Adirondack Directory - Wilderness

Silver Lake Wilderness Region

As edited by IAATAP from the full DEC management report (click here for full report)

43°17′41″N 74°25′47″W


The Silver Lake Wilderness area has three units areas:  Silver Lake (106,770 acres), Sacandaga Primitive area (4.2 acres) and Cathead Mountain Primitive Area (206 acres).  This region is located in the Towns of Benson, Hopes, Arietta, Wells and Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County.  Silver Lake Wilderness is the 4th largest region in the Adirondacks.   This wilderness has an "outstanding opportunity for solitude"  because of the remoteness and lack of public use.  To keep the solace, the state have proposed no new facilities in order to keep this region wild.  Public access is free and relatively unregulated.  Please "leave no trace" to keep the remoteness and solace for others.


Historically, this region was settled by hard-working farmers, mill owners, lumbermen and tannery workers.   Many tiny towns sprang up and later abandoned.  Later they were acquired by the state for the Forest Preserve.  An interesting name, Nick Stoner, a Revolutionary War veteran, returned to the region and was a frontiersman and as good as a guide as the Native Americans.   Legend has it that two St. Regis Indians were killed attempting to steal some of Nick's pelts and traps.


Whitehouse is an area along the West Branch of the Sacandaga where there once was lumber camps, lodges and a boys' camp.  Now all that remains are foundations and two stone chimneys.   One chimney reported from the Larry Fountain's residence or known as the "Blair House."   The Whitehouse, operated by Lee Fountain,  itself was a  lodge of a large two story building for sportsmen.  The lodge ran a tight lodge with no swearing or drinking ad never had any accidents or lost hunters.  Records show 292 bucks and 2 does where shot at the camp during a 10 year period.  The boy's camp, run by Larry Fountain, was an alternative source of income and would accommodate fifty boys.  Later, Lee, operated a furniture business of fine Adirondack furniture.  In 1962, the Whitehouse and its 350 acres were offered for sale.  With no interest from the public, the State purchased and the buildings were removed.


In the days of the 'gold rush', a few low-grade gold & silver claims were made and Goldmine Creek, was named.  There still remains a small quality today; but no large amounts.  In recent history, in 1950 there was the biggest 'wind' hit the Adirondacks leveling trees from Franklin to Fulton County.  Silver Lake Wilderness was damaged north of Whitehouse and east of Sherman Mountain.  Click on picture below to enlarge the Silver Lake Wilderness Map.


Other historical side notes:


• Helldevil Dam: site of a flood dam for the earliest logging operations in the Benson Tract, dating to 1870.

• North Branch Reservoir: site of former reservoir that was used to float logs to an old mill on NY 10.

• Hamilton Mountain: site of former fire tower which was removed in 1977.

• Arietta Game Preserve: site of former state game preserve along the North Branch. It was built in 1927 in an attempt to increase the deer herd. A single strand of wire surrounded nearly 4000 acres.

• Peck’s Grave: grave site of Colonel Loring Peck 1743-1833. Peck fought in the Revolutionary War and moved to the Lake Pleasant area in 1811. He lies buried with his wife and son on land they once cleared for a farm.

• Whitehouse Cemetery: according to historic notes there are possibly 30 or more graves in this cemetery, but only five gravestones


Silver Lake Wilderness is in the towns of Lake Pleasant, Benson, Wells, Hope and Arietta in Hamilton County.  The area bounds Route 8 near Piseco Lake, Oxbow Lake, Hamilton Lake, Sand Lake and Lake Pleasant, and on the east side of Route 30, and west on Route 30 by the West Branch of the Sacandaga River and Piseco Outlet.









Designated Primitive Tent Sites  -  (34 total)  does not include lean-tos.

  • West River Road (7) 

  • Whitehouse (6)

  • Spy Lake (6)

  • Woods Lake (4) 

  • North Branch West Stony Creek / NPT (1)

  • Rock Lake / NPT (1)

  • Sacandaga River / NPT (1)

  • Meco Lake / NPT (1)

  • Silver Lake / NPT (1)

  • Canary Pond / NPT (1)

  • Hamilton Lake Stream / NPT (2)

  • West Branch Sacandaga River / NPT (2)

  • Buckhorn Lake Outlet / NPT (1)

Campsite Maps:



Titbits:  DEC regulation requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC policy prohibits issuing group camping permits to groups wanting to camp on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks that are classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe area. This policy was developed to protect natural resources, the primeval character of the area and exceptional wilderness experiences for all recreationists, and follows Leave No Trace practices. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.

