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Essex Chain Lakes Complex

View Essex Chain Lakes Complex Map (PDF) (3 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper

Map of Adirondack Park and Essex Chain Tract

The Essex Chain Lakes Complex is comprised of the 19,600 acres of lands and waters of the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area (ECLPA), the Pine Lake Primitive Area (PLPA) and the new portions of the Blue Mountain Wild Forest (BMWF). The complex is located in the central portion of the Adirondack Park.

These Adirondack Forest Preserve lands are situated in the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County and the Towns of Minerva and Newcomb in Essex County. The units are generally bordered by the Township 19 and Chain Lakes Easements (DEC easements, owned in fee by Upper Hudson Woodlands ATP) to the west and north. Private property of the Goodnow Flow Association and Otter Pond Club also border to the north. Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest borders to the east, and the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area to the south/southeast.

Camping at the 11 designated primitive tent sites along the shores of the lakes and ponds in the area around Essex Chain Lakes is available at no charge through a permit system. See the "camping" section below for more information.

Pickup trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended on seasonal access roads - four wheel drive vehicles are not necessary but will serve better.


Recreating outdoors in a scenic natural setting is important to the people who live in and visit the Adirondacks. The forest preserve lands of the Adirondacks provide numerous opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation activities in summer, winter, spring and fall.

Outdoor recreational activities available to the public on these newly-opened lands include hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horse trail riding on the many miles of former woods roads; hunting, trapping and bushwhacking on the surrounding lands; and fishing and paddling on the Essex Chain Lakes and other waters on the tract. Bird watching and wildlife viewing are also popular.

Aerial view of the Essex Chain Lakes

See the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan for proposals for future recreational opportunities.

Visitors to the Essex Chain Lakes Complex should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildlands experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. All people recreating in the backcountry should know safe hiking practices, hiking & camping rules, how to avoid getting lost (191 KB PDF), state land use regulation and current trail conditions.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have if you have little experience or woodland skills. Use the link for the NYS Outdoor Guides Association near the bottom of the right column for information on outdoor guides.

Practice Leave No Trace principles when recreating in the Adirondacks to enjoy the outdoors responsibly to minimize your impact on the natural resources and other backcountry users. Use the Leave No Trace link near the bottom of the right column for more information.

The Trail Information for the Eastern Adirondacks web pages provide general information regarding backcountry and seasonal conditions; specific notices regarding closures and conditions of trails, roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and links to weather, state land use regulation, low impact recreation and more.

Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235.

Accessible Opportunities

DEC welcomes all visitors to explore outdoor recreation on state lands and we are committed to providing an ever-increasing range of accessible opportunities. DEC seeks to provide universal access opportunities; recreation opportunities for everyone - from the oldest adult to the youngest child and everyone in between including people with disabilities. Accessibility improvements invite families with children in strollers and people with mobility issues to our state lands. Our focus is on inclusion and not separate programs.

Accessible Features

DEC is proposing a number of accessible features and outdoor recreational opportunities for this area. Check here for updates as additional opportunities become available. DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations provide information on all accessible recreational facilities DEC lands statewide.


The Essex Chain Lakes Complex contains 18 waterbodies totaling 785 acres that range in size from 3-acre Chub Pond to 216-acre Third Lake. Ten miles of the Hudson River on the eastern boundary and four miles of the Cedar River in the southern section make this is a paddler's paradise.

Essex Chain Lakes
Paddlers in canoes on the Essex Chain Lakes

Paddlers can carry their canoe or kayak from the parking area at the end of the Cornell/Deer Pond Road less than 0.25 mile to Deer Pond. The 0.5 mile carry from Deer Pond to Third Lake is located directly across the pond on its southern shore.

Once in Third Lake paddlers can access Second Lake by water and from there travel to First Lake using a short carry trail. On the northern shore of First Lake near its western end is the 0.4 mile carry to Grassy Pond.

In the other direction, paddlers can travel from Third Lake to Fourth Lake. Fifth Lake can be reached by paddling through the culvert under the roadway, or during high water portaging over the road. Paddlers can reach Seventh Lake directly from Fifth Lake.

Additional carry trails between Essex Chain Lakes and other waters in this area are proposed in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan.

Hudson River

Currently the put-in sites for the Hudson River are the Town of Newcomb Boat Launch on Harris Lake and the Polaris Club (aka Iron) Bridge access site.

The Town of Newcomb Boat Launch on the Harris Lake (Beach) Road is the best location to launch canoes, kayaks and rafts. Parking is available at this location and in the nearby parking lot at the Town of Newcomb Beach.

