Cranberry Lake is the third largest lake in the Adirondacks with 7,040 acres of water and 55 miles of shoreline (40 miles state owned). There are 46 free, water accessible campsites along the shoreline and on some of the many islands. The lake’s shallowness (maximum depth 38 feet, mean depth 6 feet), coupled with ten miles of fetch, can the give you some wild rides in exposed areas of the lake. Prevailing winds from the southwest often blow down the wind slot, hitting Bear Mountain, Hedgehog Mountain and other terrain features to create some “interesting” paddling conditions. Northeast winds can strike Indian Mountain and Cat Mountain with much the same results: confused water in the central portion of the lake. Been there and done that in canoes; and been there and done that in kayaks; and kayaks are a lot more fun! I can comfortably paddle a kayak on Cranberry on days when I wouldn’t even unload a canoe off the car.
However, the beauty of paddling on Cranberry Lake is that there is usually someplace to hide: islands, bays and coves abound. The most sheltered area of Cranberry Lake is the southwestern arm, where the East Branch of the Oswegatchie River enters the lake. Rebecca and I have paddled comfortably there when there were 30 mph+ winds thrashing the main body of the lake.
If you want to paddle Cranberry Lake when there are the fewest motor boats, then the time to be there is before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. I paddle on Cranberry most weekends from ice out (usually mid April) till freeze up (varies). Early season the air temperature may be warm, but the water is still very cold - a dry suit or a dry top and dry pants are in order. Late September and the month of October is the prime time. The weather can be spectacular; water is still relatively warm; there are no bugs, fewer people, and few to no motor boats. However, Cranberry is a big lake (for the Adirondacks) – there is potential for lots of fun, but also for lots of waves and weather.
There are five places to put in:
1. Emporium Marina in Cranberry lake Village (charge unknown, located in a high boat traffic area and in the wind slot)
2. Cranberry Lake Lodge (private - charge unknown; located in a high boat traffic area and in the wind slot)
3. Public boat ramp on Columbian Road in Cranberry Lake Village (free and not a place you want to be with a canoe or kayak between Memorial Day and Labor Day due to high power boat traffic)
4. Cranberry Lake Public Campground day use area ($4 to $6 for one car; I have also seen large groups use this put-in, no idea as to charge; nice put-in, but it’s located in the wind slot)
5. Wanakena put-in near Pine Cone Restaurant (free, less power boat traffic, sheltered from wind, longer paddle to get to main body of lake).
In and near Cranberry Lake Village food and lodging options, as well as après paddling activities are strictly limited. Local restaurants include: Cranberry Lake Lodge, The Windfall, The Pine Cone and Stone Manor Diner. However, before showing up hungry at any of these establishments, it would be a good idea to call ahead and make sure they are open, as their hours of operation vary with the season.
The Cranberry Lake Public Campground is well maintained and well run, with several sites that would allow direct access to the lake. In the busy season this a popular place, so reserve early. Also be advised that if you plan camping there on any of the major summer holidays, the campground will be a very busy place.
As regards other lodging, both Cranberry Lake Lodge and Stone Manor have rooms to rent. An internet search for Cranberry Lake vacation rentals turns up several other options; most of cabin/cottage rentals are by the week.
Columbian Road has the high end lakefront housing and I assume would also have the high end lakefront rentals. Realtors who might handle that type of rental include: La Valley Real Estate (Tupper Lake); and probably your best bet, Jan Ploff Realty (janploofrealty.com) located on Columbian Road.
From Syracuse, New York, follow I81 North to Watertown, New York. In Watertown you will pick up New York State Route 3; proceed east on Route 3 to Cranberry Lake Village.
From Plattsburg, New York, pick up New York State Route 3 and proceed west on Route 3 to Cranberry Lake Village. It is a scenic drive.
Listed below are fifty-six (56) field checked waypoints for Cranberry Lake. Though these waypoints have been field checked and Goggle Earth Version 5.0 checked, a GPS unit should never be a substitute for having a map and a compass, and the skills to use them.
I carry two compasses, one on the deck and one attached to my PFD. I occasionally use my very basic GPS unit; and in addition, I always carry a second, identical, completely programmed back-up GPS unit, plus extra batteries. If you use any technology, it can - and sometimes will - fail.