DEC Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Bulletin - May 21, 2020

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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DEC Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Bulletin

May 21, 2020

This bulletin provides only the most recent notices. Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information web pages for more detailed information on access, outdoor recreation infrastructure, and conditions.

Emergency Situations: If you get lost or injured; keep calm and stay put. If you have cell service, call 911 or the DEC Forest Ranger Emergency Dispatch, 518-891-0235.

Hike Smart by packing the proper gear. See our recommended packing list and safety tips.

Memorial Day Holiday Weekend

Expect large numbers of vehicles at trailheads and boat launches, and large numbers of people on trails. Recreate close to home with members of your household. Practice social distancing and wear a mask when you are close to others. Be prepared with three or four solid backup plans. Park only in parking lots and not along roadsides. If the parking lot is full at your desired location, move on to your backup plans until you find a less busy location. If all parking lots are full, head home and come back another day. There will be increased law enforcement presence along the Route 73 corridor this weekend. Parking will be strictly enforced.

Recreate Local – Safely and Responsibly

DEC encourages responsible recreation during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases, DEC and State Parks encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Use DECinfo Locator to find DEC-managed lands near you and use #RecreateLocal to share your outdoor experiences in open spaces and parks close to home.

Social Distancing Guidelines
Follow DEC’s guidelines for social distancing while recreating outdoors:Social Distancing Flyer

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home. Keep visits short. Avoid high-traffic destinations.
  • Be Safe: Avoid crowds and groups. Recreate only with members of your immediate household. Keep a distance of 6 feet or more from others. Alert others as you’re about to pass or step aside to let people pass. Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing.
  • Be Ready: Move quickly through parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit.
  • Stay Home: If you’re not feeling well, stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their visit.

Pack A Mask
New Yorkers are required to wear masks in public when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained, including on trails and in the backcountry. No matter how or where you plan to recreate, pack a mask and wear it in parking lots, on crowded summits, and anywhere else you meet people along the trail or in the outdoors.

DEC campgrounds and day use areas, including pavilions, beaches, and boat launches located within DEC campgrounds, are closed. The public may enter DEC campgrounds to access trails on the Forest Preserve or to walk or bike on the campground roadways. Motor and motorized vehicles are prohibited from entering DEC campgrounds.

Water-access campsites at DEC campgrounds remain closed to overnight camping until DEC’s campgrounds reopen. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Saranac Lake Islands Campground;
  • Indian Lake Campground;
  • Lake George Islands Campground;
  • Tioga Point Campground;
  • Forked Lake Campground; and
  • Alger Island Campground.

Use of lean-tos should be restricted to members of a single household at a time to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Primitive camping is permitted for groups of nine or fewer people from a single household camping three nights or less. Campsites along seasonal access that remain closed will not be accessible by motor vehicle.

DEC Boat Launches
DEC boat launches not located within DEC campgrounds are open for recreational use by individuals and households that adhere to guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others.
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands.
  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as rails, posts, and tie off cleats.
  • Wear a mask when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained.

Boaters and other day users should continue to social distance on the water and on shore and avoid crowded sites. Boaters and day use visitors should use mainland bathroom facilities before going out on the water, as outhouse facilities at DEC day use sites and campsites are not currently maintained or sanitized.

The Adirondack Watershed Institute Stewardship Program will begin this weekend. Stewards will be present at public boat launches throughout the Adirondacks to check for invasive species on water vessels and educate users about proper clean, drain, and dry techniques and other methods of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Trailhead Registers
Trailhead registers provide vital information, so please continue to sign in and out. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, special precautions should be taken while using trailhead registers to minimize spread of the virus through commonly touched surfaces, such as pencils and the registers themselves. Follow these guidelines when using trailhead registers to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

  • Only one person per group should register. Others in the group should stay away from the register.
  • If someone is at a register when you approach, stand at least six feet away and wait for them to leave before you approach.
  • Bring your own pencil or pen.
  • Minimize touching surfaces.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and use it immediately before and after using the register.
  • Don't cough or sneeze while at the register. If you must cough or sneeze, move away from the register and hand sanitize before returning.

Fire Towers
Fire towers are closed to public access. Trails and the summits to the towers remain open, but the towers themselves present a potential risk with multiple people climbing the stairs, in close quarters, unable to appropriately socially distance, and using the same handrails.

