Read our next History Matters guest column by Rich Loeber below!
By Rich Loeber
Starting in the summer of 1953, I spent several weeks every August, camping with my family at Fish Creek Ponds Campsite. Those summers cemented a love of the Adirondacks in my mind and, in my 50s, I made the move to Saranac Lake.
I spent my summers at Fish Creek with my older brother and sister and our parents. My father was the outdoors man, and he loved being in the woods. His love of the Adirondacks was born during family vacations in Indian Lake, but he chose Fish Creek because of the guaranteed lake front for each campsite.
Fish Creek was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930s. In fact, it was a large CCC camp on its own while accommodating public campers. Over the course of 1931 to 1935, CCC workers extended the camp, built picnic tables, stone fireplaces, and facilities. The early campers were allowed to stay for up to two weeks for free. Fish Creek quickly became the most popular of the many state campgrounds that the CCC was building throughout the Adirondacks.
In 1935, the CCC created a rustic amphitheater in the woods. The state started showing movies for free at the amphitheater. This kicked up a good Adirondack battle with locals, claiming that the free campgrounds and free movies were taking money from local hotels and movie theaters.
When we vacationed at Fish Creek there was no reservation system. You just drove up, and if there were no sites available (a common occurrence), you would wait on line at the check-in station until a site opened up. You had to take what the ranger was offering if you wanted to stay. We used to pack up from our home near White Plains, and my father would drive all night to arrive as early in the morning as we could. This was before the NY Thruway was built, and we drove up Route 9 for much of the trip. It could easily take more than 12 hours to reach our destination. On at least one occasion, we had to spend a night waiting on line when there were no campsites available.
The facilities were spartan at best. Toilets were open pit, and there were no showers. I recall bathing in the lake, but that would not do these days. There was a good water distribution system for drinking and cooking, with a working spigot placed every few campsites. After a few summers, the facilities were upgraded to flush toilets, which was a huge improvement, along with showers (cold water only).
We often rented a flat bottom row boat from Hickok’s. They had a rental site right in the camp located roughly where the modern beach is today. Mr. Hickok made these boats that were very heavy and unwieldy, but perfect for kids. When we got older, we converted to renting a canoe instead.
Fish Creek continues to be very popular today. Those early CCC fireplaces and picnic tables are still in evidence at many sites. It will cost you $22 a night, but you can enjoy hot showers, RV facilities, and your choice of 355 campsites through a reservation system where you can choose a site in advance, assuming it is available.
Since moving here, I have encountered many locals who point to Fish Creek as their introduction to the area. I have many fond memories of camping, swimming, boating, hiking, and sitting by the camp fire. Today, I live just down the road and often make the choice to drive by Fish Creek when heading out for the day.
Find out more about Fish Creek and share your memories at Historic Saranac Lake’s website of local history.
10/6/2020 11:54:06 am
I enjoyed your story though I'm not familiar with Fish Creek camp grounds. What caught my attention was your description of how your father would drive all night and arrive in the morning. My father would do the same from Dobbs Ferry, NY. My brother and I would sleep on suitcase in the back seat. We'd always stop at a diner just outside of Lake George for a slice of homemade blueberry pie. Thanks for bringing back a wonderful memory, and it's so great you moved up to the Adirondacks that has always been a dream of mine.
Adrienne I. Possenti
10/6/2020 02:02:51 pm
As a child living in Saranac Lake during the 1950's, I now live vicariously with you where what I feel is heaven on earth. The nearest body of water to where we resided is Moody Pond. What a joy for you to grow up and now live in the pristine environment of the Adirondack Mountains. I hope to read more from you about Saranac Lake in future editions of "History Matters". Thank you.
Susan P Arnold
10/6/2020 03:34:34 pm
Enjoyed your story, Rich! Saranac Lake has deeply benefited from your accomplishments.
10/7/2020 08:00:57 am
My husband's grandfather was caretaker for one of the privately-owned camps across the lake. Later, in the 1960's, my husband's family built a camp on that side for hunting. I spent many happy weekends there with family.
10/7/2020 08:29:26 am
I was born in Saranac Lake, (1951), & the Post Card Story, brought back many Memories of Sunday Picnics ..... Even during the Tough Times,(post TB), Hot Dogs,&, Swimming !! My parents, is kids moved for “Better Opportunities “ ?? So these pictures,&, Stories bring back Many Memories From The 15yrs. I lived in Saranac Lake, Setting the “Foundation On Which this youngster was to Grow-Up On !!! As Carol Burnett would say ... Thanks for the Memories...
11/6/2020 07:27:44 pm
great article! Byshak remembers Ehmiat. You have written a very good article. You are camping for a long time. Byshak camping is a time that is never forgotten.
3/28/2022 08:51:41 am
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