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Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant are the crown jewels of Hamilton County, anchor community of central Adirondack Park. The community of Lake Pleasant occupies the strip of land between the two lakes, and becomes 'outdoor central' each summer when park visitors arrive. Located about 60 miles from Utica and 70 miles from Schenectady, Lake Pleasant and its two large lakes are the destinations favored as base for exploring the natural wonders of Adirondack Park, the largest park in America's lower 48 states. Although small compared to the six million protected acres comprising Adirondack Park, Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant together provide over 6,000 acres of water surface for water sports, nature observation and lakefront living with the convenience of city amenities nearby.
Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant lie in the central portion of Adirondack Park, but much of the shoreline is private property. Contrary to popular perception, there are many pockets of private property within the park, but most have building controlled by the Park which strictly regulates how much new development occurs within the park's larger outside boundaries. The two lakes are very popular for water skiing, pontooning, boating, canoeing and kayaking. The lakes offer both warm-water and cold-water fisheries, providing a large variety of fish. Smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, chain pickerel, rock bass, walleye, yellow perch and lake whitefish are all present, along with smaller panfish. Thanks to a healthy population of rainbow smelt, the bass and larger fish are well-fed and can grow quite large. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation monitors fish availability and stocks selected species regularly.
The two lakes are open to fishing year-round with ice fishing for trout popular during the winter. Special regulations control fishing on Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant, so anglers should make sure to pick up a copy of these regulations when purchasing their required fishing license. No baitfish are allowed, and care must be exercised to avoid bringing in any invasive species which could harm the lakes' natural ecology. The Lake Pleasant-Sacandaga Association works to educate lake users about invasive species and plans community activities such as boat parades and holiday events.
Sacandaga Lake is located on the west side of Lake Pleasant, and the west shore is partially within Adirondack Park's West Canada Lakes Wilderness. Some private properties are located on the lakeshore, and a popular state campground occupies a portion called Moffitt Beach on the northeast shore. The campground was originally a local picnic spot where sand was mined to enhance nearby beaches. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp at the lake and built the Moffitt Beach State Campground. The campground was later enlarged so that it now provides about 260 campsites, restrooms, showers, and a picnic area with tables and fireplaces, a trailer dump station, a recycling center, a boat launch, and a sand beach with a guarded swimming area open in the summer.
With over 1,500 acres of water surface, Sacandaga Lake offers plenty of fishing and boating fun. The nearby West Canada Lakes Wilderness is known as one of the Adirondack Park's most remote trout fishing destinations, with over 50 ponds and lakes harboring brook trout. Trails lead to many of them, but some can only be accessed via trackless areas. Wilderness skills are required of hikers in the area. There are no major inflowing rivers into Sacandaga Lake, but a small watercourse called Sacandaga Outlet empties into nearby Lake Pleasant. This Sacandaga Lake is not to be confused with Great Sacandaga Lake, a reservoir downstream along the Sacandaga River which begins at Lake Pleasant.
Lake Pleasant is located only a few hundred yards away from Sacandaga Lake. Although a bit smaller at 1,475 acres, Lake Pleasant offers a marina which rents pontoons, ski boats, fishing boats and motors, kayaks and canoes; makes repairs; offers winter storage, launching facilities, and mooring apace; and sells marine supplies. An elevated fishing platform is located on the northeast corner of the lake, and a town boat launch near the outlet at the Sacandaga River off Route 8 is just outside of the Village of Speculator. A public beach is also located in Speculator. In August, an antique wooden boat show and regatta are held at the marina on Lake Pleasant. More of Lake Pleasant's shoreline is in private hands, and many seasonal homes are located here. Lake Pleasant has an average depth of 29 feet and reaches 60 feet at its deepest. The Sacandaga River flows out of the north end of the lake into a series of wetlands and eventually becomes a sizable river tributary to the Hudson River.
The town of Lake Pleasant and its small neighbor, the Village of Speculator at the north end of Lake Pleasant, are located on one of Adirondack Park's famous Scenic Byways: State Route 8. This Route is designated the Southern Adirondacks Trail and skirts the edge of both towns, multiple lakes, and scenic wild vistas beginning at Herkimer and Little Falls on the Erie Canal. A number of scenic viewpoints, lodges, locally-owned motels, bed & breakfasts, resort cottages and campgrounds are located in the area, so lodgings are usually easily found. Some private home owners rent their lakefront cottages for short periods. Visitors will find facilities for food, supplies, entertainment, and unique shops and artists' galleries located along the Scenic Trail and in the villages at Lake Pleasant. Some real estate is available, mostly in the form of existing housing. Trails abound for hiking, with some designated for mountain biking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and sports suitable to the four seasons.
Autumn color tours of the Scenic Byways and local forest trails are favorites among photographers. Sections of Adirondacks Park fill the space between small villages, creating a seemingly endless wooded wilderness replete with wildlife, birds and waterways. A few of the mammals found in the area include moose, white-tailed deer, black bears, beavers, porcupines, coyotes, bobcats, fishers, pine martens, raccoons, muskrats, river otters, chipmunks, red squirrels and grey squirrels. Loons, spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, mergansers, bald eagles, osprey and many other birds inhabit the area, and bird-watching is a favorite activity.
The Hamilton County Department of Tourism at Lake Pleasant can provide maps and birding lists, and will be glad to give visitors the details of the Adirondack Park 'Challenges', including the Fire Tower Challenge and the Waterfall Challenge. Hikers who visit all of the destinations listed in the Challenge brochure and fill out a comment on each can receive decorative patches for their favorite hiking jacket. The first-time visitor to Adirondack Park will do well to make Lake Pleasant or Sacandaga Lake their headquarters for the visit. The Park and its environs are addictive; one visit is never enough. Make reservations early and start planning the vacation of a lifetime.
*Statistics listed are for Sacandaga Lake only.
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