) Gravel launch ramp. No motors.
Queechy Lake, Columbia County (141 acres). Cartop launch. No gas motors.
Glass Lake, Rensselaer County (126 acres). Cartop launch.
Moreau Lake State Park, Saratoga County (122 acres). Cartop launch. No motors
Thompsons Lake State Park, Albany County (128 acres.) Commercial boat launch, NY state campground with beach and carry-in boats.
Crooked Lake, Rensselaer County (126 acres). Home to the famed Crooked Lake House — more than 200 years old.
Snyders Lake, Rensselaer County (108 acres). Seaplane airport.
A freelance writer, three of Ed Lange’s plays were finalists for national Audie Awards, in 2000, ’05, and ’07, and one of the three won. His articles have appeared multiple times in national magazines: Sail, Soundings, American Theatre, and Dramatics.