Lake Luzerne has attracted people to its shores since the late 18th century.
Settlers began living near the lake after the French and Indian War in 1767. In 1772, a portion of Queensbury was taken to form Fairfield, whose name was changed to Luzerne in 1808.
The name honors Anne-César, Chevalier de la Luzerne, a French diplomat who served as the second minister to the United States from 1779 to 1784.
The waters of this small Adirondack lake have historically been sought as a place for relaxation.
President Ulysses S. Grant came to Lake Luzerne to rest and recreate after the Civil War. One can almost picture the famed general in a rowboat on the lake, casting his line to catch a bass, trout or northern pike, the trials and tribulations of the grizzly war forgotten for a day.
Today, people continue to make Lake Luzerne a destination for recreation, relaxation and family gatherings. The lake’s location, where the Sacandaga and Hudson rivers meet, makes it a perfect place to enjoy a variety of sports and recreation, including camping, hiking, horseback riding and water sports on both the lake and nearby rivers.
For those who crave sand under their feet and enjoy a good swim, Lake Luzerne has two free public beaches. One is Luzerne Public Beach, a small beach at 90 Pierpont Road. The other is Wayside Beach at 268 Lake Ave.
This quiet beach with a pavilion is a good place for a picnic, and visitors can also launch a kayak, canoe or small motorboat from the beach. In normal summers there are concerts at the pavilion.
A third beach in town is Hudson Grove on the Hudson River on East River Drive, where visitors can enjoy a swim in the river. All three are open from late June through Labor Day, but may operate this season with limited capacity due to COVID-19.
Scores of people come to the area to enjoy outings on the rivers as well as the lake itself. Visitors can go whitewater rafting, tubing and whitewater kayaking on the Class II and Class III rapids. Area outfitters such as the Sacandaga Outdoor Center, Tubby Tubes and the Adventure Extreme Sports Center rent equipment and offer guided outings.
Many of the local establishments that rent cottages, cabins and rooms have a variety of equipment available for guests, and some will rent equipment to visitors for day use.
For example, the Elms Waterfront Cottages has pontoon boats, tubes, stand-up paddleboards and jet skis available. It also has Trac-Yaks, which are a combination of a kayak and a tube.
One of the area’s most popular outings is whitewater rafting. John Duncan, founder of the Sacandaga Outdoor Center, considers the sport a very accessible option for a wide variety of people, despite Hollywood’s portrayal of it as an “extreme sport.”
“It isn’t that difficult and it isn’t that scary,” Duncan said. He added that the Sacandaga River, with its always-predictable whitewater conditions due to the releases from Stewart’s Dam, makes it a good choice for newcomers to the sport.
“It’s a great river for never-evers,” he said, noting that 60% of his customers have never been whitewater rafting, while 20% to 30% have rafted on other rivers. Rafting represents 85% of the company’s business. “Rafting appeals to everyone, from 5 years old to 95,” he said.
Last year during the height of the pandemic every raft trip was sold out. Duncan limited the trips to private groups only, not mixing groups of people together as a precaution. This year, Sacandaga Outdoor Center will do the same, and will add in group trips from camps, schools and other organizations.
With the whitewater of the Sacandaga River and the flatwater of the lake and the Hudson River, both whitewater kayaking and flatwater kayaking are sports people can enjoy near the town of Lake Luzerne.
For those who enjoy fishing, Luzerne is a less-fished lake where fishermen can catch northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, yellow perch, sunfish and bluegills.
Fishing expert Gary Ingles, owner of Wiggly Worm Bait Shop in Burnt Hills, suggests using Phoebes or Blue Fox spinners to catch brown trout and trolling with a Christmas tree rig for rainbow trout. A worm on a bobber will attract panfish, and spoons fished close to the bottom work to catch northern pike.
Not in the water but close to it, music lovers can take in concerts hosted by the Lake Luzerne Music Center, a summer camp for young musicians who come from across the globe to study there.
This summer, the center plans a series of concerts by faculty members as well as free weekly student concerts from June 26 through Aug. 14.
Also on this summer’s calendar are weekly concerts with the camp’s piano students and the Luzerne Symphony Orchestra from June 27 through Aug. 15.