Photograph courtesy of the author

Camping in the Moose River Plains

Have you ever
been on a foggy lakeshore early in the morning and seen a black bear wandering toward you? Or awakened to find the world transformed by dew-laden spider webs in the trees? Or truly slept under the stars?

The Moose River Plains is one of the Adirondack Park’s best-kept secrets, offering wilderness camping on remote ponds, in deep woods or beside the four-mile-long Cedar River Flow. The plains are in the midst of nearly a quarter-million acres of remote backcountry, yet much of the land is accessible by car or a short hike. From Route 28 in Indian Lake or Inlet, 23 miles of dirt road winds past trailheads and isolated primitive campsites.

My husband, Bear, and I enjoy getting back to nature, and the Moose River Plains provides the perfect setting for our kind of roughing it. Bringing only the necessities, we often tent-camp on the flow—site 13 is our favorite—as well as on quiet ponds. We’ve hiked to Helldiver, Icehouse and Falls Ponds, on Wakely Mountain and on a stretch of the Northville-Placid trail.

One of our first forays into the Moose River Plains was a paddling trip on the Cedar River Flow. We packed up the canoe with the basics and paddled up from Wakely Dam. We found a sandy beach where we set up camp with an unobstructed view of Wakely Mountain directly across the water. A family of eight mergansers floated by a few times a day. We paddled down the flow as far as we could go, and at one point the grassy banks were so high we couldn’t see over them. As we passed through the reeds we heard a snort and are convinced there was a moose foraging nearby.

Waters like the Cedar River, Wakely Pond and Cedar River Flow can be great places to catch a few trout for dinner. A few years ago our grandson Kyle, then nine, and I fished Silver Run. We caught a good-sized crayfish to use as bait and took it to the nearest fishing hole; back then there was a sign calling it “Megan’s Hole,” but you won’t find that name on any map. We baited the hook and threw out the line, and almost immediately caught our first brook trout. Dinner!

I have spent many hours photographing nature in the Moose River Plains—bear, loons, hawks and more—though I’m still waiting for the elusive moose to step into my camera sights. And clear nights here, where there is no light pollution, are a photographer’s dream. The stars seem closer in the Adirondacks.

We’ve also explored the nearby West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. With my son Kirk, grandson Kyle and granddog Josie, I backpacked to Cedar Lake a few years ago. To be with two of my favorite men for a weekend in the wilderness was perfect. We entered near Speculator’s French Louie trail and followed a route through mixed hardwoods, over a boardwalk across a wide expanse of marsh, up hills and down until we arrived at a lean-to at Cedar Lake, miles into the backcountry. We hoped to stay at the lean-to, but when we got there it was taken. So we hiked up the trail to an open campsite. We were lucky the weather was good as we had decided not to carry in a tent to save weight. My son and grandson set up under a stand of evergreens, but I opted to put my tarp and sleeping bag under the open sky. I fell asleep beneath a canopy of stars and the next morning was awakened by loons calling on the foggy lake—I was in heaven. I gathered birch bark from a fallen tree and started a fire while my boys slept. When they awoke, the coffee was perking. By the time we had packed up our gear, the other men had vacated the lean-to, so we moved in. We spent the day hiking, fishing and relaxing in the sun.

The next morning we awoke to fog. I could hear the loons calling and hoped to catch some photos of them floating through the mist as it was lifting off
the lake, but I was in for a much bigger surprise. On the other side of a small cove not far from where I sat, I saw a young black bear foraging on the rocky shore. I forgot about the loons, and watched, fascinated. It was oblivious to my presence. Not wanting it to get any closer, I made noise and it ran into the woods, headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve found that to really enjoy the Moose River Plains and nearby wilderness areas, it’s best to pitch a tent and get off the beaten path. Spending time on the Moose River Plains is a catharsis for me. It is where I go to find balance
in my life.

If You Go »

The Moose River Plains Complex (MRPC) is more than 79,000 acres of backcountry, including the newly designated Little Moose Wilderness Area of 12,250 acres. The West Canada Lake Wilderness is next door, more than 156,700 acres. Access to the MRPC is via the 23-mile Moose River Plains Road, which lies between Limekiln Lake in Inlet and the Cedar River Road near Indian Lake hamlet.

There are scores of free primitive campsites along the seasonal dirt road and on several of the 65 ponds in and adjacent to this complex. These sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are more than 100 miles of brooks, streams and rivers, and the area, once heavily logged, has a wide variety of wildlife habitat, making it a favorite destination for birders. The Moose River Plains Road is typically open May to November. For more information visit

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