Posts Tagged ‘Paddling’

Monday, May 11, 2009

Know Your Rights: Canoe Passage

I’m accustomed to setting out on an article knowing less about a subject than the people I interview. A recent assignment went the other way, to a surprising extent.

The topic was navigation rights in New York State. The editor of the Adirondack Explorer, Phil Brown, and I wanted to know why, ten years after a state high-court decision affirmed canoeists’ rights to carry around obstacles, paddlers rarely test rivers that flow through private Adirondack land (you can see the article here).

Out of five riparian landowners I spoke with, three stated that their rivers were “closed” because bridges, dams or downed trees block the streams and paddlers are prohibited from carrying around them. That’s a pre-1999 view. Obstructions have not been grounds for denying canoe passage for a decade, I explained, no matter who owns the riverbank.

All three landowners then responded that the rivers were probably impassable anyway and who would want to paddle them. (A sixth landowner who in the past claimed that passage is closed between Mud Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook did not return phone calls or e-mails; I have no doubt from a trip through that property myself that it is a navigable stream with one quick carry.)

Frankly I expected landowners on disputed rivers to know the law because they have the most at stake. I expected to find the confusion on the paddlers’ side of the issue, and there is plenty among that group too. This first page of the 2008 Paddlesports Press guidebook Adirondack Paddler’s Guide states: “Most private lands, however, are just that — the public is not allowed.” Zero effort to explain the river access that paddlers fought decades to earn. The next sentence: “In fact some private reserves are patrolled and huge lawsuits have ensued for trespass.” There was one lawsuit, and it changed everything: A group of four canoeists and one kayaker provoked a test case on the South Branch of the Moose River in 1991, and the ensuing trespass suit sought $5 million in damages, which a judge dismissed. One of the defendants says the dollar figure never weighed on the group. It did take seven years and three courts to reach a final ruling, which contains vague language that only rivers proven to be “navigable in fact” are open. Nuanced, but not a blanket ban and not a reason to monger fear.

These examples prove a point made by Charlie Morrison, a retired Department of Environmental Conservation official. Morrison is lobbying the state legislature to pass a bill that would make the 1999 Moose River decision statutory. He says he does not want to change the law, just to codify it so it doesn’t get lost again.

Navigation rights are not new; they derive from common law and interpretation of that law by courts. The late canoeist and author Paul Jamieson pointed out that travelers crossed the Adirondacks freely by small craft in the early 19th century. Gradually, transportation became land-based, landowners began posting rivers, law enforcers began upholding the land-posters, and rights of passage faded. The 1999 ruling restored them.

Jamieson and the Moose River paddlers righted a century-old wrong, which is not to say the landowners’ instinct to protect their privacy is wrongheaded. Some told me off the record that members of the public who have passed through their land left fire rings and litter. If a paddler gets hurt — and these are generally tricky rivers, not flatwater cruises — landowners are the ones who’d have to come to the rescue. The Moose River case affirmed the right to travel through, but they do not give paddlers the right to stop, picnic, fish, hunt, camp, even take a pee. If you can’t run a river through somebody’s property in a day, then that river is not navigable, at least under existing state law. The West Branch of the St. Regis River below the St. Regis Canoe Area probably falls into that category.

One obstacle Morrison faces in Albany is the disorganization of the state Senate. Assembly sponsor (Democrat Sam Hoyt of Buffalo) needs to find a counterpart in the next week or two. Another obstacle is the passive resistance of the Adirondack Landowners Association, which seems to prefer the inhibiting effect of the reigning confusion: if the law is not spelled out, canoeists will stick to publicly owned waters where they don’t have to decipher access rights.

And over the past 15 years the state has acquired miles of new public waterways, so the situation on the ground is relatively peaceful. But keep an eye on the Beaver River connecting Lake Lila to the Stillwater Reservoir: The landowners and guerilla padders I interviewed agree it’s really only runnable after snowmelt, and then for a week at most. Whether that makes the Beaver “navigable in fact” may take another court to decide.

Photograph: The Beaver River near Lake Lila; by MWanner, from Wikimedia Commons


Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 Adirondack Paddling Calendar

Eager boaters have been on the water since ice-out, but the Adirondack canoe-and-kayak social season really gets cruising this month. We offer a chronological calendar:

The first two get-togethers are really commercial affairs, aimed at selling canoes and kayaks, but hey we enjoy new gear as much as anyone: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters holds Demo Days this weekend, May 9–10, by the state boat launch on Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake, (518) 891-7450. And Adirondack Paddlefest is May 15–17 at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co., in Old Forge. The Fest is billed as “America’s largest on-water sale.” $5 admission for adults, (315) 369-6672 » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ADK Club To Host "Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball"

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will host a “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball” on Saturday, May 30. The gala and auction is the largest fund-raising event of the year for the club, with proceeds supporting ADK programs such as maintaining hiking trails and connecting children with the outdoors. Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced.

The Black Fly Affair will be held from 7 p.m. till midnight at the Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center in Lake George. Selected regional food and drink vendors, including The Boathouse, Villa Napoli and the Fort William Henry Resort, will provide their specialties for sampling. Wine and champagne tasting is courtesy of Frederick Wildman & Sons Wine Distributors and beer sampling courtesy of Cooperstown Brewing Co. There will also be dancing to the music of the Frank Conti Band.

ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, jewelry, cultural events and more. The auction will be conducted by Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals. A preview of auction items is available at the ADK Web site, www.adk.org.

