It took some time but a few weeks ago the state finally opened up Cornell Road to allow access to the Essex Chain Lakes from Newcomb. Having recently visited the Essex Chain, I can tell you that the road, the parking lots and other facilities are a work in progress, but they’re getting there.
Access to the Essex Chain Lakes, which were acquired by the state in 2012 and opened to the public officially last October, is primarily through the Cornell Road that leads to a parking lot one quarter-mile from Deer Pond. Road crews have been in there working this spring and finally opened the road in late June.
Overall, it’s about an 11-mile drive from Rt. 28N to the Deer Pond parking lot. The first seven miles are through private land until you reach the new Forest Preserve boundary. From there, it’s another four miles on a dirt road. A car with good clearance can make this trip under current road conditions.
Eleven campsites have recently been opened on the Chain and can be secured by permit only. The camping in here will be very restricted — no campfires — as these campsites are located in what are the Essex Chain Lake and Pine Lakes Primitive areas. More campsites are in the works with fewer restrictions in other areas.
As for my trip, I signed in at the trail register at Deer Pond and, using a wheel system, towed my kayak down the trail, which is a former road and possible future horse trail. The last 100 yards or so is a foot trail to Deer Pond. It’s only another 100 yards across this lake to the next carry, also mostly road, which is a half-mile long and leads to Third Lake, the largest in the Essex Chain.