The Iron Bridge parking area can be reached by taking the Goodnow Road, off Route 28N in Newcomb, approximately 5.5 miles south to the southeast corner of Goodnow Flow. Turn left on to the Essex Chain Road and the parking area is 2.5 miles away at the end of the access road. It is 0.3 miles from the gate to the landing site on the Hudson River.

Sign for Hudson River access site

Two parking areas exist on the Chain Lakes Road off of Route 28 in Indian Lake. The first is located about three miles from Route 28, from which the public can walk 0.8 mile north the landing above the confluence of the Hudson and Indian Rivers. The second is located nearly four miles from Route 28 near the old Outer Gooley Club. It is 0.1 mile walk south from this parking area to the landing above the confluence of the Hudson and Indian Rivers.

Information about the available access, including maps, is provided on kiosks at all of these parking areas.

Paddlers can travel nearly 12 miles on the Hudson River from Harris Lake to a landing just above the confluence with the Indian River. There are several stretches of flat but moving waters that people of all skill levels can enjoy, especially in the upper portion.

Paddlers in canoes on a flatwater section of the Hudson River

The river also contains numerous rapids and shallow rocky areas. Depending on water levels, the rapids are mostly rated Class 1, 2 or 2+. Under the certain water levels a few of the rapids may rate Class 3, such as Long Rapids and Ord Falls. Currently portages around these rapids have been flagged but carry trails have not been developed. The development of these carry trails is proposed in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan

During low water conditions (water levels below 4.0 at the North Creek gage) a considerable amount of portaging, dragging and lining of kayaks and canoes will be required especially in the lower portion of the river.

Less adventurous paddlers can take advantage of a long stretch of flat water above and below 28N or the Blackwell Stillwater section above and below the Iron Bridge landing site. Paddles may access the lower Goodnow River from the Blackwell Stillwater.

Take out point on the Hudson River

Trips shorter than the entire 12 miles can be taken by paddling from Harris Lake to the Iron Bridge Landing or from the Iron Bridge Landing to the Hudson River waterway access site just before the confluence with the Indian River.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Paddlers that do not exit the Hudson River at the waterway access site before the confluence with the Indian River will paddle several miles of the Hudson River Gorge before reaching another point where they can exit from the river.

Inexperienced paddlers should make use of the flatwater sections, carry around all rapids or hire a licensed guide to lead their trip.

Cedar River
Flatwater section of the Cedar River

Paddlers can access the Cedar River from the parking area at the northern end of the Chain Lakes Road near the old Gooley Club. It is approximately 2.6 miles from the parking area to the Cedar River.

There is a flatwater section that stretches a shortway upstream and downstream of the site where the road reaches the river.

Paddlers are asked to please give wide berth to anglers so as not to become entangled in the lines or disturb fish they are trying to catch.


Motorized boats will not be permitted by the public in any of the area waters. The lessees (Gooley Club and Polaris Mountain Club) motorized boat provisions will expire when the lease expires in 2018. Storage of boats (motorized or non-motorized) is not permitted anywhere in the Forest Preserve.


Floatplanes have historically been used on First Lake and Pine Lake. Anglers and campers can access these two lakes by using one of the areas floatplane services.

Two campsites on First Lake and one on Pine Lake are reserved for use by float plane customers.


Twenty-two designated tent sites are currently available in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex.

Waterfront Camping

Thirteen designated tent sites (map of tent sites (PDF 1.5 mb)) along the shores of the waters of the complex require a free permit between May 15 and October 15.

The permit system is administered through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association Back Country Stewardship Program and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) facility.

Map depicting the tent sites in Essex Chain Complex

Campers must call 518-582-2000 or visit the AIC facility at 5922 State Route 28N in Newcomb, NY, to reserve a tent site. Campers can pick up their reserved permit at the AIC facility between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. any day of the week. Tent sites may be reserved no more than 10 days in advance.

Campers may visit the AIC web site (this link leaves the DEC website) for maps and information about camping, the tent sites and the permit system. The AIC website will track tent sites that are occupied or reserved to assist campers in choosing a campsite. Campers that will arrive before or after the operational hours of the AIC can make arrangements to obtain their permit.

Campers must abide by regulations and conditions of the permit system:

  • Camping around the Essex Chain Lakes and other nearby waters is allowed only at designated tent sites;
  • Campers must obtain a permit before entering the Essex Chain Complex;
  • Campers may spend no more than three nights at a tent site;
  • Campfires are prohibited at tent sites that require a permit; and
  • No more than eight campers may stay at a tent site.

