Canoeing and Kayaking in St. Lawrence County

At one time the small rivers of the North Country were the focus of commerce. Today, the rivers are quiet; the surviving mills are no longer the center of activity. Few if any other areas can offer so many rivers with such easy and numerous access points. There are more than 200 rivers, ponds and lakes in St. Lawrence County and also part of the Adirondack Park, which boats more than 3,000.

As the rivers finish their rush out of the mountains they begin but never fully settle down. Waterfalls and low water rapids are numerous along all the rivers and dams often block the way. Motorboats play in the longer sections of river but most rivers see light if any traffic.

You hardly need a guide to canoe in the area. Every stretch of river is worth exploring and usually has easy access. A few points to get you started:

Lower Oswegatchie River. Starting near Gouverneur and flowing 65 miles to Ogdensburg this section of the Oswegatchie is a gentle section. The river is wide and slow-moving here as it passes through rolling hills, rock ledges, marshes, and pasture land. There are scenic cliffs along the shore near Oxbow. There are carries at the dams and most of the rapids can be portaged or run by experience paddlers. There are various access points along the route to create varying trip lengths.

Grasse River
Canton to Madrid: Canoeing from the boat launch on Route 68 just outside the village of Canton to the dam in Madrid. This is a full-day trip of about 12 miles.

South Branch Grasse River
16 miles, 5 portages, access is off the Tooley Pond Road at various points.

Raquette River, Potsdam
The dam in Potsdam backs up the river nearly two miles and is a great place for a quick paddle or fishing. Access is in Ives Park, behind the Clarkson Inn, 1 Main Street, and there is a public parking area next to the Inn’s parking.

Cranberry Lake
The Cranberry lake region is one of the largest remote areas remaining in the State. The Lake covers 11 square miles and has 155 miles of shoreline, over 40 of which are State land. There are also 42 primitive campsites along the shoreline.

Competitive and Recreational Races
If you are looking for competitive races, the St. Lawrence Valley Paddlers offer two of the State’s premier races: Canton Canoe Weekend: Rushton Memorial Race, which is held the first weekend in May; the second is the Remington II Canoe Race held the first weekend in September. The Club also hosts a variety of races including The Little River Ramble, and Madrid Canoe Regatta. For a schedule of races and information about the club, click here.