Lakes of Pigeon Lake Wilderness, New York, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New York - Adirondacks -

Also known as:  Cascade Lake, Chub Lake, Pigeon Lake, Upper Sister Lake, Lower Sister Lake, Mays Pond, Gull Lake, Russian Lake, Constable Lake, Merriam Lake, Windfall Lake, Queer Lake, Shallow Lake.

Little-known and seldom publicized, the many lakes in the Pigeon Lake Wildernes provide an opportunity for solitude and pleasant outdoor exercise for the public. Located in the central region of Adirondacks Park in Hamilton and Herkimer counties, the 50,000-acre roadless wilderness encompasses at least 64 bodies of water. The area isn’t crowded, because few are aware of its existence. Most Adirondack Park publications do not mention Pigeon Lake Wilderness, so its lakes are a well-kept secret.

Located near better-known Big Moose Lake, the Pigeon Lake Wilderness contains over 45 miles of hiking trails. Many are positioned to intersect, so loops can be made from several different configurations. Trails range in level of difficulty and are often wet, although few have much elevation change. Some of the more notable lakes in the Wilderness (meaning they have marked trails associated with them) are Chub Lake, Pigeon Lake, Upper and Lower Sister Lakes, Mays Pond, Gull Lake, Russian Lake, Constable Lake, Merriam Lake, Cascade Lake, Windfall Lake, Queer Lake and Shallow Lake. Six lean-to camping shelters are scattered along the lakes, although most reports claim all but one of them can be reached only by boat. Streams to the lakes may be impassable by canoe or kayak due to fallen trees, swampy margins and other obstacles. All lakes show trails to them, although many are secondary trails that are not maintained and may require what some hikers refer to as ‘bushwhacking’.

None of the lakes are included on state Department of Environmental Conservation lists, so there are no statistics available for any of them. Maps that include the trails may be purchased as a cell phone app from the Adirondack Mountain Club website and may be available from Ranger stations. National Geographic sells a comprehensive book of Adirondack Trail Maps in conjunction with the Adirondack Mountain Club that shows all of the trails.

Some of the most popular hiking routes are favorites for cross-country skiers. The Cascade Lake Loop is relatively flat and usually in good shape. The trail includes four small foot bridges over brooks and has boardwalk areas across some swampy spots. At the end of Cascade Lake is the 40-foot waterfall that inspired its name. In summer, more hikers attempt this six-mile loop than any other, but hikers may still find themselves alone on the trail. The trailhead is located at the parking area on Big Moose Road.

The most easily accessed lean-to camping shelter is located on the shores of Queer Lake. The trailhead is located off County Highway 1, but the trail can also be reached via a sidespur trail from Cascades lake. One of the most difficult is the trail that leads to the summit of West Mountain, the 2,902-foot high point within Pigeon Lake Wilderness. This, with several other trails, is best accessed from Browns Tract Lakes Campground, a small state-operated campground at the edge of the Wilderness. Within the campground, the Shallow Lake Trail starts hikers toward the intersection with Sucker Brook Bay Trail, which crosses Black Mountain Trail. A second trail leads from the summit of West Mountain to Constable Lake.

Trout fishing is very good in some of the wilderness brooks. All proper fishing licenses must be carried and all regulations observed. This is bear country, and precautions should be taken to avoid confrontations. The second-growth forest gives way to stands of old, first-growth trees and standing deadwood in swamps, providing plenty of habitat for songbirds, particularly woodpeckers. Certain areas are used by hunters during large game season, although many aren’t prepared for the effort of hiking into more remote areas. No motorized vehicles are allowed anywhere within the Pigeon Lake Wilderness.

With no lodgings other than primitive camping within the Pigeon Lake Wilderness, the trails are more suitable for a day visit or a weekend adventure. In close proximity, however, are several popular vacation destinations in the central Adirondacks: the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Sacandaga Lake and Indian Lake. All are vacation destinations well-known for watersports, guest rentals and a variety of entertainment and cuisine. The Fulton Chain of Lakes is noted for excellent canoeing, with serious paddlers exploring the entire chain. Fishing is excellent, and a number of campgrounds provide budget lodgings to the adventurous.

Raquette Lake has a marina that rents boats to those wishing to enjoy the nearly 100 miles of shoreline, and both private guest rentals and campgrounds provide plenty of lodging choices. Near Raquette Lake on beautiful Sagamore Lake, Great Camp Sagamore-former ‘camp’ home of the Vanderbilt family-is open for tours and an enjoyable piece of Adirondacks history. Nearby Indian Lake also offers plenty of lake-focused activities, including boating, swimming and fishing. Caves in the area are of interest to cave explorers and offer great spelunking.

The Adirondacks Museum at Blue Mountain Lake is less than 30 miles from Indian lake. Blue Mountain Lake has several rustic resorts that offer lodging. Guest cottages and private vacation rentals are also found along the lakefront. Boat tours are a popular way to see Blue Mountain Lake from the decks of refurbished 1916 lake cruisers. And for mountain climbers, nearby Blue Mountain is a favorite two-mile hike with a spectacular view of surrounding mountains and lakes as seen from the top. So, come visit Pigeon Lake Wilderness and its lakes. It’s an unforgettable piece of unspoiled wilderness.

Things to do at Lakes of Pigeon Lake Wilderness

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Spelunking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lakes of Pigeon Lake Wilderness

  • Carp
  • Sucker
  • Trout

Lakes of Pigeon Lake Wilderness Photo Gallery

    Lakes of Pigeon Lake Wilderness Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

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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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