Fishing and Canoeing the Raquette River
in St Lawrence County
Something for Everyone
Stretching from Piercefield to its confluence with the St Lawrence River east of Massena, the lower Raquette River offers a pleasurable as well as varied outdoor experience for both the most ardent and the novice outdoor enthusiast. From white water canoeing to paddling and fishing on any number of reservoirs, the Raquette has something for everyone.
With the exception of the last 2.2 miles of river near Massena, which lies in Franklin County, the lower Raquette is located entirely within St Lawrence County. The river flows primarily in a northerly direction and its upper corridor is best described as low rolling hills with moderate to steep slopes resulting in rapids and occasional waterfalls. Below Colton, the land forms begin to give way to the low undulating terrain of the St. Lawrence River plain.
A nice feature of the Raquette is that most of the river is readily accessible by motor vehicle, making it easy for any family or individual to enjoy their choice stretch of river at any time. Convenient camping and picnic areas can be found throughout the river's length. Because of the river's diverse physical characteristics, the river is most easily described by dividing it into four sections:
This 18.5 mile stretch of the Raquette River is comprised of one large impoundment (formed from the back- up of water at a hydrodam) and a 17 mile section of challenging and sometimes dangerous white water canoeing. Piercefield Flow ( the uppermost impoundment on this section of the Raquette), offers canoeing and fishing opportunities in a pond situation.
Below Piercefield, downstream to Carry Falls Reservoir, is a very wild and fascinating stretch of the Raquette. Although presently used as a canoe route by several whitewater canoeist, the surrounding area is almost entirely privately owned, and access is limited. This route should not be attempted by the novice canoeist as it requires considerable expertise in white water canoeing skills and some endurance. Numerous very difficult rapids and several long, hard portages around waterfalls occur throughout this 17 mile section.
For the next 27 miles, beginning with Carry Falls Reservoir, the Raquette is no longer a river; rather, it is a series of eight successive reservoirs ranging in size from 122 to 3170 acres. Each reservoir has its own unique setting and personality, and all are beautiful areas of great recreational opportunity. Campgrounds, boat launch sites and swimming beaches can all be found here. Perfect for a family vacation, it's a great area to fish and canoe or just relax and explore!
This segment of the Raquette is mostly divided by dams into some short, attractive river sections, interspersed with impoundments which make excellent one day trips. While camping areas are few, day parks and picnic areas are plentiful. This 27 mile river section is a great area for those individuals who enjoy nature and the outdoors, but prefer to remain closer to civilization. Numerous day canoeing and fishing trips are located throughout this river segment.
The remainder of the Raquette is uninterrupted by dams and makes a gentle and enjoyable paddle with relatively few portages for both the experienced and the novice canoeist. The river is wide and gentle here with some braided channels around occasional islands and marshy areas. Several rapid areas do occur, but easily spotted and portaged around. This 15 mile, quite scenic and tranquil river section can be done as two short canoe paddles or all at once.
When you visit the lower Raquette, keep in mind that it is largely used for the generation of power and, as such, water levels can change abruptly in some stretches as water is released or withheld at dams. One should be careful and watch for changes in water levels, especially around dams and associated tailraces. A canoeist/angler may be on a stretch and not encounter any rapids; then on the return trip suddenly encounter some rapids. In addition to daily changes caused by dam operations, river conditions fluctuate with seasonally and environmental changes as well. Although a set of rapids may be listed on the chart as runable or as a portage, it may be different for each individual. For the canoe stretches, it is recommended the canoeist, especially the inexperienced, check out all rapids and other noted portages areas before setting out. Remember to let someone know your expected route and arrival time. Anglers may find it helpful to obtain up-to-date fishing information from local sporting goods stores, bait shops, marinas and other anglers.