Other Regions:  IAATAP maintains a full directory of Camping. To explore nearby camping areas, click here.




Hamilton County is rich in bird life.  You can download a free guide & trail map: Birding in Hamilton County.  Also visit our Adirondack Bird Directory when you have time. A portion of the Silver Lake Wilderness is over 2,800 feet in elevation (Hamilton Mountain, Dugway Mountain, Swart Mountain Speculator Mountain and Three Ponds Mountain).   These areas are subject to the Adirondack Subalpine Forest Conservation Act to protect the species at risk.  Keep disturbances to a minimum.

Birds associated with marshes, ponds, lakes and streams are numerous and include the common loon, American woodcock, great blue heron, Canada goose, and a variety of ducks. The most common ducks include the mallard, wood duck, common merganser, and ring-necked duck. Birds of prey common to the unit include the barred owl, great horned owl, broad-winged hawk, northern goshawk, and red-tailed hawk. Songbirds present include various species of woodpeckers, flycatchers, wrens, thrushes, vireos, warblers, blackbirds, finches, grosbeaks, and sparrows.  Common upland game species include the wild turkey and ruffed grouse.

Silver Lake Wilderness Wildlife Inventory:


By the NY State's Unit Management Plan, the following species are under study, we have summarized their findings.  Pictures and links provided by Wikipedia.



Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)


Bald Eagle - Picture credits to Wikipedia


The bald eagle is currently listed as a threatened species by the federal government and New York. Buckhorn Mountain is believed to have been a center of eagle activity prior to 1970, although no nest sites had been confirmed.  Bald eagles are sensitive to human disturbance; so if you are fortunate to see one, please "Do Not Disturb".



Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)


Indiana Bat - Picture credits to Wikipedia

The Indiana Bat is an endangered species and may reside in the Siamese Wilderness but not confirmed. The DEC is searching existing caves throughout NY and three caves along the borders of the Adirondacks have found indicating of wintering Indiana bats.  During spring, Indiana bats disperse from their winter hibernacula, some traveling hundreds of miles. Females congregate in nursery colonies, only a handful of which have ever been discovered. Nursery colonies have been located along the banks of streams or lakes in forested habitat, under the loose bark of dead trees, and contained from 50-100 females. In August or early September, Indiana bats congregate at the entrance of selected caves or mines where mating occurs. Indiana bats spend the winter months in secluded caves or mines which average 37 - 43 degrees F.


Small Footed Bat (Myotis subulatus)


The small-footed bat  is a species of special concern in New York State.  Preferred habitats include caves, mine tunnels, crevices in rocks, and buildings in or near forested areas. Like most bats, the small-footed bat’s most serious problem is believed to be human disturbance during hibernation. Too many disturbances and the animals will not survive until spring. The same management efforts will apply to this species as with the Indian bat.


Osprey (Pandion haliates)


Osprey - Picture credits to Wikipedia


The American Osprey is of special concern. Osprey breed near large bodies of water where there is abundant fish populations.  Numerous sightings are within the Adirondack.  Osprey construct their nest in tall dead tress, but also use rocky ledges, sand dunes, artificial platforms, and utility pole cross arms for a tall advantage point. The power company has started to built Osprey poles because they often select power poles causing issues when moving their youth from the endangerment of the power lines.




Common Loon (Gavia immer)


Common Loon - Picture credits to WikipediaThe Common Loon is a species of special concern and are located through out the Adirondacks  They use small and large freshwater lakes in open and densely forested areas for breeding and nest on lakes (mostly less habited lakes). The Loons will use little shallow coves for nesting which are constructed on the ground at the water’s edge on sand or rock, wherever to avoided predators.  Small islands are their favorite or small peninsular.  They have a beautiful call - click:  Common Loon - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.   NOTE:  Spy Lake Trout Lake and Buckhorn Lake are Loon Lake nesting sites.  Please do not disturb them.



