Category Archives: New York

Opalescent Flume

The Flume is actually an abyss, a crack that swallows the Opalescent River in a chasm 25 feet deep and barely more than six feet wide at the bottom. Jump into this and you’d be ground into cat food. However, there’s a good to fair pool at the bottom. Rather than climb the log steps that parallel the flume, turn into the river and boulder hop 20 yards upstream. You’ll find a pool about 20 feet long and one-third as wide. You can recognize it from the sheer, solid wall on the right as you look upstream. Depth is marginal and there is no place to sit, but it has the merit of being the highest practical place to submerge in the headwaters of the Hudson River.

It’s far from the only place you can jump in the Hudson headwaters. On the way to The Flume you pass another spot on the Opalescent near a cable footbridge. The pool below the bridge is about as deep as the one below the flume, but the surroundings are more attractive, very open and sunny. Very heavily traveled, though. Just about anyone visiting Adirondack State Park and hiking to Mt. Marcy will pass through here.

Opalescent River

The Opalescent River is simply a string of pearls draped over the left shoulder of Adirondack State Park. What the Boquete River is to the eastern slope of the wilderness, the Opalescent is to the western slope. At this hole, a high-angle cascade enters via a stream five feet wide and breaks into hundreds of fractures as it comes stair-stepping down into a kidney shaped hole that’s around 40 feet wide. Distance between the face and outlet is 12 to 15 feet. In the middle of the channel are some medium-sized boulders, possibly fracture block that formed the lip of an earlier, higher fall that was undercut and broken off. The fracture block splits the water and forms about the only place you could sit and relax.

Steep ledges on the east (trail side) prevent direct access to the swimming hole. Rather, you must descend from the trail at the outlet of the pool and cross to the western side of the river where it’s more user friendly. Careful not to wash over the downstream end. The water can be fast and violent. A good practical measure would be that if you can’t cross the log dam at the bottom of Flowed Lands without getting your ankles wet, this place may be too dangerous.

No really luxurious seating on the western side. Nothing to dive from either. Best place to park and enjoy the south facing canyon are the boulders in the middle of the river. Water will be comparatively warm since Flowed Lands collects lots of solar energy, but still best to consider this a late season spot.

Calamity Brook

Short trip, small dip. A cable footbridge leading to the High Peaks from the west has a couple of nice falls with small pools adequate for rinsing off the mud. Above the bridge water travels over a solid ledge of rock about six feet high. Just before the lip the rock has been dished out, creating several nice, small rooster tails and potholes three to four feet deep.

The swimming spot is below the bridge. It has a shorter fall than upstream, but the bottom broadens into a basin. Boulders clutter the streambed and inhibit the pool depth, but there is an open spot five to six feet deep and ten feet square. You’re not likely to find privacy, but Calamity Brook is a good place to freshen up on your way down from the high country. That way you don’t have to drive home with the windows rolled down to endure the odor produced by several days of sweating through trails in Adirondack State Park.

The hike up follows red trail discs through unbelievable trail erosion and compaction. Some tree roots are more than 12 inches above the surface. Lots of corduroy, lots of rocks, from suitcase size to steamer trunk. At first it seems like an annoyance until you realize that were they not there you might be walking through serious mud. All the high stepping and weaving means you’ll actually be covering more distance than if it were a smooth dry trail, so the hike is more tiring than the map would suggest.

Blue Ledges

Here starts what’s arguably the finest five miles of the Hudson River. Lightly forested rock walls rise as much as 200 feet above the river at the very top of the Hudson River Gorge in Adirondack State Park. A sharp bend creates a relaxed arc running 200 feet immediately above the gorge with rapids named “Big Nasty” and “Gunsight.” Dick Lilliston and his family have visited Blue Ledges annually from the time they had to carry their daughters down to the river in pack baskets.

“Rafters come around the bend dressed in all their trim and tackle, outfitted for class five rapids. The guides have been giving instructions about all the hazards ahead. By the time they round the bend upriver, they’re gripping those paddles with white knuckles. And what’s the first thing they see? A family placidly backstroking across the Hudson River.”

