Five Ponds Wilderness
- Open for Recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Potsdam Office: 315-265-3090 or Email: information.R6@dec.ny.gov
- Backcountry Emergency (Search, Rescue and Forest Fire): 518-891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
- State Land Law Enforcement: 518-897-1300
- Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Law Enforcement: 315-785-2231
- Location: Towns of Fine and Clifton in St. Lawrence County, town of Webb in Herkimer County and town of Long Lake in Hamilton County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 6J
- Maps: Five Ponds Wilderness Area Map (PDF 897 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
This 107,230-acre Five Ponds Wilderness lies between Cranberry Lake on the north, Bog River Flow on the east and Stillwater Reservoir on the south, and contains some of the most remote wilderness in the Adirondack Park. Trails are mostly in the northern part, leaving much of the area trailless.
On July 15, 1995, the area changed suddenly and dramatically. A violent windstorm blew down thousands of acres of trees south and west of Cranberry Lake. Virtually all trails in the Five Ponds Wilderness were blocked and access to the interior ended for the rest of the year. All trails are open now and the area has more young forest growth, which will work to the benefit of wildlife such as deer and snowshoe hare.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
The unit has over 52 miles of marked foot trails. The remoteness of the area and heavy beaver activity provide more rugged trail conditions than on the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest to the north.
- The High Falls Loop (red) (15 miles) - This trail begins at the parking lot on the South Shore road in the Hamlet of Wanakena at the start of the Dead Creek Flow Trail.
- Sand Lake (blue) (7.3 miles) - This trail begins at the southwest corner of the High Falls loop and crosses the only bridge over the Oswegatchie River within this wilderness. Beaver flooding is very common along the beginning of the trail. The trail runs southwest past Five Ponds and Wolf Pond, ending at Sand Lake. Lean-tos are located at Big Shallow, Little Shallow, Wolf Pond and Sand Lake.
- Wolf Pond Trail (yellow) (3.5 miles) - This trail leaves the Sand Lake Trail 0.5 mile from Wolf Pond and continues to Buck Pond. Wolf Pond outlet provides a wide expanse of lowland that is usually wet and must be crossed on beaver dams. The remainder of the trail to Cage Lake is on high ground, but beaver activities on Hammer Creek often necessitate trail relocation beyond Cage Lake. At Buck Pond, it joins the Buck Pond Primitive Corridor.
- Buck Pond Primitive Corridor (8.5 miles) - This undeveloped roadbed is used by the owners of Buck Pond to reach their property. From Buck Pond, it follows old logging roads until it meets the roadbed of the logging railroad constructed by the Post and Henderson Company around 1905. About 1.2 miles north of Little Otter pond, the route uses old logging roads again. Beyond this juncture it forks with the northern road continuing on to Youngs Road south of the hamlet of Star Lake. The Left fork leads to private property; but, before reaching the former state boundary line, it meets the Boundary Line Trail. Deep ruts are found in several places, especially at Little Otter Pond. Beaver activity is usually evident at Little Otter Pond Outlet.
- Boundary Line Trail (yellow) (0.6 mile) - This trail shortened access from Youngs Road to Buck Pond Road. A parking lot is available at Youngs Road.
- Cowhorn Junction Trail (yellow) (1.8 miles) - This trail connects the High Falls Loop with Cowhorn Junction. It provides access to the Cat Mountain Trail and passes Cat Mountain and Bassout Ponds.
- Cat Mountain Trail (red) (0.7 mile) - This trail ends at the summit of Cat Mountain, where a fire tower was formerly located. A good view of the past blow down is available.
- Sixmile Creek Trail (blue) (5.3 miles) - This trail is accessible from West flow, passes the Olmstead Pond Loop and Cowhorn Pond and ends at Cowhorn Junction.
- Cowhorn Pond Trail (yellow) (0.2 mile) - This short trail leads from Sixmile Creek Trail to the Cowhorn Pond lean-to.
- Olmstead Pond Loop (yellow) (3.2 miles) - This loop begins on the Sixmile Creek Trail approximately 0.5 mile from West Flow. It passes Spectacle and Simmons ponds and joins the former Olmstead Pond Trail at the Olmstead Pond lean-to and continues to rejoin the Sixmile Creek Trail.
- Darning Needle Pond Trail (yellow) (2.4 miles) - This trail provides access to Darning Needle Pond from Chair Rock Flow. It follows Chair Rock Creek and is subject to beaver activity.
- Canoe Carry (3.5 miles) - This trail provide access for canoeists carrying between Lows Lake and the Oswegatchie River. Canoeists may enter the Bog River at Lows Lower Dam and paddle up the slow-moving river about 14.5 miles to the west shore of Lows Lake, where the canoe carry leads to Big Deer Pond and the upper reaches of the Oswegatchie River. The route continues downstream to Inlet, where it becomes unnavigable. Although beaver dams are often encountered, the only major obstruction is High Falls. Two minor rapids might not be navigable during periods of low water.
General Information on Backcountry Camping - includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
There are many lean-tos built on prime camping sites in the area, some listed in the trail descriptions. These are on Big Shallow, Little Shallow, Cage Lake, Wolf Pond, Sand Lake, Olmstead Pond, Cowhorn Pond, as well as along the Oswegatchie River and on Cranberry Lake. Privies are located at some of these lean-to sites.