Camping at these 13 sites between October 16 and May 14 will not require a permit, but all other restrictions listed above will apply.

Other Camping

Camping at the nine other designated tent sites within the Essex Chain Lakes Complex do not require a permit. These tent sites are provided on a first-come/first-served basis the same as other primitive tent sites in the Adirondacks. Campfires are allowed at these tent sites and campers must comply with general state land use rules.

Six of these tent sites are located off the Cornell/Deer Pond Road, one is located near the Iron Bridge and two existing tent sites on western end of First Lake may only be used by float plane customers. Those wishing to experience camping by float plane should contact one of the Adirondack float plane operators.

Additional tent sites and some camping sites will be developed throughout the summer, including three tent sites on Pine Lake. One of the tent sites on Pine Lake will be reserved for use by float plane customers only.

While nuisance black bears are not a big problem in this unit, overnight campers are encouraged to store all food, toiletries and garbage in bear-resistant canisters or use a food hang.


Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit. Better yet, carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly, are easier to clean and do not leave blackened rocks and partially burned firewood. They are useful in wet rainy weather.


Adirondack lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are renowned for their brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout fishing. Fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleyes, lake trout, landlocked salmon and panfish are also widespread.

Row boat on Jackson Pond

Anglers can fish for landlocked salmon and rainbow trout in Third Lake and Fifth Lake; and brook trout in Pine Lake, Eighth Lake, Deer Pond and Jackson Pond; or native lake trout and rainbow trout in Clear Pond.

The flatwater sections of the Hudson River provide good fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, northern pike and panfish. In the stretch just south of Route 28N anglers may find walleye and an occasional largemouth bass.

The Hudson River between the Cedar River and the Indian River contains brown and rainbow trout.

Anglers can fish the Cedar River for brook and brown trout.

Cedar River

Several other rivers and streams flow into and out of the Complex including the Goodnow River, Rock River, Indian River and a number of small streams.

Protect Native Adirondack Fish, obey all regulations regarding the use of baitfish and do not release bait of fish from other waters into any water. Human introductions of non-native fish have, and continue to, substantially and permanently affect the ecosystems of lakes and ponds. Populations of brook trout, round whitefish and other native Adirondack fish species have severely declined due to introduced fish.

The Adirondack/Lake Champlain Fishing and Hunting Hotline provides current information on access, conditions and management & stewardship activities with links to other important information for those planning to fish in the Adirondacks.

Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.


Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities on the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Whether a short hike to a waterfalls or a multi-day hike along, hikers should always be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods.

The network of many miles of former woods roads in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex is open to the public for hiking. Hikers can also hike to the scenic Cedar River from the Outer Gooley parking area.

Purchase a Trail Supporter Patch to provide funding for maintenance of trail and other backcountry facilities.

Wildlife Viewing

Loon with chick on its back
Common Loon. © Nina Schoch

The Adirondacks provides a variety of scenic habitats and opportunities to watch wildlife. Birders, photographers and those who just want to observe wildlife in a natural setting will find a great abundance and variety of wildlife on the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

55 species of mammals, including the moose, fisher, American marten, white-tailed deer, and black bear; 218 different birds including the American bald eagle and the common loon; and 86 species of fish reside in the Adirondacks including native strain brook trout and the endangered round whitefish.

Many of the birds and most of the mammals found in the Adirondacks are present in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex. Common loon have been observed on Deer Pond and First, Third and Fifth Lakes. Bear and deer are common and moose have been seen here.

Many colorful and interesteing species of butterflies and dragonflies can be found in the area for viewing and photographing.

Hunting & Trapping

The lands are open for hunting and trapping. Bear and deer are common. Big game hunters may obtain a permit to camp on the forest preserve lands in this unit for the length of the Northern Big Game Season, except at tent sites in the camping permit system.

Additional access for hunters is proposed in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan

Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in New York State. The Adirondacks offer many exciting opportunities to hunt a large variety of wildlife, including big game, small game, game birds and furbearers.

Trapping makes New York State is one of the nation's top producers of wild furs for the commercial fur trade. The Adirondacks provide unique trapping opportunities for marten, beaver and otter in addition to fisher, bobcat, mink, muskrat and other furbearers.

The Adirondack/Lake Champlain Fishing and Hunting Hotline provides current information on access, conditions and management & stewardship activities with links to other important information for those planning to hunt or trap in the Adirondacks.

Follow all hunting safety guidelines, be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods.

