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The Fulton Chain of Lakes is a string of eight sparkling lakes located in the scenic Central Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The chain begins with Old Forge Pond in Herkimer County and ends at Eighth Lake before it reaches Raquette Lake in Hamilton County. All of the lakes in the chain are known for their excellent fishing, and campgrounds around the lakes make the waterways a canoeist's paradise.
The Fulton Chain of Lakes was the dream of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton, who envisioned connecting the lakes and creating an "Adirondack Canal." Although the canal system was never built, the lakes still bear Fulton's name. Today, the Fulton Chain is the start of the internationally known Adirondack Canoe Classic, a three-day, 90-mile canoe race. The race is limited to 250 boats and fills up soon after applications are made available. Paddlers from around the world compete in this event.
To travel the Fulton Chain of Lakes, most paddlers begin with 30-acre Old Forge Pond. Although not officially part of the chain, the journey often begins here. From Old Forge Pond, a half-mile-long channel connects to First Lake, a 636-acre lake that averages 13 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 52 feet. From First Lake, paddlers can continue on to Second, Third and Fourth Lakes. First, Second, Third, and Fourth Lakes are actually one long lake separated by narrow straits. Second Lake sits on 203 acres, averaging 51 feet deep with a maximum depth of 85 feet. Third Lake, on 231 acres, averages 31 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 59 feet. The distance from Old Forge Pond to the head of Third Lake is 4.5 miles. On Third Lake, paddlers can stop and explore DeCamp Island, a state-owned property with designated campsites.
A narrow, winding passage leads from Third Lake to Fourth Lake, the largest and most popular lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Fourth Lake covers 2,050 acres, averages 33 feet deep, and has a maximum depth of 63 feet. The Department of Environmental Conservation maintains a picnic area on the southern shore of the lake. Boat launching and parking facilities are also available. Alger Island State Campground located on Alger Island in the middle of the lake is a public campground with several lean-tos, tent sites and picnic areas. There is also a scenic campground at the western end of the lake. The distance across Fourth Lake is 5.5 miles to the Village of Inlet. Canoeists should use caution on Fourth Lake due to frequent high winds, boat traffic, and very rough water. At the east end of Fourth Lake, by the town of Inlet, a stream allows access to tiny Fifth Lake. Covering only 13 acres, Fifth Lake averages 10 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 20 feet.
From Fifth Lake, a half-mile portage is necessary to arrive at 108-acre Sixth Lake, which is connected by a narrow strait to 851-acre Seventh Lake. Sixth Lake averages 12 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 38 feet while Seventh Lake averages 40 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 87 feet. The 11 miles of shoreline of Seventh Lake is mostly forest lined. Paddling across Seventh Lake can be challenging on windy days. Lean-tos can be found on the north shore and on a small island on the lake. Another portage is required to gain access to the last lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Eighth Lake covers 303 acres, averages 39 feet deep, and has a maximum depth of 81 feet. The shoreline is almost completely wooded and undeveloped in this region. There are several lean-tos on the lake and a public campground can be found one mile from the lake.
Paddlers wishing to complete the Fulton Chain of Lakes usually choose to spend two or three days enjoying the Adirondack wilderness as they explore innumerable islands and secluded coves, many of which have campsites just waiting for tired visitors to settle in for an unforgettable sunset.
Second to paddling, fishing is the next biggest draw of the Fulton Lakes. Fish in the Fulton Chain of Lakes include northern pike, lake trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, landlocked (atlantic) salmon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brown bullhead, tiger muskie, rock bass and various panfish. Boat launches can be found at Fourth, Seventh, and Eight Lakes. Fly Fishing is also great way to enjoy many of the surrounding Adirondack streams. Note: Although most fish taken from Adirondack lakes and streams are safe to eat, refer to the Adirondack Park Fish Advisory (link below) before eating fish caught from any Adirondack waterway.
For family outdoor recreation, Fourth Lake is by far the most popular of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Golf courses, whitewater rafting, boat rentals, dinner cruises, boat tours, horseback riding, marked hiking trails, mountain climbing and the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains can all be found at this lake. Sixteen miles of shoreline provide for some excellent fishing, swimming and waterfront picnics. Motorized watercraft are also welcome for a leisurely cruise, an afternoon of fishing or an overnight stay. In the winter months, ice fishing, downhill and cross-country skiing, and hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails surround the calm, clear water. Vacation rentals and private real estate are plentiful for those wishing to spend a little time enjoying the area.
At the beginning of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, the town of Old Forge is well known for its amusement park, ski center, and breathtaking fall foliage tours. You will also find campgrounds, mountain hiking trails and scenic train rides. Lodging and vacation rentals can also be found in town. The hamlet of Inlet, located on the eastern end of Fourth Lake offers horseback tours, several parks and public beaches, picnic areas, seaplane tours, a golf course, and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. In town, Fulton Chain of Lakes visitors will find restaurants and many unique shops featuring traditional Adirondack gifts and collectibles.
Whether it is an exciting weekend of paddling along some of the most scenic Adirondack lakes, or just a relaxing vacation getaway, the Fulton Chain of Lakes offers visitors a number of unforgettable recreational opportunities in an incredible setting. Make sure to spend some time off the water enjoying the area's special events and spectacular scenery.
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