The Kunjamuk River is one of the most pristine rivers in the Adirondack Park, ranking up there with the Marion River and the Raquette River. The Kunjamuk as it is known as, will bring you upstream along a beautiful course to Elm Lake, where vistas are vast and wide. This paddle is a must for any visitor to Hamilton County.
From the intersection of Route 8 and Route 30 in the village of Speculator, follow the Route 30/8, east toward Wells. Continue for just over 0.5 miles to the village park/picnic area on the left. The cartop boat launch for the river is located there with ample parking.
The launch can be a very busy place and you may need to wait your turn on a super busy day in the middle of summer, but it is worth the delay. Paddling upstream the river is narrow at first as it passes through fields of pickerel weed that line the edges. Geese frequent the area and their young with them in the spring. The river widens for a bit as it splits near Rift Hill, the river true course heads to the left of Rift Hill in a northerly direction.
The river once it leaves the narrows will start to become a series of oxbows which adds quickly to the overall distance of the trip. The shore lined with alders, hardwoods and hemlocks, they seem to close in on you at times. You will pass under a steel bridge with wood planks for a road top; this is the trail to Kunjamuk Cave. You will continue through the oxbows for a bit longer before the river starts to straighten out a bit and make a more direct heading to Elm Lake. The vista of the mountains out over the marsh fields is very picturesque and one of the finest points along the paddle.
You will come to Elm Lake at roughly 5 miles from the launch and now have the opportunity to explore a bit more of an open body of water. The Kunjamuk River continues upstream from the northern end of Elm Lake, but that is a much more extensive and time consuming trip. The trip back down the Kunjamuk goes much faster with the current on your side.
The river is a very slow moving current, upstream to Elm Lake. Many oxbows are along the river, extending the actual length of the paddle from the much shorter straight line distance.
Elm Lake is also a calm body of water, but like larger bodies of water it can produce small whitecaps in the right conditions.
By the numbers
- Kunjamuk launch to Elm Lake = 5+ miles
- There is a short carry of less than 100 feet