Limit Parking
Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas. If parking lots are full, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

Hike within the Limits of Your Physical Abilities and Experience
Adirondack lands and forests are patrolled by Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and other staff. These officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following this guidance (PDF) will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.

General Conditions

  • Travel: Check NY511 for road closures and conditions.
  • Weather: Check the National Weather Service or NY Mesonow for current conditions and forecasts for the locations where you plan to recreate.
  • Seasonal Access Roads: Seasonal access roads are beginning to open. Seasonal access roads are dirt and gravel which can be rough. Four-wheel drive SUVs, pick-up trucks, and other high clearance vehicles are recommended for driving on these roads. Roads may be narrow – use caution, drive slowly, and watch for oncoming vehicles.
  • Water Conditions: Water levels are lower than is typical for this time of year. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York for stream flow of selected waters. Water temperatures are still extremely cold this time of year. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly recommended to be worn by all anglers, boaters, and paddlers.
  • Biting Insects: Black flies and ticks are present. Wear light colored long sleeve shirts and long pants. Tuck shirts into pants, button or rubber band sleeves at the wrist, and tuck the bottom of pant legs into your socks. Pack a head net to wear when insects are plentiful and use an insect repellant – follow label directions. Additional tips for tick prevention.
  • Fire Danger: MODERATE. Check the DEC Fire Danger Map for updated conditions. Be careful with campfires.

HikingHiker Wearing Mask

Before you hit the trail, check out DEC’s Hike Smart NY page to learn about safety, best practices, and preparedness. While recreating in the Adirondacks, please follow the Hiker Responsibility Code and avoid busy trailheads. Discover trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy.

Be Prepared. Ice and monorails of packed snow are present at higher elevations. Bring trail crampons (foot traction devices) and use them when traversing monorails and other icy locations. On either side of these monorails is deep, soft snow, which presents a significant risk of postholing. Trails will be muddy in middle elevation ranges and in some locations at lower elevations. Wear waterproof shoes and walk through mud, not around it, to protect trail edges. Dress in layers and be prepared for conditions to change. Temperatures will be lower on summits than at trailheads, and many exposed summits will be windy. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits. If conditions become unfavorable, turn around. You can always complete your hike another day.

Use Caution. Many Adirondack trails encounter water crossings, and not all of them have bridges. Use caution at crossings and on trails along fast flowing brooks and rivers. Water is cold and moving swiftly this time of year due to spring snowmelt and recent rains.

Recent Notices

Included here are notices reported in the past week. Please check the Adirondack Backcountry Information web pages for comprehensive and up-to-date information on seasonal road statuses, rock climbing closures, specific trail conditions, and other pertinent information.

Lake George Wild Forest:

  • Lake George Beach (aka Million Dollar Beach) will be open for the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. The beach will be open each day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning Saturday through Monday. Following Department of Health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a maximum of 500 people will be allowed on the beach, half its normal capacity. In addition, parking capacity will be reduced to 150 vehicles.
  • DEC is erecting a fence on the nearby strip of state land on the south shore of Lake George known as “Dog Beach.” This temporary closure is to ensure social distancing and protect public health, in accordance with DOH guidelines that require the closure of areas where people congregate and where social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Prospect Mountain Veteran’s Memorial Highway remains closed.

Moose River Plains Complex

  • The Limekiln Lake Gate at the western end of the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road (aka Moose River Plains Road) is open and the road is open to public motor vehicle use to Campsite #39.
  • The Cedar River Gate at the eastern end of the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road (aka Moose River Plains Road) is closed due to a large washout that cannot be repaired because the road is still too soft to support road equipment.
  • Due to seasonal road conditions, the Moose River Plains Recreation Area will be partially opened until further notice. In addition to the information above regarding the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road (aka Moose River Plains Road), here is the status of roads within the Complex:
    • Open Roads:
      • Otter Brook Road is open to the Otter Brook Bridge.
    • Closed Roads:
      • Rock Dam Road
      • Indian Lake Road
  • Roads will be opened as conditions improve and repairs are completed.

High Peaks Wilderness (Dix Mountain Area): Nippletop via Elk Pass: There are a few mid-sized trees downed across the trail, all of them past Elk Pass and before the Nippletop summit.