Northern Goshawk  (Accipiter gentilis)

The northern goshawk  is a species of special concern in New York State.  Goshawks generally prefer coniferous forests, but can also be found around farmland, woodland edges, and open country in the winter. The goshawk remains mostly in the northern coniferous forests unless forced to move south by a periodic decline in the populations of the grouse that are a staple of its diet. They are fearless in defense of their nest and will boldly attack anyone who ventures too close. Goshawk populations seem to be directly influenced by prey abundance, i.e grouse populations. Since there are no specific provisions for wildlife management on Forest Preserve lands, vegetation manipulation for grouse propagation is not permissible. Therefore, management efforts will concentrate on protecting identified nesting sites whenever possible.




The Silver Lake Wilderness Area has 48 ponded waters from sizes of small beaver flows to 75 acres (totaling 663 acres).  All ponds, except the Little Stoner Lake, drain into the Sacandaga River system.  The Little Stoner Lake is a tributary of the Mohawk River system. 

There are 180 miles of streams in the Silver Lake Wilderness with the longest being the West Branch of the Sacandaga River.  Most streams are steep and fast flowing.  The West Branch between Dugway Creek and Piseco Lake separate by falls and gorges.   Approximately 5.7% of the area is classified as wetlands prized for their productive habitat for fish and wildlife.

The extreme southwestern portion of the unit drains via the Stoner Lakes outlet to Canada Lake, and then via Sprite Creek to East Canada Creek and then the Mohawk River, also tributary to the Hudson.  The small, high gradient streams support coldwater communities of fishes which are likely to include: brown trout, brook trout, cutlips minnows, common shiners, blacknose dace, longnose dace, northern redbelly dace, creek chub, white sucker and slimy sculpin along with a mixture of various nonnatives. Few streams within the Unit have actually been surveyed.  The few that have (Abner and Hatch Brooks and North Branch West Stony Creek) yielded brook trout, brown trout, logperch, blacknose dace, longnose dace, common shiner, creek chub, white sucker, slimy sculpin, brown bullhead, smallmouth bass, and tesselated darter. The streams in the unit are generally not stocked, however brown trout are stocked in portions of the West Branch Sacandaga and the Sacandaga River.  The Sacandaga River support  northern pike, smallmouth bass, rock bass, walleye, lake whitefish, white sucker, carp, largemouth bass, golden shiner, common shiner, spottail shiner, and fallfish.

Silver Lake, White Lake, Middle Loomis, Ross Lake, and Meco Lake were all known at one time to have supported native fish species, but which are now fishless because of acid precipitation.   

      Other Ponds/Lakes:

  • Owl Pond - 8 acres stocked with trout

  • Grant Lake - stocked with brook trout

  • Woods Lake - 65 acres (mix of private/state owned)

  • Mud Lake - 23 acres, drains into Piseco Lake Outlet, brook trout

  • Lost/Cooney Lake - 4 acres

  • Buck Pond - no fish, 22' deep

  • Lake Chartruese - 12 acres stocked w/brook trout

  • Little Lake or Mud Pond  - 5 acres and very shallow

  • Buckhorn Lake or Fiddler's Pond - 40 acres

  • Upper Loomis Pond - part of a three-pond Loomis pond, brook trout

  • Middle Loomis Pond - 8 acres w/depth of 20'

  • Upper Loomis Pond - 8 acres with depth of 8'

  • Trout Lake - connected to the West Branch Sacandaga River

  • Lost Pond - approx. 4 acres

  • Chub Lake - 17 acres and drains into the West Branch Sacandaga River

  • Ross Lake - 4 acres

  • North Branch Flow - 8 acre pond

  • Canary Pond  - 13.3 acres with dept of 20'

  • Brown Lake - 10.6 acre pond

  • Silver Lake - victim of acid precipitation

  • White Lake - poor fishing

  • Rock Lake - 8 acre pond

  • Meco Lake - 12 acre pond

  • Little Stoner Lake - tributary of the Mohawk River system. 

      Visit our Fishing Directory for more information and


Horse Trails

New York Codes Rules and Regulations (“NYCRR”) §190.8(n) authorizes the use of state owned lands by horses and equestrians.  However, the use of horses on designated foot trails is prohibited unless the trail is also specifically designated as a horse trail. Horse trails in a Wilderness area to: “those that can be developed by conversion of appropriate abandoned roads, snowmobile trails, or state truck trails.”  There are several abandoned roads within the Siamese Ponds Wilderness appropriate for horse riding.  The Eleventh Mountain trail and the Old Kunjamuk Road are some, and both of these roads are both currently designated as hiking and skiing trails.   Visit our Adirondack Horseback Directory for other areas.



