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Hooks and Antlers outdoor column

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The Cranberry Lake area offers recreationists the opportunity to camp, fish, hike, hunt, boat, canoe, kayak, picnic, mountain climb, bird watch, swim, cross-country ski, snowmobile, snowshoe, sightsee, photograph, and more, all in a wilderness setting.

Once an individual has ventured into the Cranberry Lake area, memories of calling loons, mountain-top views, forest trails, tranquil waters, star-filled skies, glowing campfires, and the solitude and silence of the wilderness beckon that individual to return.

Located off state Route 3 in southeastern St. Lawrence County, the Cranberry Lake area was the last section of New York state to be settled. Cranberry Lake plus the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest and the Five Ponds Wilderness Area comprise the Cranberry Lake region. The lake itself covers nearly 7,000 acres where 40 of the 55 miles of shoreline are state-owned and undeveloped. The 24,111 acres of the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest bound the lake on the west, north, and east while the 95,525 acres of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area lie to the south.

CAMPING

The DEC-operated Cranberry Lake Public Campground features more than 150 tent and trailer sites. This popular facility has a picnic area, bathhouse, hot showers, recycling center, nature recreation programs, car-top launch, handicapped-accessible sites, handicapped-accessible fishing pier, and marked hiking trails to the peak of Bear Mountain.

From the top of Bear Mountain, hikers enjoy a fabulous view of Cranberry Lake and surrounding wilderness.

Dozens of designated sites along the lake’s shoreline and on Joe Indian Island also offer public camping opportunities. Some sites are accessible by foot while all can be reached via boat or canoe. In addition, wilderness camping is available for individuals willing to backpack or canoe into the massive Five Ponds Wilderness Area.

FISHING

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Cranberry Lake was a mecca for brook trout anglers, but since then a number of factors have contributed to the population’s demise.

To restore the brook trout fishery, however, DEC began a stocking program in 1981, and to maintain the fishery DEC annually stocks nearly 5,000 brook trout here where the best fishing occurs in spring and early fall.

Smallmouth bass abound in the lake, and they offer action throughout the summer. Prime locations include rocky shorelines, rocky shoals, and adjacent deep water.

The northern pike is the “new” gamefish in Cranberry Lake as this species was introduced by unknown individuals without any authorization from state fisheries personnel, and officials are concerned that pike are having a negative impact on the brook trout population.

The lake’s panfish species include yellow perch, rock bass, pumpkinseeds and bullheads.

The area’s most popular trout water is the stretch of the Oswegatchie River downstream from the dam at the lake’s outlet. Annual stockings here number more than 4,000 fish consisting of yearling brook trout, yearling brown trout, and 2-year-old browns.

Another noteworthy trout flow is the Oswegatchie River above Inlet. For a remote experience that promises plenty of brook trout, albeit small ones, anglers make the 13.5-mile canoe trip from Inlet to High Falls where they then portage to the headwaters of the Oswegatchie River.

Trout fishing opportunities also exist in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area for those who are willing to hike any number of miles.

Popular ponds (annual brook trout stocking) include Olmstead (1,100), Cowhorn (500), Simmons (200), Spectacle (300), Fish Pole (400), Darning Needle (800) and Nickís (700). An inflatable raft affords the best access to trout as thick vegetation covers most shorelines.

TRAILS

Cranberry Lake Wild Forest and Five Ponds Wilderness Area have numerous marked and maintained hiking trails, most of which lead to scenic ponds.

The Wild Forest also has snowmobile and cross-country ski trails. Much of the southern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area is extremely remote and has no marked trails.

During the big game seasons, the network of trails provides hunters with access to 120,000 acres of public land. DEC has produced “Trails in the Cranberry Lake Region,” a free and invaluable pamphlet containing a detailed map, descriptions of each trail, and a set of guidelines for hikers and campers.

Cranberry Contacts

For more information on Cranberry Lake, contact Cranberry Lake Public Campground at (315) 848-2315, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce (315) 386-4000 or DEC Region Six Office (315) 785-2261.

OUTDOOR CALENDAR

Monday: Lisbon Sportsmenís Club Hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Public Input Meeting on State Forests in Northern St. Lawrence County at St. Lawrence Central School at 6 p.m.

Thursday: Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club Meets at Lisbon Library at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday: Public Input Meeting on State Forests in Northern St. Lawrence County at Madrid Waddington School at 9 a.m.

Saturday-Sunday: Free Fishing Days in New York state.

June 26: DEC conducts annual Wilson Hill Goose Drive.

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