Today Leesa, Rev and I took up the quest to go to T Lake Falls in the West Canada Lake Wilderness. I had heard talk about it for years from friends and it was high time to check it out. A perfect weather day was in order and we had our plan in place.
We chose to just do an out-and-back day trip, but a camping trip would have worked fine as well. Rather than take the trail to T Lake and the reportedly dangerous herd path from the top of the falls to the bottom, we chose to start from the southwest; starting at the end of Mountain Home Road (just off of Route 8, west of Piseco Lake). The road is drivable all the way to the end (even in a two wheel drive car with average clearance). Continue past what looks like a small parking lot. It has posted "No Parking" signs. The road ahead looks questionable, but it's not bad. Soon you'll enter forest preserve lands. You can drive past The Floe and a fork in the jeep road just before Mad Tom Brook. We observed 4 designated camping sites there. One of them still had a smoking fire ring with red coals in it, but nobody in sight... These sites would be a good starting point if you'd like to have any easy car camping start point.
The unmarked trail (the South Branch trail #97 on the National Geographic Northville/Raquette Lake Adirondack Park map) is the left fork. The right fork crosses the South Branch and heads towards privately owned Pine Lake. We parked and started down the left fork. Three pickup trucks were parked at the fork, but no campsites were taken. We expected to see the owners of the trucks someone along the way.
|A foot bridge (the one and only) near the start of the unmarked South Branch trail.|
The unmarked trail is an old woods road for 3 miles. There are some spots that appear to be continuously muddy, but you can bypass the quagmire sections. At about 2.2 miles, we noticed a faint herd path branching off to the left (near Wagoner Brook). It may go to a place called Fisher Camp (which a number of people put as their destination in the log book), but not sure about that. Another trip will determine that. At the three mile mark, the South Branch appeared once again, and now it was time to cross. We found a group of about 10 backpackers here taking a break on their way out.
The water level was moderate and we were able to rock hop across the South Branch without getting our feet wet. Immediately on the other side was an illegal campsite (too close to the water), but it was a nice spot and it looked like it had been used quite often.
The unmarked trail was now gone. The Nat Geo map shows a short head path heading east following a drainage and we followed that path for perhaps 0.2 miles where we came to a faint herd path fork and a tree with 3 ribbons on it. It was time to take the left fork to resume the northeasterly bearing, keeping the South Branch on our left.
|The South Branch (looking downstream from where we crossed).|
|The South Branch (looking upstream from where we crossed).|
After another 0.2 miles or so, we came across the one and only place where the head path was hard to follow Which Hobble and ferns obscured the faint herd path and we lost it for a couple minutes. We just kept heading northeast and we soon regained it. We had veered left of the herd path for a few moments. Along the way we saw some old metal trail markers and a fair amount of pink ribbon. In the last couple miles, we saw extremely fresh hatchet blazes on the trees.
|This is what the old metal trail markers looked like.|
|Hatchet Jack's handiwork.|
Soon we were wedged between the South Branch on the left, and steep incline on the right. No getting off track anymore. We passed an oxbow in the South Branch and saw another illegal campsite (once again too close to the river and no "camp here" disc). This was at the 4.5 miles mark in our trek.
We continued on and eventually hit the T lake Falls outlet and it was time to climb the short distance to the falls. We were happy to see that nobody was at the falls when we got there. What a glorious spot. It was amazing to have such a beautiful spot to ourselves on a perfect weather July weekend day. With stream running a little higher than normal for this time of year, the falls had a good amount of water spilling over the top.
|A first look...|
|Rev... our non-water dog.|
What was exciting for us was that there is a nice pool of water for swimming at the base. It was a little chilly when first getting in, but once in, it didn't feel bad. The water was probably seven feet deep in the middle. What was neat was that the water entering the pool was warm from having traveled down the sunny rocks. Leesa and I swam for awhile. Rev is not a swimmer, so she just watched and had a drink.
|Leesa... enjoying the water pool at the base of the falls.|
We felt good as new after the refreshing swim. We got out and had lunch and then got back in for one more swim.
Some claim that this is the highest total drop waterfall in New York State. Niagara Falls is about 170 feet. OK Slip Falls is about 250 feet. There is discrepancy as to how big the drop is at T Lake Falls, but it is impressive. At least 4 persons have died here from slipping at the top and plunging down the length of the falls to the bottom. Apparently from the top you can't see much, and the arc in the rock continues to dive down and people edging forward make the mistake of waling on wet rock. When they start to slip, it is too late. We were quite comfortable with our approach from the bottom and had no desire to look at the scene from the top.
The walk from the end of Mountain Home Road to the falls taking the heard path that we followed was 5.9 miles one way.
In case you get to the falls and there are too many people there for your liking, there is a much smaller, but decent sized swim hole and small waterfall just downstream from the large falls.
|The consolation falls and wading area...|
After our 2nd swim, we headed back using our same route. We had started at 10 AM and it was now 3 PM and time to leave. It took us exactly 3 hours to return to the car.
|The South Branch... just upstream from the oxbow.|
|Campsite at the oxbow.|
|This was on the knoll at the oxbow... the only evidence of humans we saw other than the head path.|
|Our rock hopping spot on the South Branch.|
If spectacular waterfalls are your thing, and you don't hike a 12 mile round trip hike with the herd path and bushwhack time, this trip is well worth your time. Doing the trip in July/August is definitely a bonus for the swim you can take when you get there!