Hunters enjoy pack & paddling into the region for weeks of hunting.  There are adjacent private land for leased hunting camps as well.  

The SLWA is home to a variety of large and small sized mammals. Some of the larger sized mammals include the white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, river otter, beaver, mink, varying hare, striped skunk, gray squirrel, porcupine, red fox, gray fox, muskrat, fisher, and marten. The smaller sized mammals include a variety of bats, shrews, moles, and mice, along with the ermine, long-tailed weasel, eastern chipmunk, and red squirrel.  Most species are distributed relatively evenly throughout the unit, although the populations of weasel, mink, muskrat, river otter, and beaver are concentrated near water, and the varying hare and red squirrel are mostly confined to spruce and fir stands. White-tailed deer populations tend to be highest in areas near recent disturbances with wintering areas occurring in lowland coniferous areas.

Game species include:  Beaver Black Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Ermine, Fisher, Gray Fox, Gray Squirrel, Long-tailed Weasel, Marten, Mink, Moose, Muskrat, New England Cottontail, Raccoon, River Otter, Striped Skunk, Varying Hare, Virginia Opossum, White-tailed Deer

Wildlife Inventory:



Hiking Trails


The backcountry acreage is enormous and the Adirondacks has the largest trail system in the nation with more than 2,000 miles.  Enjoy the glory of hiking the Adirondacks, nature's solitude, unbroken forest, lakes and mountains and take the path less taken.  Focus on your senses.  Visit our Adirondack Hiking Guide.   Click here for the DEC "Lost in the Woods" brochure. 


The DEC trail classification system is outlined in the Forest Preserve Policy Manual. This classification system recognizes four trail classifications as outlined below:



Class 1:

Trail Distinguishable: Minimal biological or physical impacts, slight loss of vegetation and/or minimal disturbance of organic litter

Class 2:

Some Impacts: Tail obvious, slight loss of vegetation cover and/or organic litter pulverized in primary use areas, muddy spots or tree roots, or water action evident.

Class 3:

Moderate Impacts: Vegetation cover and/or organic littler pulverized within the center of the tread, exposed rocks and trees or small mud holes, but little evidence of widening beyond the maintained width of the trail.

Class 4:

Extensive Impacts: Near complete or total loss of vegetation cover and organic litter, rocks or tree roots exposed and roots damaged, or ruts more than 20cm (7.8 inches) deep, or widening caused by muddy areas or water action consistently.

Class 5:

Very Extensive Impacts: Trail to bedrock or other substrate, or tree roots badly damaged, or some ruts more than 50 cm (19.5 inches) deep or large areas (over 50%) of bank erosion, or mud holes so extensive that the trail is outside of its maintained width.



The periphery area is assessable by car, mainly Benson Road, Gilmanton Road, NYS Routes  8, 10 and 30.  Interior access is gained by Whitehouse Road (West River Road).  The Northville-Placid Trail trail starts from Godfrey Road in Upper Benson to Route 8 in Piseco.   Season access can be gained via the West Branch of the Sacandaga River

Marked Trails

NYSDEC Foot Trail Disk

Most trails are marked with color coded disks affixed to trees as shown (see left). Trail guides and maps correspond to these markers. Trail register boxes are generally located near major access points and parking areas. Although most state-maintained trails are marked, hikers are encouraged to consult topographical maps or other guides when planning to venture into the backcountry.

  • The Northville-Placid Trail starts along NY Route 30 at the Sacandaga River bridge.  This is the only marked trail in the Silver Lake Wilderness.  Trail heads for the NPT trail are located at Upper Benson, Whitehouse and Piseco.   Silver Lake Wilderness has a 23 mile section of the 133 mile long trail trail.

  • Additional foot paths (unmarked) ranch off of the NPT and usually dead-end at ponds or camping areas.

  • Cathead Mountain access - contains two right-of-ways in Benson.  This trail is popular as it leads to state-owned fire tower but is now denied access from the private land

          Unmarked Trails

  • Spy Lake access  - a 376 acre lake divided between private and state lands on the north shore.  The access is via boat through Piseco Outlet, and on foot.  The Spy Lake Road, now abandoned. 


