April 2016 - KAYAKING, CANOEING & PADDLEBOARDING
Spring Paddling News
By Rich Macha
Spring arrived early this year thanks to the winter-that-wasn’t and many of us have already been lured out onto area waters. Ice-out came about a month earlier than usual. In most years I would not think about canoeing or kayaking an Adirondack lake until late April – this year I made it out onto Canada Lake on March 27!
Water temperatures will remain on the cold side for a while and I don’t believe anyone is quite ready to go out for a quick swim yet. Remember that in New York State you are required to wear a life jacket from November 1st through May 1st when in any craft under the length of 21 feet. In Massachusetts, a young man has already died this year when his canoe overturned while he was fishing – he was not wearing a life jacket. In cold water, when a person’s head goes underwater there is a likelihood that a “gasp-reflex” can occur which causes that person to swallow water and drown.
Serious consideration should be given to wearing a wetsuit or drysuit when paddling any waters that are under 60 degrees – these buy you more time in the case of a capsize. If you are paddling near shore in shallow water you might not need more time to get to safety, whereas if you are well away from shore in deep water that extra level of protection can be beneficial. Jeans and other cotton clothing items are never a good idea when water is concerned – when wet, cotton loses any insulation ability it may have and the heat will be sucked out of the wearer’s body leading quickly to hypothermia.
If you have never practiced self-rescues (if you paddle alone) or assisted rescues (when paddling with others) in warm water perhaps you should not be out there paddling in cold water when rescue and recovery can be more challenging.
NEW PLACES TO PADDLE
I always enjoy exploring new places by canoe or kayak. Last year I paddled the Opalescent River twice plus checked out parts of the Hudson River that became more accessible in 2015. This year, I long for more new water-bodies to discover, or re-discover.
Boreas Ponds – New York State was scheduled to purchase the Boreas Ponds Tract from The Nature Conservancy before the end of March – hopefully this acquisition has occurred by the time you read this. Originally there were three ponds but thanks to a dam at the outlet there is now one big pond that can be explored in a half day’s paddle. Below that dam is another “pond,” LeClaire Flow. There is a possibility that we may be allowed to drive the dirt road (currently gated) a few miles to LeClaire Flow, paddle across the flow and do a short carry to the Boreas Ponds. Hopefully, when the purchase is announced, NYS will already have an interim access plan in place, like there existed when the Essex Chain Tract was purchased, so that we might enjoy the area sooner rather than later.
Thanks to The Nature Conservancy, I have already paddled the Boreas Ponds. What stands out from the experience is the view of the nearby High Peaks which rise up to 3,300 feet above the ponds. Unfortunately for me, when I was there many of the summits were in the clouds so a revisit is certainly on my to-do list.
County Line Flow – The Newcomb area is becoming a great destination for paddlers. Halfway between Newcomb and the hamlet of Long Lake and north of NY Route 28N is County Line Flow, a dammed portion of Fishing Brook. In fall of 2015 the state constructed a roadway, parking area and trail that access this scenic lake. This is a conservation easement on private lands and so there are special restrictions that apply. Fishing is not allowed from the shore of the flow but is allowed from the banks of Fishing Brook upstream of the flow.
From the flow there are views of Kempshall Mountain to the northwest, Windfall Mountain to the south and Goodnow Mountain to the east-southeast. You can paddle well over two miles upstream on Fishing Brook as long as you don’t mind negotiating some blockages and beaver dams. The stream-sides vary from wooded to open wetlands; there are grassy banks, some alders and lots of black spruce.
Archer Vly – Archer Vly is a half-mile-long impoundment created by a causeway that has twin culverts to let the water continue on its way down the outlet. Situated in northwestern Saratoga County and just outside the Adirondack Blue Line, the Lake Desolation Road Conservation Easement Tract is again private land that the public now has access to. Non-motorized activities such as paddling, fishing, hiking, camping (there are currently two designated campsites you can paddle or hike to), and hunting are allowed.
There is an accessible outhouse and a good spot to launch boats near the parking area. Although not a large body of water, Archer Vly does make for a nice quiet location for a picnic, and for doing some relaxed lily-dipping.
NEW GUIDEBOOK AND MAPS
“Penultimate Paddles” is a new guidebook by Russell Dunn, a local author and Adirondack Sports contributor, that offers an introduction to many of the waters of the southeastern Adirondacks. The book covers over 60 paddles on lakes, ponds, streams and rivers from Blue Mountain Lake south and east.
The Hudson River Greenway plans to put out a series of four map-guides covering the Hudson River Water Trail from New York City up to Hadley and Whitehall. I haven’t seen these yet but look forward to their arrival.
In May of 2009, Phil Brown portaged and paddled the outlet of Mud Lake and down Shingle Shanty Brook through private land, but started and ended his trip on state lands in the William C. Whitney Wilderness. The landowners sued him for trespass. Phil, as well as the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, contends that the route is navigable, legally accessible and useful for travel, hence the public has a right to paddle it. Lower courts ruled in favor of Phil Brown, but not unanimously so the case went to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, and was heard on March 24. A final ruling is expected in May.
NEW MOHAWK RIVER BOAT LAUNCH
The New York State Canal Corporation announced that 12 upstate municipalities will receive a total of $1 million in grants from the Canal Corporation as part of the $2.25 billion in awards that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils are providing to spur economic growth throughout the state. In southern Saratoga County, the town of Halfmoon was awarded $100,000 for the installation of a car-top boat launch at Crescent Park, just off NY Route 9 near the Crescent Bridge.
New York paddlers have a lot to be thankful for and look forward to this year. See you on the water!
Rich Macha is owner of Adirondack Paddle’n’Pole, a paddlesport specialty store in Colonie (onewithwater.com). When Rich is not helping customers, instructing or organizing trips for the Adirondack Mountain Club he is out there in a canoe or kayak exploring the region’s waters.