Key to Fish Species
SMB=smallmouth bass, NP= Northern pike, BH= bullhead,YP= yellow perch, WE= walleye, RB= Rock bass, PS= pumpkin seed, Cr= crappie, MK= muskellunge, BkT= Brook trout, WhS= white sucker, LMB=largemouth bass
|Piercefield Flow||1.5 miles 365 acres||SMB, NP, RB, YP, BH, some WE||Cranberry Lake State Campground; Setting Pole Dam Road ( Town of Altamont)||
Quite scenic. Surrounding area wooded. Many hidden stumps restricting use of large power boats. Nice lake like area to canoe, fish and observe wildlife. Family camping available nearby at Cranberry Lake State Park and in Tupper Lake area. Informal camping is found at Setting Pole Dam.
Dams: (1) Setting Pole Dam (Town of Piercefield); (2)just downstream of Rte. 3 Bridge (Niagara Mohawk)
|Piercefield Flow to Carry Falls Reservoir||17.2 miles||SMB, NP, YP, PS, BH, WhS, some WE, RB, BkT||Cranberry Lake State Campground, Parmeter Campground on Carry Reservoir (Niagara Mohawk run)||
Good fishing for SMB, although not all limit size fish, lots of fishing action. Wild and scenic area. Deer, otter and an occasional bald eagle observed here. Two parcels of State Forest occur: (1) vicinity of Jamestown Falls: (2) small strip touches NE corner of Carry Falls Reservoir, accessible by boat.
CANOEING: A 14.5mile stretch of river from Dead Creek Flow to Jamestown Falls Landing is sometimes used as a canoe route. put in off Rt. 3 into Dead Creek and take out at Jamestown falls Landing. Can extend trip another 2-3 miles and take out on Carry Falls Reservoir.
NOTE: shoreline recently acquired by DEC- area not marked. In future, state land, access points, campsites,portages will be marked. This stretch contains numerous very difficult rapids and two dangerous falls requiring several long, hard portages along with white water canoeing skills. This stretch should not be attempted by the novice canoeist!
From Dead Creek to head Sols Island Raquette River: .5 mile
Falls (2) and Rapids (7)
(1) upper Sols Island Rapids - carry on left bank;
(2) lower Sols Island Rapids - carry on right bank;
(3) 3 miles to Burnt Island Rapids- use right channel around island and carry approximately 50 feet on right bank;
(4) 1.3 miles to Hedgehog Rapids - portage on left;
(5) 2.2 miles to Smith Island- water quickens here and private bridge encountered approximately ¼ mile before island: use left channel around island and watch for rocks: island is privately owned;
(6) 3.6 miles to Moosehead Rapids- carry on left; a long ( approximately 1 mile) , not well marked carry. Trail heads away from river bed and joins logging road;
(7) 1.2 miles to Moody Falls- just prior to falls, encounter two islands: cut right, between islands, and carry on right bank approximately 400 feet;
(8) 1 mile to Jamestown Falls - carry on left approximately 200 feet; (can end trip here, or continue another 2-3 miles to Carry Falls Reservoir);
(9) 1.5 to last set of Rapids.
All rapids, falls and portages noted above should be scouted out and assessed beforehand. This stretch is best run in summer - when the days are longer, weather is warmer and water levels are down from spring runoff. Further canoeing information for this stretch can be found in Adirondack Canoe Waters - North Flow, written by Paul Jamieson, and printed by the Adirondack Mountain Club.
|Carry Falls Reservoir||6.6 miles
|SMB, YP, RB, WE, NP, BH, WhS||Parmeter Campground (Niagara Mohawk)||
Very little shore line development: surrounding area wooded. scenic, large lake-like body of water. Bald eagle spotted occasionally. is reservoir for all downstream impoundments. water level fluctuates as much as 20 feet. Maximum water level occurs in late April-June. Minimum water level occurs in late march. Water level is near minimum by mid-September. during low water levels- sand beaches exposed. parcel of State Forest Preserve touches NE corner of the reservoir ( accessible by boat).
