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A Great Sacandaga Lake getaway

Summer Fun 2017

A Great Sacandaga Lake getaway

For recreation and relaxation, it rivals Lake George
A Great Sacandaga Lake getaway
Kayakers explore a creek off Great Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield in July 2016.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

On a map, it looks like a leprechaun's pipe: a water body filling a long valley in a remote region where Fulton and Saratoga counties meet, but far from Saratoga County's growing suburban communities.

When judged by size alone, it rivals Lake George, 35 miles to the northeast -- but it isn't nearly as crowded or touristy.

We're talking about Great Sacandaga Lake, 29 miles long and a fine gateway to the less-traveled central Adirondack Mountains.

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A visitor can stand on the 3,000-foot-long Batchellerville Bridge in Edinburg -- which now has a sidewalk, so it's safe to walk -- and snap a photo that will show only a couple of boats, if any, in a broad expanse of water that has great views of distant mountains.

The big lake doesn't sit within sight of an interstate highway the way Lake George does -- but it's easy enough to reach from the Capital Region via state Route 30 or a half-dozen county or town roads. Some of those roads pass through territory in which a visitor wouldn't be the first person to encounter a moose.

For those looking for a big lake that's farther from the beaten path that Lake George or Saratoga Lake, the region offers enough activities to make a relaxing and scenic day trip.

"I don't think local people appreciate it as much as they should," said Bill VanVoast, who works at the Tourism Center at the state routes 30 and 29 roundabout in Broadalbin.

The Tourism Center, operated by the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce, is a font of information and filled with brochures to help plan a trip to the lake or other destinations in the Adirondack Park. I left with several.

For swimming and camping, there's Northampton Beach State Campground at the northwest corner of the lake, which has 224 primitive campsites as well as a day-use beach and picnic area. There are also a few town beaches around the lake. The state campground is at the end of Houseman Street, past the Northampton Marina.

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Noah Ewbank, 11, and his sister Maddie, 7, play in the sand on Great Sacandaga Lake at Northampton Beach Campground in Northville in July 2016. (Peter R. Barber)

People who bring boats can launch them at Northampton Beach, but there are also state boat launches in Broadalbin, Northville, and Edinburg. If you plan to rent a boat, there are marinas in Northville, Edinburg, and other places. Kayaks and canoes are also welcome.

Around the lake, food options range from casual convenience store fare to fine dining at Lanzi's on the Lake in Mayfield, while a larger variety of options not far away in the Gloversville-Johnstown area or to the south in Amsterdam.

Any summertime visit is going to offer the chance to cast a gaze across broad expanses of water at the wide lake belly that overlaps the Fulton and Saratoga county lines, and lovely combinations of water and mountains as the lake narrows to its neck at Conklingville in Saratoga County, where a dam holds it back.

An overlook above the dam on North Shore Road offers a long view several miles down the lake, while below the dam is Stewart's Pond, where bald eagles are believed to nest. Bring binoculars.

In nearby Hadley, visitors can take a quick commercial whitewater raft trip down the Sacandaga River under a historic iron bow bridge to where the river meets the Hudson.

The Conklingville Dam, which also generates electricity, and it hints at the history of the lake, which isn't really a lake at all, and didn't exist a century ago.

In fact, it was just about a century ago that the idea of damming in the Sacandaga River was first discussed, after Hudson River flooding in the spring of 1913 did serious damage downstream, from the village of Corinth to the city of Albany's waterfront. The dam was constructed by the state so that the flow of the Hudson's major Adirondack tributary could be blocked when the Hudson was rising too high, moderating the level of downstream flooding.

The dam opened in 1930, flooding the communities in the valley. Some little museums around the lake tell the stories of Fish House, Batchellerville and some of the other ghost communities. Fifty new miles of road had to be built, ten bridges altered or built, and 12,000 homes had to be moved or destroyed. Any of the museums are worth a visit, if you find them open -- which most of them are, at least on weekends.

A trip around the lake could start at the roundabout in Broadalbin, where there's the visitors' center and several food options. Turning west onto Route 30, one of the first things you'll pass is Adirondack Animal Land, a seasonal zoo that opens in late May.

In Mayfield, bear right -- north -- through the village's highway business district. From there, it's a run of open highway 10 miles of Northville, with Lanza's on the Lake at the four-mile point.

Northville is close to the water, and has a number of small businesses, weekend activities, a newer addition of the Capital Region's most prominent convenience store chain at a main corner, and what is said to be the oldest 5 & 10 store left in the country. "Northville is a very quaint, wonderful little city," VanVoast observed.

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Northville offers a number of small businesses, including what is said to be the oldest 5 & 10 store in the country. (Stephen Williams)

A little east of Northville, the Batchellerville Bridge stretches 3,000 feet across an arm of the lake in Edinburg. It is one of the longest bridges in upstate New York. The bridge's current incarnation -- which opened in 2012 -- includes a sidewalk, so it's safe to walk out to where the view north includes a few Adirondack peaks.

It's hard to get around the lake without passing through the Edinburg four corners, where Fuller's store has been fueling vehicles and bellies for 85 years.

Fuller's changed hands this spring, and was taken over by Shawn Marco and Roger Fallon, both from Rotterdam.

"I have a place across the lake. That's what made we want to buy it. I've been a customer for 10 years," Marco said.

The new owners have bought a smokehouse and plan to start offering barbecue, but their goal isn't to compete with restaurants. "We're really grab and go food," Marco said. "We have a little bit of everything."

For fishers, the lake is a prime place to catch walleye, northern pike, bass, and perch.

East of the Batchellerville Bridge, Fox Hill Road is a shortcut to Saratoga for the mildly adventurous: The road passes through state Forest Preserve lands where moose are sometimes seen, and three miles before you reach Lake Desolation are unpaved.

Those who keep going north on Route 30 will pass along one of the region's most scenic rivers between Northville and Wells, and those who go as far as Speculator while find themselves in the true lake-rich southern Adirondacks.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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