We planned a four day and three night Labor Day weekend excursion on Round Lake in the Round Lake Wilderness Area. Our intent was a thoroughly leisurely, long weekend to be spent fishing, lounging around camp, reading, napping and paddling around the lake.
We set out from New Jersey at 3 p.m. on Friday and arrived at our reserved site at the state campground at Lake Eton at 10:00 p.m., quickly pitched our hammocks and hit the hay.
The next morning my wife (Natalie) decided to sleep in a bit so I wandered the campground in the early morning fog and drizzle, not a particularly promising start to what had been forecasted to be great weather all weekend. We broke camp by 9 a.m., stopped for breakfast at one of our favorite little restaurants in the region and were at the put-in just before 11.
This was our first trip to Round Lake so I had done a little research to see if I could determine the most desirable campsites on the lake. Of the eleven sites I had a list of several to avoid and four to seek out. Upon entering the main lake we saw the first site was taken, but that was too close to the put-in and didn't look all that great anyway.
We encountered a kayak fisherman and had a chat about fishing on the lake. He apparently fishes there frequently so was a good source of information. He mentioned that his group had a nice campsite, but they were only there for the day and we were welcome to it, so we followed him to it to check it out. It looked quite nice but we felt funny about moving our stuff in while they were there, even if they planned to leave in a few hours, so we paddled off to the what we understood to be the most desirable site on our list. Unfortunately that was taken, so we moved on to the next which was about a mile further on. That site looked darn near perfect, however seeing nobody else on the way we figured we had time to check out two nearby sites. After doing so we determined we were best off with the first of the three.
The site was situated in a pretty grove of hemlock and pines, with a great view of the lake from some vantage points. The weather to this point had been cloudy, with some occasional sun shining through, though we could see rain in the distance. After making camp, we paddled to some other campsites to check them out for future reference. While at one we noticed a pile of neatly cut and stacked wood left by previous campers so we loaded our canoe and found even more wood at the next site. Well that saved us a ton of work.
Back at camp my Natalie sat down to read and I went to fish off the rocks and enjoy the silence of the wilderness. The silence was short lived as a family of five arrived in two canoes and took the campsite nearest ours. It wouldn't have been so bad had the father not decided to entertain his family by howling like a wolf every few minutes. We figured he'd grow tired of it or his wife would tell him to shut up, but he kept it up pretty much until they retired for the night.
The next morning I awoke to a gorgeous, glass-like lake with a light mist rising from it. I quietly paddled out with my fishing rod and reeled in a nice bass after a few casts. I was sitting there enjoying the early morning silence when I heard; you guessed it, our neighbor howling like a wolf. He was awake and at it again. He joined me on the lake and was fishing a few hundred yards away and periodically would let loose with a howl. It's 7 am for crying out loud!
I paddled back to make breakfast and after a while I noticed that our neighbors appeared to be packing their canoes. Hallelujah! They were leaving. As they paddled into the distance we could still hear him howling, but as soon as we were sure they were gone for good Natalie and I gave each other an enthusiastic high five.
The rest of the day was absolutely beautiful with blue skies, fair weather clouds and a nice breeze that kept the insects away. I did some fishing from the canoe, then Natalie joined me for a paddle around the lake. That was followed by dinner and a few evening beers before retiring to our hammocks for the night.
The following morning I did something stupid (or perhaps smart in retrospect) - I turned on my cell phone to check the weather report and baseball scores. The forecast was for a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms, some possibly severe.
We had a choice to make, pack up and head home or ride the storms out. We've spent many a nasty day and night outdoors so it's not as if we are fair weather campers, but as we've gotten older we tend to prefer nice weather to foul. The final factor in our decision was that our cooler was just about out of ice and we needed to get more lest our food spoil, so either way we'd have to paddle to the put-in. We decided to call it a trip and packed up and headed back to the car. The day was still beautiful at this point, but you could see the thunderheads building.
As we were passing through Long Lake my wife suggested that since we still had a day left, rather than going back to New Jersey we could spend the night in town, so we grabbed a room at the old hotel in the center of Long Lake. We had a late lunch at the hotel, then retired to the front porch where we proceed to watch a vicious thunderstorm roll in and tear the dining canopy of a lakeside eatery to shreds in a matter of seconds. After several more severe thunderstorms came through we were satisfied that leaving when we did was a good decision. I don't know if our hammock tarps would have survived that wind, but I'm glad we didn't have to find out.
Round Lake is a great place to spend time, either as a destination for a leisurely weekend trip, or part of a longer trip. It's not a large lake, being only three miles long, however it is adjacent to Little Tupper Lake and that brings Rock Pond into play; or if the outlet stream on the north end is navigable (in Spring or after an extended rain), it makes for a great jumping off point for trips northward.
I've heard Round Lake can be crowded because of its accessibility, however as far as we could determine there were only three other groups camped on the lake on what was a holiday weekend and two of those groups were gone by Sunday afternoon. The campsites on the western shore are generally nicer than the ones on the eastern side, though there were some okay sites on the eastern shore. The only thoroughly unappealing campsite was #6 which was in a dismal, damp area with barely room for one tent, no view of the lake from the tent site and no lakeside "front porch" to enjoy the view. Bass fishing is quite good and though I didn't catch any trout, I hear Round Lake also has an excellent trout fishery.
11 designated campsites; all have pit toilets and a fire ring.
Mad River Explorer
From the village of Long Lake, NY: take Route 30 north. Bear left on Circle Rd (Rt 10A) then make a left on Sabattis Rd. Parking is on right just after turning onto Sabattis Rd. Put in is about 100 yards further down the road from the parking lot. You can pull your vehicle up to the put-in to unload and load, but parking is not allowed at the put-in.
Adirondack Paddlers Map