Dams: run by Niagara Mohawk.
|Stark Falls Reservoir||1.6 miles
|WE, SMB, NP, YP, RB, BH, WhS||Parmeter Campground (Niagara Mohawk)||
Reservoir receives the most fishing pressure of the upper Raquette Impoundments. Quite open and pretty with some bay areas. Several beaver lodges. loons and nesting mergansers found here. Minimum fluctuations in water level.
Dams: (2) adjacent to each other (Niagara Mohawk).
|Blake Falls Reservoir||3.8 miles
|WE, NP, SMB, YP, RB, PS, WhS||Mc Neil Campground(Niagara Mohawk)||
Large lake-like impoundment. Scenic, back bay areas to boat and fish. Minimal shoreline development with most structures occurring on eastern shore. Wooded areas: mixed hardwoods and conifers. Popular area for family camping, swimming, boating and picnicking. During spring and fall, motorboat access is limited, so it's a good time for canoeist to enjoy the area! Beaver activity and bald eagle spotted occasionally. Minimal water level fluctuation.
Dams: (2) adjacent to each other (Niagara Mohawk).
|Rainbow Falls Reservoir||4 miles
|WE, NP, SMB, YP, RB, PS, WhS||Mc Neil Campground on Blake Reservoir (Niagara Mohawk); Higley Flow State Park, South Colton: Rainbow Falls Picnic Area (Niagara Mohawk)||
Fair amount of shoreline development (private cottages) on south shore; north shore almost entirely wooded. Good fishing. Pretty area to boat and fish. Large, weedy sections present. Loons and beavers found here. Minimal fluctuation in water level. Niagara Mohawk picnic area is small and located near boat ramp.
Dam: (Niagara Mohawk).
|Five Falls Reservoir||1.8 miles
|WE, NP, SMB, YP, RB, PS, WhS||Mc Neil Campground on Blake Reservoir (Niagara Mohawk); Higley Flow State Park, South Colton: Five Falls Picnic Area (Niagara Mohawk)||
Smallest of upper Raquette impoundments. Virtually no shoreline development. Very quiet, scenic area to boat and/ or fish. Weed beds along shoreline. Lots of beaver activity. Nice pool areas in upper reaches, near power house. a small set of rapids occur where reservoir splits around an island. Small Niagara Mohawk picnic area associated with boat ramp. Minimal fluctuation of water level.
Dam: (Niagara Mohawk).
|South Colton Reservoir||
|WE, NP, SMB, YP, RB, WhS||Higley Flow State Park, South Colton.||
Shoreline almost entirely privately owned. Limited access. Moderate to heavy use by private cottage owners. Minimal public use. Relatively shallow reservoir with little fluctuation in water level.
Morgan Rapids- located just below five Falls Reservoir
Dam: .5 miles upstream of South Colton (Niagara Mohawk).
|Higley Flow Reservoir||4.4 miles
|SMB, YP, WE, NP, RB, PS, WhS, Cr, BH, LMB||Higley Flow State Park, South Colton; Niagara Mohawk picnic Area on Higley Reservoir||
Large, quite scenic reservoir with extensive weedbeds, marshy sections and some nice quiet back areas (especially near the State Park). Good fishing for perch and other panfish. shoreline heavily developed (permanent residences and summer cottages) with exception of park area which is wooded. Moderate to heavy summer recreational use of the reservoir by private owners and the general public. Moderate to heavy boat traffic.Large state park offers numerous opportunities for family enjoyment including: swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, hiking, and nature study. Minimum fluctuations in water level.
Dam: (Niagara Mohawk).
Rapids: (1) below south Colton Dam;(2) below powerhouse
|Colton Flow (Higley Dam to Colton Dam)||
|YP, RB, SMB, WE, BH, NP, other panfish||Higley Flow State Park, South Colton; Niagara Mohawk picnic Area on Higley Reservoir||
Scenic area with braided river channels between marshy islands. Deeper pools located at either end. Generally narrow with slow flow. Moderate shoreline development (mostly private cottages) and use. a place to 'bring a youngster' fishing. Good fishing with lots of action for yellow perch and sunfish. Just bring a hook, line and some worms! shallow with a maximum depth of approximately 10 feet.
