In the northern end of the Debar Mountain Wild Forest at the upper end of the Adirondack Mountains, the Deer River Flow is a narrow Y-shaped body of water that's a paddler’s paradise. A series of marshes, open areas, streams, and wildlife make this a fantastic destination to explore. There is a dam at the northern end of the flow and on the western side of the Y where you can peer over the outflow and gain an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. The round-trip distance for this adventure is about 5 miles over flatwater.
Access the flow on Cold Brook Road just off the western side of Route 30 (and less than 5-miles north of Meacham Lake Campground). The load-in is a small beach surrounded by a few signs. While there is room to pull your vehicle off the road and unload your boat, you will have to park on the other side of the road in a designated parking area at the corner of the turnoff from Route 30. Make sure that your boat is clean before setting it in the water, as this helps prevent the introduction of a non-native species. Before taking off, check out the beaver lodge at this southern end, which may or may not have satellite reception.
Disembark through the marsh and out to the flow. The water is a bit shallow here, but it is a perfect place to spot some wildlife. Frogs like to find a warm spot in the mud, while blue herons stand like statues waiting to strike their next meal. Navigate due northwest to head up the water passage. There are a few houses at this southern end of the flow, but the infrastructure quickly dissipates as you continue upstream.
Furnace Mountain appears to the northwest over the treetops of the western shoreline, and there are some minor rock faces you can make out at its peak. Take some time to weave in and around the various channels through the marshes on the eastern bank. You are likely to see some beautiful wildflowers emerging from the tall grasses and shrubbery. Unfortunately, there is a milfoil problem here that muddies up the waters. Further away toward the mainland there are many fallen and uprooted trees, part of the natural forest life cycle takes place along the shore.
About 2 miles into your paddle, the Deer River becomes much wider. Some minor waves may form on the surface as you paddle against the wind. Stay to the left along the western bank to make your way to the dam. Here you find more houses along the northern shore, and the Deer River Campsite also has a few cabin and RV sites, but the structures do not take away from the serenity of the paddle. You can also see the large outflow of Horseshoe Pond emptying from the northeast as the water divides to the north and south.
Up ahead there are two small islands, and beyond them the Deer River Dam comes into view. Some buoys and a rope line guard the overflow, but it is best to keep your distance. You can find a place to step out at the left end of the dam. This large concrete structure was carefully molded over a bumpy rockbed. The Deer River flows from here to the north through a series of small channels and rapids, eventually leading 6.2 miles to the Adirondack Park boundary and later emptying into the St. Regis River.
Turning back to the south, you can see Debar Mountain rising over the horizon at 3,300 feet. You may envision a time before this dam was built when the flow was much lower and the small islands were higher hills. While mankind has certainly had an impact on the landscape, the beavers have also managed a share of the construction and manipulation over several millennia. Return back to the boat launch on the same route, and if you’re lucky, the wind will be at your back. The paddle to the south offers a new perspective of the surrounding mountains including Orebed Mountain to the south. Feel free to extend your adventure upstream to Horseshoe Pond.