Fulton Chain of Lakes, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Adirondacks -

Also known as:  Fulton Lakes, Fulton Chain

The Fulton Chain of Lakes is a string of eight sparkling lakes located in the scenic Central Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The chain begins with Old Forge Pond in Herkimer County and ends at Eighth Lake before it reaches Raquette Lake in Hamilton County. All of the lakes in the chain are known for their excellent fishing, and campgrounds around the lakes make the waterways a canoeist’s paradise.

The Fulton Chain of Lakes was the dream of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton, who envisioned connecting the lakes and creating an “Adirondack Canal.” Although the canal system was never built, the lakes still bear Fulton’s name. Today, the Fulton Chain is the start of the internationally known Adirondack Canoe Classic, a three-day, 90-mile canoe race. The race is limited to 250 boats and fills up soon after applications are made available. Paddlers from around the world compete in this event.

To travel the Fulton Chain of Lakes, most paddlers begin with 30-acre Old Forge Pond. Although not officially part of the chain, the journey often begins here. From Old Forge Pond, a half-mile-long channel connects to First Lake, a 636-acre lake that averages 13 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 52 feet. From First Lake, paddlers can continue on to Second, Third and Fourth Lakes. First, Second, Third, and Fourth Lakes are actually one long lake separated by narrow straits. Second Lake sits on 203 acres, averaging 51 feet deep with a maximum depth of 85 feet. Third Lake, on 231 acres, averages 31 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 59 feet. The distance from Old Forge Pond to the head of Third Lake is 4.5 miles. On Third Lake, paddlers can stop and explore DeCamp Island, a state-owned property with designated campsites.

A narrow, winding passage leads from Third Lake to Fourth Lake, the largest and most popular lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Fourth Lake covers 2,050 acres, averages 33 feet deep, and has a maximum depth of 63 feet. The Department of Environmental Conservation maintains a picnic area on the southern shore of the lake. Boat launching and parking facilities are also available. Alger Island State Campground located on Alger Island in the middle of the lake is a public campground with several lean-tos, tent sites and picnic areas. There is also a scenic campground at the western end of the lake. The distance across Fourth Lake is 5.5 miles to the Village of Inlet. Canoeists should use caution on Fourth Lake due to frequent high winds, boat traffic, and very rough water. At the east end of Fourth Lake, by the town of Inlet, a stream allows access to tiny Fifth Lake. Covering only 13 acres, Fifth Lake averages 10 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 20 feet.

From Fifth Lake, a half-mile portage is necessary to arrive at 108-acre Sixth Lake, which is connected by a narrow strait to 851-acre Seventh Lake. Sixth Lake averages 12 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 38 feet while Seventh Lake averages 40 feet deep and has a maximum depth of 87 feet. The 11 miles of shoreline of Seventh Lake is mostly forest lined. Paddling across Seventh Lake can be challenging on windy days. Lean-tos can be found on the north shore and on a small island on the lake. Another portage is required to gain access to the last lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Eighth Lake covers 303 acres, averages 39 feet deep, and has a maximum depth of 81 feet. The shoreline is almost completely wooded and undeveloped in this region. There are several lean-tos on the lake and a public campground can be found one mile from the lake.

Paddlers wishing to complete the Fulton Chain of Lakes usually choose to spend two or three days enjoying the Adirondack wilderness as they explore innumerable islands and secluded coves, many of which have campsites just waiting for tired visitors to settle in for an unforgettable sunset.

Second to paddling, fishing is the next biggest draw of the Fulton Lakes. Fish in the Fulton Chain of Lakes include northern pike, lake trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, landlocked (atlantic) salmon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brown bullhead, tiger muskie, rock bass and various panfish. Boat launches can be found at Fourth, Seventh, and Eight Lakes. Fly Fishing is also great way to enjoy many of the surrounding Adirondack streams. Note: Although most fish taken from Adirondack lakes and streams are safe to eat, refer to the Adirondack Park Fish Advisory (link below) before eating fish caught from any Adirondack waterway.

For family outdoor recreation, Fourth Lake is by far the most popular of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Golf courses, whitewater rafting, boat rentals, dinner cruises, boat tours, horseback riding, marked hiking trails, mountain climbing and the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains can all be found at this lake. Sixteen miles of shoreline provide for some excellent fishing, swimming and waterfront picnics. Motorized watercraft are also welcome for a leisurely cruise, an afternoon of fishing or an overnight stay. In the winter months, ice fishing, downhill and cross-country skiing, and hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails surround the calm, clear water. Vacation rentals and private real estate are plentiful for those wishing to spend a little time enjoying the area.

At the beginning of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, the town of Old Forge is well known for its amusement park, ski center, and breathtaking fall foliage tours. You will also find campgrounds, mountain hiking trails and scenic train rides. Lodging and vacation rentals can also be found in town. The hamlet of Inlet, located on the eastern end of Fourth Lake offers horseback tours, several parks and public beaches, picnic areas, seaplane tours, a golf course, and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. In town, Fulton Chain of Lakes visitors will find restaurants and many unique shops featuring traditional Adirondack gifts and collectibles.

Whether it is an exciting weekend of paddling along some of the most scenic Adirondack lakes, or just a relaxing vacation getaway, the Fulton Chain of Lakes offers visitors a number of unforgettable recreational opportunities in an incredible setting. Make sure to spend some time off the water enjoying the area’s special events and spectacular scenery.

Things to do at Fulton Chain of Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Amusement Park

Fish species found at Fulton Chain of Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Tiger Muskellunge
  • Trout
  • Yellow Perch

Fulton Chain of Lakes Photo Gallery

Fulton Chain of Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Hudson River Black River Regulating District.

Surface Area: 4,396 acres

Shoreline Length: 16 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,707 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,706 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,791 feet

Average Depth: 23 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

Water Volume: 62,784 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 0.96 years

Drainage Area: 20 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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