Dam: downtown Colton (Niagara Mohawk).
|Colton Dam to Hannawa Falls||
|SMB, YP, RB, an occasional BkT in spring||Higley Flow State Park, South Colton||
First ½ of stretch: major falls and rapids- uncanoeable. Area not recommended for use. Old river channel has very little water in it. Most of the water diverted through a pipeline from Colton Dam to powerhouse at Browns Bridge (3.4miles downstream). No access until Browns Bridge. From Browns Bridge is 2.6 miles to Hannawa Falls Dam. Can put canoe in at bridge and paddle/fish 1 mile to Hannawa falls Flow (see below). Shoreline dotted with private cottages, but still quite scenic.
Dams: (2) adjacent to each other in the village of Hannawa Falls (Niagara Mohawk).
|Hannawa Falls Flow||
|SMB, RB, BH, occasional We WhS||Postwood Park on Hannawa Falls flow (town facility)||
Large , open, lake-like impoundment with a streamlike upper section. Little current in upstream portion. Heavy shoreline development ( private residences and cottages) with the exception of large wooded area along SE shoreline, near town park. popular local summer spot for boating and waterskiing.
Postwood Park offers: swimming, picnicking, a playground, canoe access and hiking trails.
|Hannawa Falls to Potsdam||
|SMB, RB, YP, NP, occasional WE||
Area not recommended for use. River channel has very little water in this stretch. Most water is diverted through a diversion channel and pipeline from Hannawa Falls to Potsdam flow at sugar Island. Surrounding area mostly privately owned- access limited.
Rapids (1) below Hannawa Dam; (2) below Sugar island; Dam: 2 sets approximately ¼ mile apart; (3) at the head of Sugar Island. Dams: (1) Sugar Island (Niagara Mohawk); (2) Village of Potsdam (run by village)
|NP, SMB, YP, RB, occasional WE||Ives Park-Water Street, downtown Potsdam||A 'pocket wilderness' area. In downtown Potsdam- an area to enjoy the outdoors. Large, scenic impoundment with braided river channels around marshy islands. No access for motor boats. Nice area to spend a day fishing and canoeing. Ives Park borders the river and is a good spot for informal picnicking.|
|Potsdam to Hewittville||3.4 miles||SMB, YP, RB, a few NP||Pine street 'Sandstoner' Park, (Town of Potsdam)||
During the first two mile section downstream of Potsdam, 3 sets of difficult rapids occur (each approximately .3 miles apart). Surrounding area mostly privately owned. Restricted access. Area not recommended for use. A good half-day canoe/fishing is put in off river road and paddle up to base of rapids, then downstream to Hewittville Dam and back to access point (approximately 3 miles). There is minimal shoreline development and the river is quiet and pretty with little current. Pine Street Park has swimming, a playground and informal picnicking.
Dam: approximately .2 miles upstream of Hewittville Bridge (Potsdam Paper Co.)
Hewittville to Norwood
|4.8 miles||SMB, NP, WE, RB, PS, YP||Town Park, Cemetery Road, Norwood||
Village of Unionville located in this area. Hewittville to Unionville 1 mile; Unionville to Norwood 3.8 miles. Hewittville to Unionville not recommended for use. Nice day excursion- boat and fish the Norwood Impoundment (see below), then head upstream to Unionville Dam and back (approximately 6 miles round trip). river near Unionville is mostly wooded and farmland- quite pretty and tranquil.
