paddling on Lake George


I will be camping on Bass Island in Lake George for two days in late June with my husband. The island is only reachable by boat, so we plan to rent a kayak or canoe to get there. Question: Bass Island is in the “Narrows” on the western side. Does anybody have experience paddling on Lake George? Any idea how many hours we should expect for the trip from the Bolton Marina to Bass island? I’ve heard that motorboats can sometimes leave pretty strong wakes, but any idea what the current is like in different parts of the lake? We will be camping Monday and Tuesday, so hopefully we won’t have to deal with lots of motor boats.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



Bolton to Bass

– Last Updated: May-15-16 3:06 AM EST –

Bass Island is only about 2.5 miles from the Lake George Kayak rental dock at Bolton Landing (beyond the Sagamore entrance). Time frame to paddle there depends on the weather and water conditions, the type of boat and the ability of the paddler. On a calm day I could easily paddle there in any of my touring kayaks in less than an hour. On a windy day with choppy waves it could take me two hours. A novice boater in a short rec style kayak or a canoe on a day with a strong wind from the northeast might never get there if they paddled all day. It's all relative.

Have you ever kayaked or canoed before? What type of boats are you renting? If you are renting from Lake George Kayak (which I would recommend), you should talk to them anyway about your plan and to answer your questions. They know the lake as well as anyone.

There will be power boats on the lake every day in June, for sure, especially in that popular area. Yes, power boat wakes have to be dealt with, but if you are an experienced paddler they are no big deal.

I'm presuming you have a reservation already, since there is only one campsite?

Be ready for boat wakes

– Last Updated: May-15-16 11:16 AM EST –

There is no noticeable current in the lake, it is over 30 miles long and the creeks in and out hardly impact all that water in the middle.

But if you are not at least an intermediate canoe paddler, I would suggest kayaks or at least a really big, heavy super stable canoe. You are likely renting from somewhere in Bolton Landing, and that crossing can be challenging. And no rec kayaks - proper sea kayaks with two bulkheads and perimeter lines. I looked at your profile and it seems you have some boat time, but I could not tell in what conditions.

You have to be ready for two things that will make for fairly bouncy water. One is the motor boat wakes and the boaters themselves. Keep a sharp eye out going from Bolton to the Narrows. It should be a better on a weekday than on a weekend, but the motor boaters on Lake George can be huge jerks and they generally have high powered boats. Also, go around the NORTH end of the island that the Sagamore is on (Green), not the south end. The reverberating wakes off the bulkheads by the Sagamore's dock can get pretty big.

If there is a steady wind blowing out of the south the wind can create some decent action between Crown Island and Montcalm Point, the straight line path from Bolton to the Narrows. It is a huge fetch. So either get thru that before 10am, before the wind has had a chance to build, or consider talking the long way around. That would be to get blown north to be opposite Montcalm Point then cross Northwest Bay wherever you felt comfortable. Same solution in reverse coming back home, just likely to be coming home against a head wind.

The good news is that you can stay nearer shore and out of most of the traffic from Montcalm to Bass Island.

From Bass, it is a nice paddle up to East and West Dollar islands that gives you some good views and keeps you along shore and out of the worst boat traffic. Just keep an eye out for rattlers if you pull up around French Point for a snack - not like you are going to step on one getting out of the boat but we have seen a diamond back there a couple of times.

Again, I would urge caution if you are both not decent paddlers. Another option would be to go for a motor boat. All the camp sites have proper docks for motor boats, and NY state does not require a license for adults. (Stupid but true.)