    Class I Unmarked Trails:


    North Branch Reservoir Trail

    West Branch Gorge Trail

    Silver Lake Outlet Trail

    Confluence of Piseco Outlet and the West Branch

    Big Eddy Trail

    Groff Creek Trail

    King Vly Trail

    Abner Creek Trail

    Three Ponds Mountain and Helldevil Dam Trail

    The Notch/Devorse Creek Trail


    Class III Primitive Trails


    Woods Lake Trail - approx. 0.2 miles


    Class IV Secondary Trails


    Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) from Upper Benson to Piseco - approx. 23 miles. Trail marker color blue.


Follow those have gone before:






Titbits: Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC has adopted a regulation prohibiting the use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this new regulation.



  • Cemeteries - Colonel Peck's Grave site and South Shore Road in Lake Pleasant

  • Primitive campsites -2 Whitehouse, 2 Woods Lake and 1 on West River Road

  • Stone fireplaces - North Branch of West Stony Creek, Hamilton Lake stream lean-to, Mud lake lean-to, campsite near the chimney along the Sacandaga River, and Woods Lake




    West Branch Sacandaga River steel suspension bridge

    Hamilton Lake Stream Outlet suspension bridge


    Northville-Placid Trail (NPT)

      (2)  East Stony Creek -  planks laid on sills.

      (1)  East Stony Creek - treated deck and stringers with 5' high cribbed abutments.

      (2)  East Stony Creek - squared logs laid on log sills.

      (1)  Silver Lake - squared logs laid on log sills.

      (1)  Silver Lake - planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Silver Lake to Mud Lake - log corduroy.

      (1)  Silver Lake to Mud Lake - planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Silver Lake to Mud Lake - planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Silver Lake to Mud Lake - squared log laid across wet area.

      (1)  Mud Lake - 2x8 planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse -  planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse - planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse -  planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse - log corduroy.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse - log corduroy.

      (1)  Mud Lake to Whitehouse - planks laid on sills.

      (1) Whitehouse - 2x8 planks on stringers.

      (1)  Hamilton Lake Stream -  planks laid on sills.

      (1)  Hamilton Lake Stream -  planks laid on sills.

         Road Barriers

  • Bar Gate at the North Branch West Stony Creek

  • Swing Gates at Whitehouse

  • River Road, Hope (post only)

  • Route 8, Lake Pleasant


  • Silver Lake built along the shore w/privy pit

  • Mud Lake and privy

  • Hamilton Lake Stream

     Scenic Areas

  • West Branch Gorge - a deep gorge with a series of four waterfalls through the West Branch of the Sacandaga

  • Big Eddy - a quiet pool along with West Branch of the Sacandaga River after it cascades through the West Branch Gorge.

  • Groff Creek Waterfalls - Two waterfalls along Groff Greek.

  • Jimmy Creek Waterfalls - Waterfall along Jimmy Creek with a strange rock formation below the falls built to keep logs in the stream.

  • Finch Mountain Cliffs - scenic views of the northern part of the wilderness and West Branch Valley

  • Southerland Mountain - scenic views around the periphery of the wilderness.

  • Little Cathead Mountain - scenic views of the Woods Lake

          Notes: visit our directory of Adirondack Waterfalls for GPS coordinates.

     Parking Areas

  • West River Road, Whitehouse - unpaved for about 10 vehicles

  • Godfrey Road, West Stony Creek - unpaved for about 5 vehicles and not maintained in the winter

  • Rt.10, Arietta / North Branch - paved (DOT ROW), can accommodate 5 vehicles, maintained during winter

  • Rt.10, Arietta / Chub Lake - paved (DOT ROW), can accommodate 5 vehicles, maintained during winter

  • River Road, Town of Hope - unpaved, can accommodate 4 vehicles, not maintained during winter

  • Blackbridge Road, Lot 360 - unpaved, can accommodate 4 vehicles, not maintained during winter





Adirondack Mountain Club


Lake George


Forest Fire - Search and Rescue     518-891-0235 or 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement     518-897-1300
Environmental Law Enforcement     518-897-1326
Poacher & Polluter Reporting online     1-800-TIPP DEC
State Lands Interactive Map (SLIM)      

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 *  DISCLOSURE "In and Around the Adirondack Park" is not affiliated with any of the above information, businesses, organizations or events, nor can we  vouch for the quality,  and is NOT responsible for the actions  of the above parties.  This is brought as a public service message only.   We publish your works (professional or amateur free).  Before going out in the Wilderness, please study your route and learn how to be prepared!