Dams (1) Unionville (Potsdam Paper Co.) (2) Norwood (Niagara Mohawk).
|SMB, YP, WE, Cr||Town Park, Cemetery Road, Norwood||Large lake-like impoundment with moderately developed shoreline. The west shore and upstream sections are largely wooded and farmland. during the summer this area receives moderate to heavy local recreational use. It is a nice area to spend a day- fishing/boating or exploring. The town park offers swimming, a playground, picnicking and canoe/boat access.|
|Norwood to Yaleville||2.2 miles||YP, SMB, some WE||
Surrounding land is almost entirely privately owned. Restricted access. Short river section with mostly wooded banks and farmland. quite scenic. Several islands. Could put canoe in at bridge below Norwood Dam, paddle and fish downstream to Yaleville Dam and back (Round trip: approximately 4.2 miles).
Rapids: approximately .5 miles upstream of Yaleville Dam.
Dam: Yaleville (Niagara Mohawk).
|Yaleville to Norfolk||2.4 miles||SMB, YP, NP, some WE||
Nice 'pocket wilderness' area. Quite pretty and serene. Lightly developed, mostly wooded and farms shoreline. large and small islands and marshy area with relatively calm flat water. Good day use area to boat and fish.
Rapids: below Yaleville Dam: can walk through on left.
Dams: (1) East Norfolk Dam (Niagara Mohawk); (2) 1 mile downstream of (1), Norfolk Dam (Niagara Mohawk)
|Norfolk to Raymondville||3.8 miles||WE, SMB,YP, RB||
No access: surrounding land privately owned. Area has good fishing and would be a pleasant stretch to canoe. river banks are primarily wooded and farmland with some development. The water is diverted from the main channel for approximately .6 mile below the Niagara Mohawk dam in Norfolk.
rapids: below powerhouse in Norfolk.
Dam: Raymondville (Niagara Mohawk)
|Raymondville to Massena Springs||8.4 miles||SMB, NP, RB, WE,YP, some MK||Town Park, Massena Springs||
Very pretty section with good fishing. Nice stretch for both experienced and inexperienced canoeist. Rapids are easy to spot and walk around. East riverbank mostly mixed hardwoods and conifers with some beautiful cedar stands. west riverbank largely farmland and old fields. Waterfowl, deer and other wildlife observed here. Water level shallow at times. State Forest on east bank, near Baxterville (4 miles downstream). good area for a break or a picnic. town park offers picnicking, playground and boat launch.
Dam: Raymondville (Niagara Mohawk)
CANOEING: Put in off River Road .6 mile downstream of Raymondville Dam. Total mileage: 7.8. another access point near Trout Brook, but .5 mile of rapids to walk through. Takeout at Massena Springs Town Park.
Rapids: (1) 1.4 miles downstream- can be run or walked on right; (2) 1 mile downstream of (1)- can be run or walked around; (3) 1 mile to Baxterville Rapids- carry on left; (4) 3.2 miles to three rapids (.2 mile apart) near an island- canoeable or easily walked through.
|Massena Springs to St Regis Indian Reservation||6.8 miles||SMB, NP, YP, RB, WE, some MK||Town Park, Massena Springs, Robert Moses State Park||
Mostly farmland with mixed bottomland. Hardwood forest, with willows and alders, buffer the road. Weedy areas in this stretch, good fish habitat. Numerous species of waterfowl observed here. When approaching Rooseveltown, can sometime smell industrial plans. Family camping at Robert Moses State Park.
CANOEING: Put in at park in Massena Springs. Total canoe mileage: 6.8 miles. Trip ends one mile downstream from Raquette River Village. This is the last good takeout site prior to the St. Regis Indian Reservation. Obtain permission from the St. Regis Indians to canoe/fish the 5.6 miles to the St. Lawrence River. another takeout prior to the reservation occurs at the NE corner of Rooseveltown Bridge. Steep banks makes access difficult.
RAPIDS: (1) under Massena Springs Bridge- portage on right. (NOTE: very swift water here. Recommend the novice first paddle upstream a bit, then cut over to the right bank); (2) 1 mile to next rapids- can shoot or portage; (3) 4.2 miles to two rapids near Raquette River Village approximately .2 mile apart- shoot both or portage on right; (4) .8 mile to rapids just above bridge- run or portage on left. One mile to takeout point on north bank.