Hunting and trapping is allowed on all forest preserve lands. All hunters and trappers much comply with all applicable State laws and regulation.


Biking opportunities are proposed in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan.

Horseback Riding

This summer DEC will designate and mark horseback riding trails and construct a horse trailer parking area at the gravel pit on Chain Lakes Road North.

A bridge over the Cedar River and other horseback riding opportunities are proposed in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan.


Geocaching is allowed on the forest preserve lands of this unit.

Geocaches must be labeled with the owner's name and address and installed in a manner that does not disturb the natural conditions of the site or injure a tree.

Geocaches should not be placed in wetlands, alpine summit vegetation or other sensitive habitats where the repeated presence of people may cause damage.

Skiing & Snowshoeing

All hiking trails are also available in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The network of former woods roads in the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex are open to the public for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Be prepared before going into the woods and know what to do if you get lost in the woods .


Snowmobiling opportunities (including connector trails) will be assessed moving forward in the UMP process.

Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities

Forest Preserve Lands

Blue Mountain Wild Forest

Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest

Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area

DEC Campgrounds

Lake Harris

Indian Lake Islands

Conservation Easement Lands (CEL)

Upper Hudson Woodlands ATP

Driving Directions & Parking Areas

The main point of entrance to the northern portion of the Essex Chain Lakes Complex is by the Goodnow Flow Road which is reached by turning south onto Pine Tree Road, a short loopoff State Route 28.

Deer Pond Parking Area

Deer Pond Access Sign

This is the main motor vehicle access for the Essex Chain Lakes and surrounding waterbodies. Take the Goodnow Flow Road approximately 4.3 miles and turn right onto Woody's Road. Follow Woody's Road for approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto the Cornell/Deer Pond Road and travel 4.4 miles to the Deer Pond parking area. It is a 0.25 mile carry to Deer Pond.

Hudson River/Iron Bridge Parking Area

This is the main motor vehicle access for the Blackwell Stillwater section of the Hudson River. Travel 5.7 miles on the Goodnow Flow Road, bearing left at the Woody's Road junction, to the junction with the Chain Lakes Road North on the left. Turn onto the Chain Lakes Road North and travel 2.7 miles to the Hudson River/Iron Bridge parking area. It is a 0.3 mile carry from the parking area to the river.

Outer Gooley Parking Area

The main point of entrance to the southern portion of the Essex Chain Lakes Complex is the Chain Lakes Road South off Route 28 in Indian Lake.

Travel 4.2 miles north on the Chain Lakes Road South to the parking area near the old Outer Gooley Club. It is a 0.1 mile carry to the Hudson River waterway access site and 2.6 mile walk to the Cedar River.

If parking lot is filled, park at the old parking lot located on the right side of the road approximately 3.5 miles from Route 28. It is 0.8 mile walk to the Hudson River waterway access site.

Nearby Amenities

Gas and lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Minerva, Newcomb and Indian Lake.

Dining opportunities, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Minerva, Indian Lake and Newcomb.

A number of developed public and private campgrounds are available in-season within a 20-mile radius of the area.

Tourism Organizations, Maps and Other Information

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council website and Discover Recreation web portal provide information on recreational opportunities, attractions, lodging, dining and other amenities in the area. Additional information is provided by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism or the Hamilton County Tourism Office. Use the links near the bottom of the right column to access their websites.

Numerous guide books 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.

A map of the Essex Chain Lakes (PDF, 3.2 MB) shows the locations of the natural features of the area and trailhead parking areas, waterway access sites, trails, designated campsites, lean-tos and other recreational facilities.

The DEC State Land Interactive Mapper can be used to print maps showing similar information for this area or any location within New York State. Also DEC's map data can be viewed in Google Earth.

There are also excellent printed maps and computer map programs from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Geographic and other sources. These are sold in outdoor retail shops, bookstores and on the internet. Use the USGS Maps link in the right column to order their maps online.

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.

Rules and Regulations

The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve or conservation easement lands open to the public.

Please see above "Camping" section for primitive camping permit requirements and campfire regulations.

DEC Forest Rangers are primarily responsible for search and rescue, wild land fire suppression and enforcing state land use laws and regulations. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are primarily responsible for enforcing hunting, fishing, trapping and pollution laws and regulation. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.

Important Phone Numbers

Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC): 518-582-2000 (camping permits)

Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: 518-891-0235 (24 hours a day) or dial 911

State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: 518-897-1300

Environmental Law Enforcement: 518-897-1326

Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) - call the TIPPs hotline to report any environmental violations or report it online.