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Raquette Lake lies in the center of Adirondacks Park - a natural, unspoiled gem that draws nature enthusiasts from around the world. Raquette Lake (sometimes spelled Racquette Lake) is the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks, with nearly a hundred irregular miles of shoreline, 80% of which is owned by the State of New York. Conservation officials' commitment to keeping the lake in its natural state make the rugged shoreline a desirable destination for canoeing and kayaking. Strategically-placed rustic campsites, often with lean-tos along the shore, allow paddle-sport enthusiasts the opportunity to spend a week or more on the lake enjoying the solitude and native wildlife. Trout abound in these waters, making fly fishing an additional incentive for accessing the coves and inlets via canoe or kayak.
Raquette Lake is not only rugged shoreline and solitary paddling, however. Several state campgrounds offer camping, swimming, fishing, RV sites and all sorts of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. The relatively few private properties on the lake value the pristine shoreline and the abundant wildlife with equal vigor, making real estate offerings scarce and highly-valued. These qualities are what made Raquette Lake the centerpiece around which the Great Camps of the early 1900s were built. A few of these still exist, taking visitors back a hundred years or more to gain a glimpse of the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous of yesteryear.
Accessing Raquette Lake other than from private property is usually accomplished either from the marina, which also rents canoes, kayaks, row boats, pontoons and motorized boats, or from Golden Beach State Park. Golden Beach is by far the preferred swimming beach on Raquette Lake. A small boat ramp will accommodate smaller boats, canoes and kayaks. Many lake adventurers make Golden Beach campground their headquarters for days spent on the water. Raquette Lake does allow water skiing, a rarity among New England lakes. Fishermen are attracted to the lake for its variety of game fish, including lake trout, brook trout, white fish, smelt, smallmouth bass, sunfish, and yellow perch. Rumors of landlocked salmon exist, and the state fisheries authority does allow their taking, even in winter through the ice. The wise angler will always check current fishing regulations as these are prone to change on specific lakes without much warning.
The entire Adirondack Park around Raquette Lake provides a wealth of hiking opportunities. The Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Center is a short drive east on Route 28 and a good place to start any Park vacation. The Center can direct visitors to the best areas for hiking, local points of interest and trail guides. One of the favorite hiking destinations is the Blue Mountain fire tower with its wide views of the surrounding area. Grassy and Wilson Pond trails are well-worn by trout fishermen who believe that the excellent trout waters are worth the extra effort. Another rewarding hike is to view Buttermilk Falls near the village of Long Lake. One of the best ways to see parts of scenic Adirondack Park is by cycling the Central Adirondack Trail that touches Raquette Lake. Other trails are maintained for snowmobile riding and cross-country skiing in the immediate area. And the Raquette River Blueways Corridor is being developed to serve the needs of serious paddlers. The beautiful and somewhat rugged Raquette River, the longest in the State, begins at the lake and eventually empties into the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Adirondack Mountain Museum at Blue Mountain Lake is not to be missed, while a summer concert series is available right on Raquette Lake. Saint Williams on Long Point is accessible by boat only and is a lovely setting for concerts and cultural events at this not-for-profit, non-denominational, lakeside retreat and cultural center. There are a few golf courses nearby, but who has time for a round of golf while visiting this beautiful lake?
Raquette Lake is in the town of Long Lake, with the local village of Raquette Lake providing most needs for visitors. And sharing that Raquette Lake address is the famed Great Camp Sagamore, formerly owned by the Vanderbilt family. Sagamore, on nearby Sagamore Lake, was one of the most elaborate of the 'camps' built by the wealthy owners of railroads, shipping lines and banking empires around 1900. Invited guests included heads of state, presidents and wealthy friends and business partners. Meticulously maintained by Margaret Vanderbilt until her death, Sagamore fell into disrepair until saved by the efforts of several foundations that repaired what was salvageable, and now offer tours and reserved lodgings for educational conferences and learning experiences to pay for its preservation.
Raquette Lake's history begins early, with the first rough hotel being built in 1857. The lake's history as a resort paradise was brought about in large part by a book, titled "Adventures in the Wilderness or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks", written in 1869 by Rev. William H. H. Murray. His popular book, requiring eight printings in the first year, held stories based around Long Lake and Raquette Lake. Some editions of the book even printed maps and train schedules, leading to the booming tourism trade that built the economy at Raquette Lake and likely led to the building of the Great Camps. Because of the book, a number of hotels were built to accommodate the large number of visitors and contributed heavily to its current continued popularity. Resort hotels still exist in the area and have been joined by bed-and-breakfast facilities, commercial hotels, resort cabins, and private rentals.
Visitors to Raquette Lake will find it far easier to get here than did train travelers of the early 1900s. Less than three hours from Albany, Syracuse and Montreal and under six hours from New York City, Raquette Lake is ideal for a long week-end or a summer stay. Reservations should be secured early as many of the campgrounds fill up quickly on popular week-ends. A vacation at Raquette Lake will leave you both rejuvenated and well-exercised from walking, climbing and paddling. In fact, you may decide to start looking for that rare real estate opportunity to move your family here permanently. None of this will happen, however, unless you come to Raquette Lake for the first visit of many. See you soon!
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