There are 120 primitive tent sites, designated with yellow markers, established for the convenience of campers. Forty-six of these sites line the shores of Cranberry Lake. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at the Cranberry Lake boat launch. Forty-five numbered sites serve the canoe route between Lows Lake and Inlet. Campers may locate these sites on topographic maps displayed at Inlet. Forty numbered sites serve Lows Lake, Bog River Flow and Hitchins Pond. In addition, primitive camping more than 150 feet from a road, trail or the water is allowed.
General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Premium paddling opportunities are found in the Five Ponds Wilderness area. Whether along the shores of Cranberry Lake, the limited access and largely motor free Bog River Flow, or on the wild and scenic Oswegatchie River, there is something for all paddling abilities. People enjoy the camp sites along the waterways, whether trips of 2 days or 2 weeks duration. The adventurous may start by paddling to the southwestern end of Bog River Flow, following the 3.5 mile Canoe Carry (described above) and travel downstream on the Oswegatchie River to Inlet.
General Information on Boating - including safety tips with links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.
Boating is allowed on Cranberry Lake and Stillwater Reservoir which form the boundary for some of the Wilderness Area. Some of the primitive campsites are accessible by boat (as well as by canoe and kayak.)
General information on fishing includes fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations.
North Central NY Fishing provides information on fishing in the Adirondacks and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.
Water dominates much of the interior of this area with 12 named rivers and streams and 105 ponds and lakes which are at least 2 acres in size. Acidified water has reduced native fish populations in the south and western portions of the area. Lime treatments have allowed for brook trout stocking is some of the ponds.
- Cranberry Lake - Smallmouth bass, northern pike, pan fish and brook trout
- Stillwater Reservoir - Smallmouth bass and splake
- Bog River flow - Largemouth Bass
The interior ponds and streams contain brook trout, where acid rain is not an issue. Stocked ponds include Boottree, Cage Lake, Clear, Cowhorn, Darning Needle, Evergreen Lake, Fishpole, Olmstead, Simmons, and Tamarack ponds. Pond brook trout fingerling stockings can be seen at under the Herkimer and St Lawrence County lists.
Help Protect Native Adirondack Fish; populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.
Hunting & Trapping
The area is open for hunting and trapping though not notable for any particular species. Most commonly pursued species are deer and bear. For someone looking to enhance their chances of success scouting is a must. The animals are few and far between so knowing what they are feeding on as the fall progresses and where they may be feeding is very important.
Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing
General Information on Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing - includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can take place anywhere on the property. Any access during the winter should be on skis or snowshoes since deep snow is sure to be encountered.
The Adirondacks contain large tracts of wildlife habitat with some boreal, bog, alpine and other unique habitats. Many birds (Common Loon, Peregrine Falcon) and mammals (Moose, Black Bear) are unique to the Adirondacks or are mainly found here. More than 50 species of mammals and hundreds of species of birds inhabit or pass through the Adirondacks at one time of the year or another. Please be respectful of wildlife and do not feed them, especially bears.
All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.
Trailheads and Parking Areas Accessed in St Lawrence County from State Route 3 on the northwestern side of the Wilderness Area:
- Oswegatchie River Parking area at Inlet. Turn south off State Route 3 on Sunny Lake Road waterway access. Parking is at the end of Inlet Road. (44.124620°N, 74.959670°W) Google maps (leaves DEC website)
- South Shore Road Parking area, south of the hamlet of Wanakena on South Shore Road (44.133102°N, 74.915278°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
- Youngs Road Parking, south of the hamlet of Star Lake along Youngs Road. (44.140310°N, 75.027190°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Access to Bog River Flow at Lower Dam:
- Lows Lower Dam Parking. Take route 421 off state route 30 then take the access road to the Lower Dam on Bog River. (44.115775°N, 74.626563°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Access points from south of the area:
- Stillwater Reservoir parking area and boat launch at the end of Stillwater Road in Stillwater (43.890420°N, 75.035300°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
- Raven Lake corridor parking. Take the first left in Stillwater then another left. Proceed approximately a mile to the Stillwater dam. Go another quarter mile and parking before the bridge (43.896730°N, 75.054562°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Most trailhead parking areas provide registration books. Please take the time to sign in and out.
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace (Leaves DEC website) principles when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts other backcountry users.
How We Manage Five Ponds Wilderness Area
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Five Ponds Wilderness Unit Management Plan that was completed in April 1994. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more. If you have any questions, or would like to obtain a copy of the plan or amendments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities and Other Information
DEC Lands & Facilities
Gas, dining opportunities, lodging, food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Cranberry Lake or east into Franklin County at Tupper Lake.
Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (Leaves DEC website), St Lawrence County Chamber (Leaves DEC website), Herkimer County Chamber (Leaves DEC website), and Cranberry Lake 50 - hiking trail system (Leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.
Numerous guide books and printed maps are available with information on the lands and waters in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.
Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (Leaves DEC Website) for information on outdoor guides.