Adirondack Mountain Reserve: Indian Head from Gill Brook Trail: There are a few smaller trees blocking the trail.

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness: The Hurricane Mountain East Trail has a few small to mid-sized trees downed across the trail.

Giant Mountain Wilderness: In the Chapel Pond Area, all rock climbing routes on the Lower Washbowl Cliffs are open. All rock climbing routes on the Upper Washbowl Cliffs remain closed to allow peregrine falcons to hatch and raise their young.

Saranac Lake Wild Forest: The Saranac River Locks are open and working. The Lower Lock is staffed, but the Upper Lock remains self-operational.

Independence River Wild Forest

  • Big Otter Lake Road is temporarily blocked before Tommy Roaring Brook due to a large washout.
  • Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower is temporarily closed due to Covid-19.
  • Trails in the Otter Creek Horse Trail System have not been cleared - some trails still have significant amounts of blowdown.

Hammond Pond Wild Forest: The bridge near the beginning of the Hammond Pond Trail washed out during the 2019 Halloween storm and has not been replaced.

Terry Mountain State Forest

  • The Mud Pond Trail has blowdown – the trail is passable, but some additional effort is required to navigate around the blowdown.
  • Red Road remains closed for spring mud season.

Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: Lyon Mountain Trail has blowdown – the trail is passable, but some additional effort is required to navigate around the blowdown.

Taylor Pond Wild Forest: Mud Pond Trail off State Route 3 has blowdown – the trail is passable, but some additional effort is required to navigate around the blowdown.

Essex Chain Lakes Complex: Four-wheel drive and other high clearance vehicles should be used on Chain Lakes Road South due to the rutting and washouts present.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest: Powley Road is open to public motor vehicle use from the north entrance on State Route 10 to ten miles south at the Brayhouse Brook crossing. The southern portion of the road is closed for the foreseeable future due to severe damage caused by the 2019 Halloween storm.

Silver Lake Wilderness: West River Road is closed to public motor vehicle use for at least the next few weeks until the Town of Wells replaces a large culvert at the Dugway Creek.

Practice Leave No TraceLeave No Trace

Follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace to maintain minimal impact on the environment and the natural resources of the Adirondacks. Use proper trail etiquette to ensure an enjoyable experience for yourself and others and tread lightly!

Leave No Trace Considerations for Memorial Day Weekend
Between the nice weather and the recent lift of NY on PAUSE in many parts of the state, we expect high numbers of users on popular trails and waterways this Memorial Day Weekend. Help mitigate the human impacts of this influx by following the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace with special considerations for the holiday weekend.

  1. Plan Ahead & Prepare: Plan and prepare for your preferred trip and at least two back-up options as well. If you arrive at your destination and find the parking lot full, move on to your first back up plan, and then your second if necessary. Make sure you have each trip fully planned and bring the proper gear for each experience.
  2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Social distancing on busy trails can be tough, especially when they are narrow. If you must step off trail to allow others to pass at a safe distance, be mindful of where you’re standing. Avoid stepping on vegetation if possible and stay in one place until the path is clear– don’t walk parallel to the trail.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: With fewer public and trailhead bathrooms available, disposing of human waste properly is going to be especially important this weekend. Nobody wants to come across a garden of toilet paper flowers. Check out LNT’s insight on digging cat holes, packing out waste, and trashing trash properly.
  4. Leave What You Find: Not only should you leave what you find, but leave things as you found them, too. That means no carving your initials into trees, etching your name into a lean-to, or defacing nature in any way.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: If you are camping this weekend, make sure you manage your campfire correctly. Only burn dead and downed wood. Keep campfires small and clear the area of flammable materials. And make sure campfires are completely extinguished before you go to bed or leave the site – a campfire should never be left unattended.
  6. Respect Wildlife: The forest is home to lots of wildlife species, and they are all going to be wondering who invited the party into their house. Be respectful of their home by giving them lots of space, and never feed wildlife. This creates bad and potentially harmful habits.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Share trails, summits, boat launches, and waterways respectfully. Be mindful of other people’s space and follow proper social distancing guidelines. When you’re in a busy or crowded area, mask up. Last but not least, if you’re sick, stay home.