Dr. John Rugge, CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, is chairman of the event. Dr. Rugge is an avid paddler and author of two books about wilderness paddling. Longtime ADK leader Bob Wilcox will serve as master of ceremonies. Corporate support for the event has been provided by the Times Union, Jaeger & Flynn Associates, Cool Insuring Agency, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, TD Banknorth, The Chazen Companies and LEKI USA.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call (800) 395-8080, Ext. 25. To donate an auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at (800) 395-8080, Ext. 42.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Placidians Win Multisport Mountain Race

Congratulations to five Lake Placid residents who won the team category in the Tuckerman Inferno pentathalon Saturday. The course links running (8.3 miles), downriver kayaking (7.5 miles), bicycling (18 miles), hiking (3.5 miles) and finally a 600-foot climb-up/ski-down of Tuckerman Ravine, the spring backcountry ski mecca on the side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

The Inferno combines the April recreation options of hardcore Northeastern mountain jocks. Team Lake Placid finished in 3:46:21, ten minutes ahead of a second-place group from Vermont. The Lake Placid crew comprised people who manage to stay seriously fit despite serious day jobs: Marc Galvin (run), Charlie Cowan (kayak), Edward Sparkowski (bike), Jeff Erenstone (hike) and Laurie Schulz (ski).

Also Saturday fourteen club cyclists with Team Placid Planet finished the punishing 65-mile Tour of the Battenkill in southern Washington County, the largest bike race in the United States. The loop includes about 15 unpaved miles and attracts both amateur and pro riders with its challenging hills. Among Adirondackers competing were Keith Hager, Dan Anhalt, Bill McGreevy, Charlie Mitchell, Jim Walker, Bruce Beauharnois, Ed Smith, Dan Reilly, Bill Schneider, Bill Whitney, Tim Akers, Shawn Turner, Darci LaFave and Susanna Piller.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Homegrown Adirondack Paddle Porn

Spring = snowmelt = big rivers = paddle porn. Snowmobilers had their spread in February; now whitewater gets equal time.

Most of these linked videos were made by Lake Placid-based Split Rock Video, which travels widely for fast water and film. This ultimate crash and burn highlight reel features the North Country’s own Black and Moose Rivers alongside the Zambezi and Gauley.

Here is some “classic old school” river running.

A bad swim on the Oswegatchie River.”

An even worse day on the Oswegatchie ends with a broken back.

The conquered-but-still-insane Split Rock Falls on the Boquet River.

Creekin’ on Johns Brook, in Keene, might not look quite as hard, but what the camera doesn’t show is that small streams like these offer few exits.

And lastly, another montage for the rafters: “2007 Hudson River Highlights.”

If you want to know when flows are at optimum levels, gauge data and timing of dam releases in the Hudson and Black River watersheds can be found at the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Web site.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adirondack Canoeing Symposium

Canoeists understand the silent satisfaction of the paddle-powered glide. The late John Jerome, who wrote often of water and of the Adirondacks, described the aesthetics:

“[W]e paddled long enough that I began to feel the enticing sphere of energy in the water beside the boat — all the water I could comfortably reach with the paddle — and got the sense that by shaping it, pushing and pulling against it, carving it, molding it, I could make the canoe go where we wanted it to go. Playing with that added fundamentally to the sensual pleasure of the trip.”

If you’d like to increase your paddle pleasure, “obedience classes” for canoes are held each summer in the Adirondacks. Equal parts woodcraft and ballet camp, the Adirondack Freestyle Symposium promises to add “efficiency, grace and fun” to your boating. Registration just opened for this year’s gathering, which will be held July 19-23 at Houghton College’s Star Lake campus. American Canoe Association–certified instructors will teach a variety of levels, from basic travel technique to omering (an off-keel solo method).

Some advanced freestylers add music and perform a routine. But you don’t have to do that.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks.

In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.

In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.

A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.

The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Adk Club To Hold Auction Fundraiser

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is bringing a little bit of wilderness to the Capital Region of New York when it hosts “A Wilderness Affair 2008: Get Wild for Wilderness!” from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Albany Marriott Hotel. This will be ADK’s 12th annual silent and live auction gala. The event is open to the public and guests will enjoy dinner, music by a jazz trio and an ale sampling hosted by the Cooperstown Brewing Co. There will also be a cash bar.

Auction items will include original art, rustic Adirondack-style furnishings, sports gear, jewelry, adventure trips, getaway packages, concert and theater tickets, and unique gift baskets donated by ADK chapters. Items can be previewed at www.adk.org. There will also be a drawing for a canoe, a camping package and a handmade quilt. Proceeds will help support the club’s conservation, environmental advocacy, education and recreation programs. This is a great opportunity to find unique gift ideas for the holidays while supporting a good cause.

Fred LeBrun, columnist for the Albany Times Union, is honorary chair of the event, and Gregory McKnight will be the master of ceremonies. The auction will be conducted by Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals. Corporate sponsors include Velocity Print Solutions, JBI Helicopter Services, Ringer Leasing Corp., TD Banknorth and Cooperstown Brewing Co.

Tickets are $55 per person. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling (800) 395-8080 Ext. 25. To donate an auction item or become a corporate sponsor, call (800) 395-8080 Ext. 14.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks

Here is (in no particular order) Adirondack Almanack’s List of the Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks. The Seven Human-Made Wonders can be found here. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions. » Continue Reading.


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