The pools along with the sand beach are great big and can absorb lots of people. Good thing, too. You’ll likely encounter lots of kids from nearby summer camps. I even found a couple of cars at a trailhead on a weekday with rain threatening. Trail conditions are apt to be very muddy.

Bonus Feature: Ospreys reside on the ledges above the river.

Raquette River

This is a slackwater spot that’s a popular canoe landing with a huge sand beach near the ranger outpost. The river bed here is wide and rock filled. What’s exceptional are a couple of large rocks within a small cove. The smaller one splits the river’s flow and drives it toward the larger rock where it wraps around the base. Kids favor this spot for low altitude cannon balls. The jump is around 10 feet.

Ben Woodard is Adirondack State Park labor supervisor at the interior outpost nearby. He tends the grounds surrounding what was a backcountry hotel until the 50s. “There used to be lots of different gardens,” he explained, “mint, oregano, rhubarb. There’s also lots of milkweed. Monarch migrate here in the fall. There’s easily an acre of butterflies.”

Reports are that during dryer levels there’s a nice jacuzzi near the trailhead at the Lower Fall, but it’s best to avoid this chute unless you know the river intimately. The Upper Fall is pretty, but too forceful to jump in. There’s an eddy south of the fall that might not drag you immediately to your death, but is still dangerous.

Cooperas Pond

Come for the rock jump; stay for the amphibians. The pond is an easy trip from Lake Placid. It’s about 300 yards wide and almost perfectly round, so you can see any part of the lake from any other part. That reduces privacy further at an already popular destination. Visibility is no better than six feet. Good rock structure at many points along the shoreline means you can spread out, although most activity is concentrated at the jumping rock on the north end. It’s around seven feet high, an ideal scale for kids who find it fun, not scary.

In between trips from the top of the rock, the kids I interviewed enjoyed catching tadpoles – big tadpoles. One just beginning to get rear legs was four inches across! Conditions in Adirondack State Park during the summer of 1996 so favored amphibian reproduction that regulars said they were big enough to water ski on.

The trail is short but steep. As a guideline, I’d say it’s limited to people who smoke no more than one pack a day. Privacy is unlikely. I found 10 people on a cloudy weekday. The area seemed well picked up and cared for.
Note: it’s pronounced simply “Cooper’s Pond.”

Shoe Box

One big wad of rock put smack in the middle of the North Fork of the Bouquet River. The water, rather than going around the obstacle, barrels through it by means of a gap that’s miraculously aligned on the precise axis of the river’s flow. Viewed from the top, it’s a pile of rock 15 feet with a chimney through which water drops ten feet into a spectacular hole.

The sides are straight and square as a shoe box. Depth is at least 12 feet throughout. The downstream side is a ledge that’s been undercut by several feet. Above it, the water rolls out of the hole over an impossibly smooth slab that distributes a perfectly even carpet of silver rolling toward the main stem of the river. Sunning slabs are 55 feet wide and so smooth that I was able to take a nap on bare rock. The only minus is that you’re likely to find a couple of other groups from Adirondack State Park visiting here on a summer weekend.

Some lesser places downstream. A nice pool a little more than 600 yards from the trailhead and a better spot 100 yards farther on with a smooth knob that slopes toward the afternoon sun. Good sand beach, too. Water’s just about six feet deep during good conditions. Also a smashing hole right above the stone highway bridge where you park, but far too heavily visited. Two even better ones below the bridge with jumps 15 feet high.

Cable Bridge

Swimming holes below the cable bridge. Good quality, but not the size of places lower on Johns Brook. The fall comes down in a couple of steps into water that’s around 10 feet deep. A ledge about nine feet high stands over a narrow sweet spot. The best way to reach the hole is not directly from the bridge. Rather, 100 yards downstream on the southern bank, look for a bushwhack to the swimming hole. Lots of traffic crossing the foot bridge into the high country, not all of it human.

