August 2018 - KAYAKING, CANOEING & SUP
Paddling the Schroon River
By Rich Macha
From a purely paddling standpoint, the Schroon River has something for everyone. You can find sections of flatwater, slow-moving water and pure whitewater – and for the angler, there is also some good trout fishing along the way.
The Schroon River winds its way for 68 miles, flowing south through the eastern Adirondacks and eventually emptying into the Hudson River near Warrensburg. The river’s proximity to the Adirondack Northway (I-87) makes for relatively easy access; because of this, at times, a little road noise is to be tolerated while enjoying the river’s charms.
Schroon Falls to Schroon Lake
Due to some current, this nine-mile section is best done as a one-way downstream trip with shuttle. Leave a vehicle (or bike) near the town swimming beach in the hamlet of Schroon Lake, then drive north on NY Route 9 for 4.5 miles. After crossing a bridge over the river, take a right on River Road and park. A 100-yard path leads to the put-in below Schroon Falls, a Class 3 drop – the river quickly mellows out below the falls and has a slight to moderate current.
The river is about 50 to 100 feet wide in this section and is usually fairly shallow in summer, its sand and pebble bottom is easily seen. You soon pass a couple of campgrounds and some cottages and then go under NY Route 74, 2.7 miles from the start.
Hoffman Mountain is often seen to the west – the river turns back on itself several times so that the mountain is, at times, in front of you, and sometimes behind you. The river maintains a relatively wild feel and there are many inviting sandy banks that make for great spots to take a break or lay out a picnic lunch.
Along the way, you may observe broods of common mergansers, wood ducks, black ducks and kingfishers flying from tree to tree, as well as hear the calls of pileated woodpeckers and white-throated sparrows.
The river passes under Alder Meadow Road at the five-mile mark and continues its sinewy path. At 6.5 miles, Alder Creek enters from the left, or east, and makes for an interesting detour. You may have to pull over a beaver dam or two to get up into the creek. The creek then snakes its way through colorful aquatic plants such as purple pickerelweed, yellow swamp candles, pond lilies, pink swamp rose mallow and Joe-Pye weed.
Back on the river, you reach the north end of Schroon Lake at the eight-mile mark – there is no development on the river between Alder Meadow Road and the lake. The lake is shallow here and a south wind can conjure up some moderate chop in this vicinity. After passing Lockwood Bay and Schroon Lake Marina within its confines, the paddler can then hug the west shore to the take-out.
Nine-mile-long Schroon Lake sees a lot of motorboat traffic on summer weekends and I don’t recommend it for the paddler except after Labor Day when things are quieter.
South of Schroon Lake
At the south end of Schroon Lake is the Horicon state boat launch – you can put in here or across the road (CR 62, East Schroon River Road) from a sandy beach on the river.
For over five miles, the Schroon River is backed up behind the dam at Starbuckville and has very little discernible current. The river is, however, deep and traveled by motorboats – when I paddled here, all the motorboats moved slowly and the boaters greeted us with a friendly wave of the hand.
Some houses are seen along the way. The most interesting section comes at Jenks Swamp, where you can look past the water lilies to a variety of aquatic plants – beyond, there are mountain views.
After a down and back trip of about up to 10 miles, the sandy beach on the river back near the south end of Schroon Lake can tempt the paddler to go for a swim, especially on a hot summer’s day.
Below the dam at Starbuckville, the river begins to lose some elevation. This next exciting seven-mile section of the river is for the experienced whitewater paddler with proper gear. Rapids range from Class 2 through 3+. The river has some signs of civilization but shores are mostly forested.
“Racecourse” is a long Class 2+ wave-train and “The Big Drop” is Class 3+, which can be run down the middle or a more technical sneak route on the right. The Big Drop can be scouted or portaged along a rocky area on the east (river left) shore.
The take-out is on river left on East Schroon River Road, north of CR 11 in Riverbank, not far from I-87 Exit 24. This section is best run when the gage at Riverbank reads at least four feet.
The Schroon River is also runnable above Schroon Falls and below Riverbank. I have never paddled either of these sections but other folks have; higher water levels may be needed and each section may have some flatwater, but also some rapids.
The Schroon River has much to offer – enjoy the paddle!
A lover of wild places, Rich Macha, has led many trips for the Adirondack Mountain Club and has spent 20 years in the paddlesport business. More of Rich’s adventures can be found at northeastwild.blogspot.com.