Never would have found Bog River Falls if we didn't go on an adventure

TUPPER LAKE, N.Y. − For the past 23 years, my brothers and I have spent a week in the fall fishing in New York's Adirondacks, with our base camp at Cranberry Lake. We’ve become so familiar with Cranberry, we know every inch of its 7,000 acres, and now have it pretty much dialed in. So much, so, I hate to say it, but at times it gets boring catching bass and pike there.

So, we schedule a day for an adventure at some other lake or river in the upper New York region, usually one that has fish not available to us at Cranberry – such as walleye, musky, landlocked salmon, lake trout or brook trout. Sometimes we haul our bass boats, other times we strap canoes or kayaks to our trucks.

Last year we boated on the picturesque Upper Saranac Lake and its million-dollar homes and boat houses, so this year we roughed it and headed into the bush, taking canoes to Horseshoe Lake, a shallow body of water off the beaten path, where the report of tiger-muskies and walleye piqued our interest.

At just 384 acres, it was the perfect size to easily explore in canoes, and as its name implies, it is in the shape of a horseshoe. The lake was crystal clear and featured very little weed growth, with most of its vegetation (where we thought we’d find tiger-muskies) in one foot of water or less.

After probing the shoreline for an hour and finally finding an area that had some smallmouth bass on it, we were approached by a New York Department of Environmental Conservation officer, who talked to us from the shore. He never asked to see our licenses or check on our safety gear (we had life jackets on), and said he was just making his rounds. He said he only ice fishes the lake in the winter, so he knew the deep holes and offered us some suggestions on where to catch fish and where the deepest part of the lake was.

The deep spots (just 16 feet) never really panned out, and after completely making it around the lake and all four brothers catching at least one fish (smallmouth and largemouth bass), we decided to head back to Cranberry, but first stop at Bog River Falls, which caught our eye on the drive into Horseshoe Lake.

Horseshoe Lake, where fishing takes a backseat to exploring

That’s when the real adventure began.

It was not much of a fish-catching stop, but one more of a stop to take in the beauty of the falls, and definitely experience the adventure. Sure, we caught little smallies in the slack water of the falls on tiny baits, but the thrill was hiking around, in and over, and up and down the falls, looking for places that might hold fish, all the while enjoying the sound of rushing water on a blue-bird sky day in the Adirondacks.

And while the well-worn paths around the falls indicated Bog River Falls gets plenty of visitors, on this fall day we pretty much had the area to ourselves. We lost lures and jigs on the jagged rocks, tried the area where the river dumps into Tupper Lake, the many cascading sections of the falls itself, and even hiked up river to calmer waters for a different look. Soon, catching fish wasn’t as important as exploring what the falls had to offer.

When we first pulled into the road-side parking lot, we thought maybe we’d give it half an hour to see what was biting, but we ended up there for nearly two hours, just enjoying the scenery and catching 6-inch fish.

Art Holden
Art Holden

A little bit about Bog River

Bog River is a key to fishing success on Tupper Lake, as its flowing waters attract smelt in the spring, but because of the waterfall, the smelt can’t get up the river to spawn, and just congregate at that end of Tupper Lake. As a result, walleye, lake trout, landlocked salmon and pike all head to Bog River Falls in the spring to feast on the smelt, one of the reasons Tupper Lake features walleye that go 10 pounds, 8-10-pound salmon, 15-pound lakers and pike up to 20 pounds.

We never would have found Bog River Falls if we would have stayed at Cranberry and fished its waters once again, and we never would have had such a fun day of exploring if we hadn’t stopped to see what the falls had to offer. It wasn’t a day about catching, but a day about experiencing something new, and seeing what the Adirondacks have to offer. And God willing - us Holden boys are now all nearly in our 70s - we can continue to have more fall adventures in the north woods of New York in the years to come.

Outdoor correspondent Art Holden can be reached at

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Bog River Fall in Adirondacks, not the fish, highlights New York trip