October 2019 - KAYAKING, CANOEING & SUP
Favorite Paddling Places -
Get Out and Explore with Paddle in Hand!
By Alan Mapes
The sense of exploration is a big part of my love for paddling. A paddle trip on a new body of water will, of course, give that feel of exploration. But I experience something similar when I paddle familiar waters – each time there are new things to find. To paraphrase ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “You never step in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and you are not the same person.”
In the July 2018 issue of Adirondack Sports magazine, I discussed an initial five favorite paddling waters, all of them on the Hudson River. Let’s go further afield this time, and explore four great paddling places in the Capital-Saratoga Region, but away from the big river.
Thompson’s Lake – Located up on top of the Helderberg Mountain ridge in Albany County, this small lake offers clear waters, little powerboat traffic, and interesting bits of nature. I launch at the NYSDEC fishing access on the south end of the lake (no restroom facilities). The lake is a little less than a mile long, and a paddle around the shoreline will net you about two miles – I usually circle the lake two or three times. Parking is limited, with about five car slots and two boat trailer spots marked out at the newly upgraded launch. Extra room along the sides of the launch can hold a few more vehicles, though. If parking at the launch is full, you can launch from the Thompson’s Lake State Campground (a day use fee may be charged in season).
As you glide along the shore, you find a swimming beach at the campground and may get a glimpse of the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center on the south end of the lake. Both facilities are part of the large Thacher State Park. A handful of private houses and camps line parts of the shore. Motor boats launching on the lake are limited to 15 horsepower, but residents on the lake can have faster boats, and there are a few. DEC stocks the lake each year with rainbow and brown trout. I often see bald eagle, osprey and waterfowl, especially during spring and fall.
Lock 7 Mohawk River – To sample some paddling along the New York State Canalway Water Trail, launch at the town of Niskayuna’s park by Lock 7. Turn off Rosendale Road on the east side of Schenectady onto Lock 7 Road. There is a combined power boat ramp and hand-launch, with parking for 25 or more cars. Port-a-johns are provided at the park nearby. The paddle route goes northwest along the Mohawk River, passing beautiful rock cliffs both sides of the river. On your left, up top of the cliff are the Knolls Atomic Power Lab and GE Research & Development complexes.
Also, along those cliffs, watch on the left for some medium-sized birds of prey. On a paddle with the Adirondack Mountain Club a few years ago, I discovered a peregrine falcon nest site, or “eyrie,” on these cliffs. Several young birds and an adult were perched on the rocks and flying around the area. These fast-flying hunters have nested for a number of years under bridges over the Hudson River in the Capital Region, in nest boxes provided by NYSDEC. It was exciting to find them nesting in a natural setting – an eyrie on the Erie! We found adults and young at the site again this summer. A paddle upstream to the NY Route 146 bridge will cover about four miles each way. For the really ambitious, Lock 8 is about 10 miles away.
Round Lake – Perhaps the best local paddle spot for nature observation, Round Lake offers nesting bald eagles and a regular roosting area for double-crested cormorants. Extensive wetlands line the Anthony Kill, the outlet of the lake. Located in Saratoga County next to the village of Round Lake, there are three access points for paddlers. The main launch for power boats and also paddle craft is right along NY Route 9, with parking for 11 cars and nine trailer rigs. A second access is at the Round Lake Preserve and involves a long boardwalk to the Anthony Kill. Parking there is about 200 hundred yards away from the launch, so that one is a bit of work. My preferred spot is a small hand-launch only place on the inlet of the lake. Heading north on Route 9, go through the stoplight at the turn to Round Lake village, then take a right on Goldfoot Road and another right on Maltaville Road, which dead-ends at the launch. A short paddle down the inlet creek brings you to the lake.
Power boats and anglers will be found on the lake, but a paddle along the shore will be pretty quiet. Going left from the inlet (counter-clockwise around the lake), you pass the cormorant roosting trees. Next comes a marsh-lined channel to Little Round Lake. Continuing on, the mouth of the Anthony Kill outlet appears on the left. Large areas of marsh line its sides, with eastern kingbirds, great blue herons, wood ducks, and many other marsh-dwellers present in season. About one-mile on the stream brings you to a beaver dam and a pretty obvious turn-around point. The trip around the margins of Round Lake, including a trip down the outlet, totals about 4.5 miles, and Little Round Lake will add another mile. One cautionary note – Round Lake seems to be on a common storm track for thunderstorms moving across Saratoga County. Several times I’ve seen storms come right over the lake, causing us to get off the water quickly.
Saratoga Lake – Going up the scale of lake size, Saratoga Lake is about 4.5 miles long, about 1.5 miles at its widest point, and around 10 times the surface area of Round Lake. It is fairly busy with powerboat traffic during the summer, but there are quiet places to paddle. I usually launch from the city of Saratoga Springs’ Waterfront Park on Crescent Avenue at the north end of the lake. This launch is free to use, as is Brown’s Beach launch at the lake’s south end. A third launch, not far from Waterfront Park, is the Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch near the NY Route 9P bridge (parking is Empire Pass accepted or $8 without).
From the hand launch at Waterfront Park, paddle to the right (southwest) along the shore to the mouth of Kayaderosseras Creek. If you can get past the log jams sometimes found across the creek, this is a marvelous paddle up the lake’s main inlet. After about a mile on the Kayaderosseras, the outlet of Lake Lonely comes in from the right. A twisty paddle up that creek brings you to that small hidden lake and a great blue heron nesting area along its shore.
Back at Waterfront Park, going left takes you to the lake’s outlet, Fish Creek. Two miles down the creek is a landing at Stafford’s Bridge, where a single busy spot houses the Kayak Shak rental place, Mountainman Outdoors paddle shop, Hearth & Harvest wood-fired pizza (not to be missed), and a marina. Launching is available at the Kayak Shak for a $5 fee, and the paddle further down the lazy stream is a nice one. In about two miles, the stream gets narrower and the current picks up speed.
I hope you get out and explore with paddle in hand. It may be a new bit of water, or a trip on a familiar lake or river, it is still some fine exploration to me. After all, it’s never the same river or lake!
Alan Mapes (email@example.com) is a kayak instructor and guide, certified by the American Canoe Association. He lives near Saratoga Springs and offers kayak instruction through Capital District Kayakers Meetup.