June 2016 - Canoeing, Kayaking & SUP
Three New Launching Spots
By Alan Mapes
Public access to waters is always an issue for paddlers. If Saratoga Lake is your destination, access has been very limited for a long time. Now there is good news! I have three new launch spots to tell you about, two of them on Saratoga Lake, and one on nearby Round Lake. I checked out all three spots recently, and can report that two of them are great for paddlers, the other one not so much.
For a long time, your only choice for access on the lake was the NYS Parks boat launch at the north end of the lake, where the parking fee is a hefty $8 per car. Now we have two new launches for human-powered boats, one on the north end of the lake and one on the south end. Both are free of charge!
Brown’s Beach – On the south end along NY Route 9P, Brown’s offers a very nice swimming beach, a restaurant/tavern, and a hand launch for kayaks and canoes. The property was bought by the town of Stillwater and the beach opened in May 2015. There is plenty of parking and although I did not paddle there, the launch looks very good, with a shallow sandy shoreline.
Most of the lake is heavily developed with homes, but you could do a nice circuit of the shoreline from this location – that trip would total around nine miles. Afterward, the swimming beach is a nice way to cool off, and Dock Brown’s Lakeside Tavern right next door offers food and beverages.
Waterfront Park – On the north end of Saratoga Lake, this new park is just a bit west of the NYS Park’s boat launch. The former site of a restaurant, it was purchased by the city of Saratoga Springs and a major renovation was completed in 2015. This was my favorite of the three new launches, and I took a nice half-day paddle from here in mid-May.
The lower level of the park offers nine parking slots plus one handicapped spot, bathrooms (locked up when I visited), a port-a-john, and a short path to the launch. A small sandy “beach” offers sunbathing, but no swimming.
The launch is a small bit of sandy shore and a short dock. The dock is a bit high for kayak launching, but would be fine for canoes. I used the “wet feet, straddle the boat and sit” launch method. Power boat traffic can be busy here on nice summer weekends, but paddlers can stay safely close to shore.
Paddling to the left from the launch, you would pass under the Route 9P bridge, and enter the Fish Creek outlet. You can paddle downstream for a distance of four miles or so before coming to a dam. The current is very mild at first, but quickens as you get near the dam. Two miles or so down the creek is Stafford’s Bridge, where you find Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, Kayak Shak boat rentals, and Harvest & Hearth wood fired pizza restaurant (open 4:30pm) – not to be missed.
I paddled to the right instead, going one-mile southwest along the shore to the mouth of the Kayaderosseras Creek – usually shortened to Kaydeross. The creek entrance is in the back of a bay, just before a point covered with trees, and that area offers a nice bit of undeveloped shoreline. This winding creek offers a quiet, wild feel and great paddling for several miles upstream. The trick is getting through the usual log jam a few hundred yards from the mouth.
I made it through the big jam by sliding over one big submerged log – not too bad. The jam was covered with large map turtles, sunning themselves – I estimated 40 of them. The real challenge was the next barrier, a tall silver maple freshly fallen right across the creek. I made it through the upper branches on the left by wading in knee deep chilly water and pulling my boat through. I’m sure that a nice paddler will soon arrive with a pruning saw open a paddling channel through those branches.
From there, the way was clear and easy. I followed the Kaydeross for 1.3 miles to the Lake Lonely outlet stream and paddled up that stream to the lovely small lake. Great blue herons were nesting in a colony of seven nests along the protected wetlands bordering Lake Lonely. My round-trip paddle, including going up the Kaydeross for another half-mile beyond the Lake Lonely outlet, totaled a little over 11 miles. A tip: In summer, go south from the mouth of the Kaydeross and around the point to Manning Cove, where you can find Grog’s Snack Boat. The owner of this pontoon boat serves up hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and cold beverages – you can paddle right up and place your order.
To find Waterfront Park, leave the Northway (I-87) at Exit 14 and go left on NY Route 9P/Union Ave toward Saratoga Lake. At 1.5 miles, turn right on Crescent Avenue, and continue a half-mile to Waterfront Park on your left. Go straight down the hill to the lower level where there are nine parking spots there, plus one handicapped slot. The launch is about 50 yards from the parking.
Our third new launch is at the Round Lake Preserve, a 90-acre property purchased by the town of Malta and Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature). The preserve has hayfields and forest, plus frontage on the Anthony Kill, the outlet stream of the lake. Round Lake is a wonderful paddling spot and has two other public launches on the west side, off NY Route 9. This new one saves you the paddle across the lake to reach the beautiful wetlands along the Anthony Kill. It is about one-mile from the lake down the twisty stream before you hit some shallows and sometimes a beaver dam.
The new launch involves carrying your boat the length of a 100-yard boardwalk. At the end is a low dock for launching, right on the stream. You can park to offload at the beginning of the boardwalk, but then are instructed to park 250 yards away at a picnic area. There are only four regular parking spots there. One handicapped parking spot is right by the boardwalk.
My paddle around the shores of Round Lake and down the Anthony Kill totaled about five miles. You could add another half-mile or more by including a circuit of Little Round Lake, connected to the main lake on the north.
The layout of the Preserve was done by a professional design firm, but it looks like the actual work was done by an intern – with no paddling experience! People are already parking along the field by the boardwalk and I hope the site managers will provide formal parking there in the future. My assessment – the Preserve is a great spot to picnic, birdwatch, fish and hike the trails. If you want to paddle, my first choice is the small launch on the inlet creek at the west end of Maltaville Road (near Route 9). The main launch on Route 9 is good, too, when it’s not too busy.
Explore these new launches – and express your appreciation to the officials and organizations who are working hard to bring more public access to our waters.
Alan Mapes (email@example.com) is a sea kayak instructor and guide, certified by the American Canoe Association and the British Canoe Union. He lives near Delmar and offers kayak instruction through the Capital District Kayakers Meetup Group.