August 2016 - KAYAKING, CANOEING & SUP
Seeking Out New Waters
By Alan Mapes
For a paddler, familiar waters are great, but nothing beats the feeling of exploring new waters, especially places that have been closed to the public for generations. I got to explore one such lake recently, County Line Flow in the Adirondacks. This is just one of several lakes recently opened (or soon to be opened) to the public in the Newcomb area.
The flow lies just north of NY Route 28, as the road winds its way from the hamlet of Newcomb toward Long Lake. The flow and the lands around it were part of the massive 161,000 acres purchased by The Nature Conservancy from Finch Paper in 2007. Although this portion was resold to a private timber company, the recreation rights to County Line Flow, Fishing Brook Bog, and a four-mile section of Fishing Brook were bought by the state, allowing public use.
While visiting with friends who live near Newcomb, three of us drove to the new parking lot on County Line Flow. To find the access we headed west on Route 28 toward Long Lake. Using the large sign for the Goodnow Mountain Trail as a landmark, it is 3.1 miles to the flow access on your right – look for the brown NYSDEC sign. The parking lot could hold six to eight cars, but we were the only ones there on a Thursday.
The path to the shore lead downhill for about 100 yards to a narrow put-in. There were a few rocks to avoid, just under the water, and well-decorated with skid marks of aluminum, left by the hulls of canoes launched previously. We were paddling two homemade wooden kayaks and one of light Kevlar, so we were careful not to leave any new marks on those rocks.
The launch area is the only spot along the shore of the flow that is open to the public. Landing is prohibited anywhere else, until you reach the fishing access areas upstream along the inlet, Fishing Brook. As a result, we found the shores along the lake to be very pristine. We saw no wear from peoples’ feet, no trash, not even the ubiquitous worm containers that seem to be left everywhere that people commonly fish along my home waters of the Capital Region.
Instead, the shores held a beautiful array of Adirondack vegetation and several types of wildlife. The yellow blooms of bullhead lily and the whites of arrowhead graced the shores and shallows. A single stalk of fire-red cardinal flower shined from behind a bed of blue-flowered pickerel weed.
Early in the trip, a stealthy beaver slapped its tail as it dove right behind my wife Char’s kayak. The sudden sound made all three of us jump. The beaver swam around us for quite a stretch along the shore. We did not hear much in the way of bird song, with nesting for most species over for the season, but we did see a number of birds. A belted kingfisher flew up the shore ahead of us, and a great blue heron slowly flapped by. A common loon peered into the water looking for fish.
We circled the shoreline of the flow counter-clockwise, passing the dam on the eastern end. Tracing the north shore to the western end of the flow, we found the opening to Fishing Brook, and headed upstream to see how far the construction projects of the “local crew” would let us go. In other words, beaver dams!
The creek opening was hidden in a wide flat of wetlands on that end of the lake. The sight of a large beaver lodge helped us find the opening, as we correctly figured that the lodge would be right on the creek. Wood ducks squealed as they flushed at our approach and cedar waxwings left streaks of tan through the air as they darted out and back, hawking insects.
We did not go far before finding the expected barrier – a newly constructed beaver dam about a foot high. The dam was still quite sparse in material, and looked like it would be unsteady footing, were we to exit the kayaks and try to pull over to go further upstream. We decided instead to raft up and have lunch, leaving the dam pullovers to people better equipped for that kind of paddling – those with canoes.
Wood nymph damselflies danced in the air around us by the dam, with their black wings and iridescent green bodies. After having a hearty sandwich and starting back toward the flow, we heard the best bird of the trip. A whistled “quick, three beers!” call came though clearly, again and again, from across the bog mat – an olive-sided flycatcher! This bird is a classic resident of Adirondack bogs, but its numbers have declined in recent years.
Heading back down the flow to the take-out, we enjoyed great views of two mountains – Goodnow Mountain to the east with a fire tower on its shoulder, and Kempshall Mountain to the west. I have memories of climbing Kempshall, when it also had a fire tower, in the ‘60s on my first ever paddling trip!
As we approached the landing, an osprey circled overhead. Our paddle did not cover much distance – perhaps three miles in a three-and-a-half-hour trip. But this was the type of paddle where you are happy to go slowly, savoring every nook of the shoreline, and taking time to enjoy every bit of nature along the way.
There are lots of other waters to explore in the Newcomb area that have opened to the public in recent years, including Henderson Lake and the Preston Ponds near Tahawas, and the Essex Chain Lakes south of Newcomb, accessed via the Goodnow Flow Road. The most recent purchase by New York State is the Boreas Ponds area north of Blue Ridge Road, but right now it takes real determination to paddle there. Until Unit Management Plan guidelines are set, the gravel road to these ponds is closed to the public. For this season, paddling the Boreas Ponds involves carrying your boat six miles each way! As of early this month, several environmental groups are supporting a plan to open the Gulf Brook Road to LaBier Flow, very close to the Boreas Ponds.
Alan Mapes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sea kayak instructor and guide, certified by the American Canoe Association and British Canoe Union. He lives near Delmar and offers kayak instruction through the Capital District Kayakers Meetup Group.