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The Cedar River Flow - A Nice Place to Go

Gary N. Lee

The Cedar River Flow was part of my territory when I was a Forest Ranger. Since I retired I have been visiting it once a week during the summer while observing loons for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, so I have gotten to know it quite well. Whatever you might want to do in the outdoors including fishing, hunting, trapping, camping, canoeing, kayaking, birding, photographing, or swimming, the Flow has it all.

The area is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Looking far to the west you can see the Pillsbury Mountain Fire Tower, Little Moose, and Manbury Mountain. To the north Is Cellar Mountain, and beyond that is Wakely Mountain Fire Tower and the Blue Ridge Wilderness Area. Buck and Buell Mountains lie to the south, and to the east is the ledge of Water Barrel Mountain and the Cedar River Valley.

The Cedar River rises at the outlet of Cedar Lakes and flows northeast. The Flow is an impoundment created by Wakely Dam, which backs up water for several miles. The Flow is not very deep with a maximum depth of perhaps twenty feet in the old river channel. The Flow lies roughly in a northeast to southwest direction, and the wind there can create rough waves very quickly in this shallow body of water.

The area is easily reached from the hamlet of Indian Lake by travelling about a mile west on Route 28/30 and turning onto Cedar River Road. Following this for about 10 miles will bring you to the Wakely Dam. The bridge crosses above the dam and provides access to the Moose River Plains Wild Forest to the west.

There is a campsite by the dam at the northeast end of the Flow, and it is an excellent place to launch your canoe or kayak.  You can paddle southwest (upstream) for about three or four miles where the flow becomes shallower and weedier as you near its end. Most people canoe about two miles up to the Carry Pond Lean-to.

At various locations along the Flow, there are attractive primitive campsites with nice sandy beaches for landing your canoe or kayak. These are free and available on a first-come basis.

The area around Carry Pond Lean-to is also the best place to catch brook trout in the colder water of the river. On the opposite side of the river from the lean-to there is a half mile trail that takes you to Carry Pond, a good brook trout pond. The Flow has been stocked with brown trout for a few years since the population of dace and shiners was taking over the brook trout. Along the south shore you can also canoe up Buell Brook about half a mile.

From the area where Buell Brook comes into the Flow and further west, the water is shallow and is covered with reeds and pond lilies most of the summer. It makes paddling a little tougher, but it creates some great photo opportunities. White puffy clouds over the surrounding mountains reflecting in calm water filled with reeds makes a great shot. Deer or an occasional moose have been seen feeding in the shallows on the pond lilies. This would certainly make a great photo if you are lucky.

There are plenty of birds on and around the Flow providing great opportunities for bird watching or photography. Nesting on the flow are two pairs of loons, four pairs of pied billed grebes, and several Wilson snipe. Other common species are great blue heron, Canada geese, wood duck, mallard duck, common merganser, and herring gull.

You will see osprey and bald eagles fishing every day, and they catch more trout than the fishermen. Along the shoreline and the river up to the Carry Pond Lean-to there are boreal birds including boreal chickadees, gray jays, black-backed woodpeckers, olive-sided flycatchers and yellow bellied flycatchers. The grebes are the noisy birds that you will hear during breeding season but hardly ever see as they hide in the big reed patches with their young.

The Cedar River Flow provides great opportunities in an accessible, yet uncrowded area. Whether it is fishing, camping or just a leisurely quiet paddle it is a great place to go. Put it on your destination list this summer.

The one drawback of the Flow is the mighty blackfly which breeds very well especially where the water flows over the dam at the outlet. I never get out of my truck without a bug jacket until mid-July.

I’ve seen several people on a nice late June or early July day get out of their vehicle wearing shorts and tee shirts and carry their canoe or kayak down to the water only to discover that the black flies had helped carry their craft too. Sometimes you will be covered with those little biting devils and be chewed up before you can get your craft back on the car.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  Take your insect repellent or other protection and enjoy the Cedar River Flow.


Gary Lee is a retired NYS Forest Ranger, a licensed guide, and a member of the NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. He writes a column in the Weekly Adirondack and is co-author of Adirondack Birding.  He works summers for BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.

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