40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: Mirror Lake

on August 6, 2019
whitewater in the lock

HOW MUCH FUN would it be to swim here?!

During a recent vacation in the Adirondacks, I was disappointed to have to stay in my kayak — rather than swimming — when going through the small-craft lock leading to Lower Saranac Lake, but I had some good swims in Mirror Lake in the town of Lake Placid.

Mirror Lake is one of very few easily accessible Adirondack lakes dedicated to human-powered craft, and it has the added attraction of a marked .6-mile-long course for swimmers and rowers. (The Lake Placid Ironman course is two full loops — 2.4 miles — so this is a very popular training spot for triathletes.) This impressive display of swim infrastructure consists of several rows of straight, taut underwater cables and myriad colored floats on the surface. Much as I Googled, I couldn’t find details about how the course was installed, equipment involved, maintenance required, and other questions that floated into my inquiring mind while swimming.

I visited twice, both times in the late afternoon, and could count on one hand the number of swimmers also using the course. Yes, I did run headfirst into a black-cap-wearing person in a full-body wetsuit with no swim buoy, but that was more a consequence of our differing understandings of where we were supposed to be swimming than my not not being able to see him. I never did figure out if you are supposed to circle around the underwater cable, as if it were a black line on the bottom of the pool, or use the floats like lane lines and keep them to your right at all times. Suffice it to say that I did more sighting in my second swim just in case another Neoprene-wearing lake creature and I were on a collision course.

With hopes that this post adds to Google’s infobase for Adirondack-bound swimmers, here are some photos of this lovely lake.

blue skies and puffy clouds above Mirror Lake

That’s the town of Lake Placid on the left (west) and fancy private boathouses on the right. If you zoom in, you’ll see the yellow buoys marking the .6-mile swim course — the “lanes” square off at the end here on the lower right and then head off into the distance toward the middle left. The orange buoy is attached to another swimmer peeling off the course. Other views along the way include private hotel beaches in town, understated luxe houses, and loads and loads of mountains. Photos by Neil.

The other end of the swim course, as seen from the lake’s northwest edge on the 2.7-mile ring road, which makes for a nice post-swim walk — particularly when the clouds are this dramatic.

view of the lake from farther back

Here’s another view of the swim course in the distance including the beachside pier that can be used for access from the town’s lifeguarded beach. There are bathrooms and vending machines here during open hours. Many open water swimmers seemed to prefer entering from the spot where this photo was taken, which is also a boat launch. Note that if you don’t like sharing the water with paddleboarders, this may not be the lake for you.

me and my buoy

That’s me and my buoy, a model of visibility, at the same, southern end of the course.

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