Canaras Conference Center

By: 
Paul Barrett
Class of: 
2016

Have you ever heard of Canaras Conference Center?

If I were to ask a Laurentian if he or she knows about Canaras Conference Center, I would bet all the money in my Sergis fund that the majority of respondents would say no. Now, having worked there during the past two summers, I feel confident when I say that it’s a darn shame that such a significant portion of Laurentians have no idea what this mystery conference center is. With that said, this blog post is concerned with helping readers, both Laurentians and non-Laurentians alike, understand what exactly Canaras Conference Center is and why it is such a special place to so many people.

St. Lawrence University owns and operates a large lakefront property in the Adirondack Mountains nestled ever so secretly up in the north end of Upper Saranac Lake. The name of this property is Canaras Conference Center, commonly referred to as ‘Camp Canaras’ or just ‘Canaras.’ The name stems from its geographic location; Canaras is actually Saranac spelled backwards. But what goes on here? Why is this even worth writing about? Well, here we go.

Currently, Canaras has over 10 cottages and lodges and can house upwards of 75 people at once. It also has a dining hall and a number of recreation facilities. Its primary season of operation is summer, although it is often used after the season ends for weddings, pre-trips, etc. In the summer months Canaras serves two purposes.

First, it serves as a retreat location for university-affiliated organizations and departments. Departments, committees and other organizations go there for a quiet place to reflect on current administrative progress. For example, the Board of Trustees has one of their annual retreats there, as well as the Alumni Executive Council.

Second, it serves as an alumni family camp. Do you remember as a child when your family would plan the whole year around that one week in August when you would pack the car up with as much stuff as possible and head to your favorite vacation spot? Some folks head to Florida, others to Cape Cod or Myrtle Beach. Or perhaps your family didn’t vacation in the summer months, but instead planned the year around making it to the annual family reunion hosted at the house of a loved one. The point that I’m trying to get to here is that all of these places and events, whether it be a vacation spot or reunion or what have you, hold some intrinsic value. They’re places that have a special spot in our hearts because when we think back and remember them we remember happy times spent with family and friends. For many people, Canaras is this place.

Every summer, Laurentian families from all over pack up their suitcases and cars and drive to Upper Saranac Lake for a week of fun-filled, stress-free vacation time. Each Saturday a new batch of Laurentians arrive while the old batch heads home with a shared, reluctant disposition. Throughout the week (Saturday to Saturday), guests at Canaras are served three meals a day and have free range over the site’s resources. The alumni camp has canoes, kayaks, sailboats, motorboats, and tons of other resources that are at the guests’ disposal. And get this – the student staff members provide the opportunity for waterskiing, wakeboarding and tubing two times a day: once after breakfast and once after lunch. Never been on water skis? Canaras is the place. Do you like roasting marshmallows? Canaras is the place; most cabins have fireplaces, and student staff members replenish firewood on the daily.

The point is that Canaras is uniquely St. Lawrence. While other schools may have something similar, the experience that guests have once they’re at Canaras reminds us of the power of the Laurentian community. Imagine sitting at a dinner table with one group of alumni at one end of the table who graduated in the 70s, while a separate group at the other end recently graduated in ’05 -- the topics of conversation are endless. 

I want to wrap up my post with one last question for you readers: Do you now understand why I said it’s a darn shame that more Laurentians have no idea what this place is?

(Take a minute and learn more about Canaras.)