At The Garden I parked next to a couple of guys coming down from the High Peaks. They were taking off their packs when one of them looked up the trail and said to his friend, “There he is! Hurry up, get in the car!” Standing at the top of the trail was a small, black and white goat scanning the parking lot.

The goat was a mascot for the ADK branch. When his owner joins the group for trail maintenance in Adirondack State Park, the goat comes along. It had wandered off for several days before he fastened onto these two hikers.

“We gave him some peanut butter last night, and some toothpaste this morning. He followed us all the way down the trail,” the hiker said through a crack in his car window. “He’s very persistent.” The attendant at the parking lot phoned the owner and he was reunited with his goat.

Tenderfoot Falls

Water rolls in a gorgeous sheet, thin and continuous over a broad surface of smooth rock. There’s enough room to host a wedding reception. Finally, the water rushes toward the center of the creek and into a chute that sends a rooster tail hollering into the main pool. All of which adds up to Adirondack State Park’s most popular water slide. The main chute is wide enough for a 40-inch waist. The pool itself is pretty fair. It’s wide like the cascade that feeds it with a small deep end right under the rooster tail. At the top of the slide is a really nice pothole, six feet deep and twice as long. Other smaller potholes abound.

Continue walking the streambed about 100 yards to a pair of cascades falling over wide ledges. They are short plunges that come down in three pieces. They land on slabs and exits through a notch and into a slightly larger pool about 25 feet in diameter.

I like this place more and more each time I visit. Finding it the first time can be challenging. Picking up the Southside Trail from the ford of Johns Brook may require some route finding. Look for a red trail disc, then turn right on an old haul road. Very muddy in spots. After the second stream crossing start looking for the slides.

Bennies Brook

Ledges zigzag on both sides of a hole 60 feet long. Only about half of it is swimmable, though. The downstream half is filled in with sand and cobble. The upstream half has excellent depth, but several small boulders obscure the bottom and keep the hole from being deep and continuous.

The best part is the rock. The southern ledges rise as high as nine feet above the creek, but the lower, northern ledge is more attractive and user friendly. It’s sunnier and that inhibits moss, lichen and all the lower botany, leaving cool, bare rock to sit on. It’s also got excellent access to the deep end.

The cascade above the swimming hole is unremarkable, but above the cascade are extensive slabs of hard rock. Not water slide-able, but a very open and comfortable place to hang out. It’s within view of Southside Trail; however, there’s a nice picnic area on the north bank, just beyond view of the falls that adds some privacy.

Water quality in all of Johns Brook is excellent. Not the tannic murk common in Adirondack State Park. Expectation of privacy is good. You may want to visit here in the unlikely event that Tenderfoot is crowded.

Rock Cut

Two swimming holes along a fisherman’s trail on Johns Brook in Adirondack State Park. The upper is the more attractive, the lower is longer and deeper. At the top, a rocky cascade achieves some depth where the current strikes a truck sized boulder fallen into the stream. It creates a sweet spot six to ten feet deep that’s about the size of a dinner table. Excellent. Rock on the south side is 15 feet high. The north side has a big block of rock also, but it’s much less vegetated and closer to water level. A good place to enter and exit or to enjoy the sun.

Sixty yards below is a hole that’s deeper and longer, about 60 feet. It’s not as attractive, though. The wall on the north bank is a little more relaxed with good seating, but no access to the water ‘cept a jump into a small sweet spot that requires about 10 feet of clearance to avoid clipping rocks on the way down. Some bushwhacking required, but otherwise not especially difficult to reach and lightly visited.

Follow directions on the map to the indicated trail fork. If you go right, you’ll be on the fisherman’s trail that runs for .4 mi right along the creek to a cross-tie box constructed for trail support. The hole is just beyond. Alternately, stay left at the fork and take the Southside Trail to Rock Cut Brook. The upper hole is 100 yards below Rock Cut’s confluence with Johns Brook. Tenderfoot Falls is 800 feet upstream.