There's adventure around the river bend at this Indian Lake wild spot

Saturday, July 5, 2014
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This glimpse at the upper Hudson River is just a 15- to 20-minute walk from the end of Chain Lakes Road. (Stephen Williams)
This glimpse at the upper Hudson River is just a 15- to 20-minute walk from the end of Chain Lakes Road. (Stephen Williams)

It isn’t every day you can stand next to a slice of the upper Hudson River the public hasn’t seen in more than a century.

Actually, that’s not true — I’ve visited a spot recently acquired by the state and opened to the public. It’s a short, easy and family-friendly hike to where the mighty river rounds a wide bend.

Whether you’re visiting the central Adirondacks or making a day trip to Indian Lake, this wild spot is worth visiting. It’s only a 15- to 20-minute walk from the end of Chain Lakes Road.

The road lies about a mile east of Indian Lake hamlet, on the west side of Lake Abanakee. Drive about three miles, well past where the big rafting companies launch into the Indian River, until you reach a steel barrier. The road is narrow, so a need to be considerate of other drivers is wise, if not vital.

When standing in the parking lot, the Indian’s rapids roar on the right. You can dip down through the trees for a look, but be aware the bank is steep.

The trail to the Hudson, however, is a solid dirt road, which used to lead to the Gooley Club. It’s not flat, but it’s not going to unduly stress anyone with more than a couple of years’ walking practice, either.

After about 15 minutes (0.7 mile), a path leads to the right. It briefly runs level, then drops, requiring a slight scramble to reach the Hudson’s banks. You’ll hear it before you see it.

There probably won’t be another human in sight, but you’ll be standing right next to a bold-face sign warning canoeists to get out of the river NOW — a caution against approaching the world-class Hudson River Gorge rapids.

This is at a bend, so look north up the pine- and spruce-lined river for a mile or so, or downstream toward where the Indian merges in, just out of sight. No good place to sit, though.

When you’ve had your fill, head back to the dirt road. Just a couple of minutes further is the Outer Gooley Club building.

The club building is locked up tight, its future fate uncertain, but its meadow — or its porch, for that matter — has a nice view of the swift-moving Hudson. It’s a good spot for a water break, an energy bar, or even lunch.

The trail continues on for 21⁄2 miles to the wild and scenic Cedar River, with a side trail to a pond. But with all due respect to the Cedar, the Hudson is the highlight of the hike.

If your schedule is pressing, it’s a half-hour round trip, but it’s worth taking more slowly. Wildflowers abound.

The trail is part of the 7,200 acres and 12 miles of river shoreline the state acquired in 2013 as part of the deal for former Finch Pruyn forests. Indian Lake is less than two hours from most of the Capital Region.

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