Monday, July 19, 2010

Commentary: Finch Deal Would Help Newcomb

A few days ago I went paddling with two other guys in Newcomb. We started at Rich Lake and canoed through Belden Lake and Harris Lake to the Hudson River and then down the Hudson for a mile, turning around at the first rapid.

We took out at Cloudsplitter Outfitters, conveniently located at the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson. Click here for a detailed description of the route.

It’s a fun seven-mile excursion, but paddlers will have more to do in Newcomb if and when the state buys a tract of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. The purchase would lead to more tourism for Newcomb.

This is something to bear in mind when you hear people say the Forest Preserve hurts the economy or that the state can’t afford to go ahead with the Finch transaction (see “Finch deal on hold” in the July/August issue of the Adirondack Explorer).

The conservancy tract includes a large stretch of the Hudson south of Newcomb as well as the Essex Chain of Lakes in the timberlands west of the river—both of which promise exciting opportunities for wilderness paddling.

Although it’s possible now to go downriver from Newcomb on the Hudson, you can’t legally exit until after the Hudson Gorge. Not only is the gorge far downriver, but it contains class 4 and class 5 rapids—much too difficult for the typical paddler.

If the state buys the conservancy land, however, flatwater paddlers will be able to exit the river well before the gorge. One possible takeout will be the Gooley Club property at the mouth of the Indian River, about twelve miles downriver from Route 28N. In this case, paddlers may need to shuttle between the hamlet of Indian Lake and Newcomb.

The owners of Cloudsplitter Outfitters are hoping paddlers also will have the option of taking out near the mouth of the Goodnow River, about five miles from Route 28N. This would require a much-shorter shuttle back to Newcomb over dirt and paved roads. This option will be possible only if the state allows motorized access, which will depend on the classification of the land.

On either trip down the Hudson, paddlers will encounter rapids, but nothing like those found in the gorge. What’s more, the state could construct carry trails around the whitewater sections.

The purchase of the Essex Chain of Lakes would offer the opportunity for flatwater canoeing and camping on six interconnected waterways, stretching about six miles. You could spend a few days exploring the region by boat and on foot trails.

How would the addition of these lands to the Forest Preserve benefit Newcomb? Paddlers would rent canoes, kayaks, and other gear from Cloudsplitter and/or pay for shuttle service. While in town, they might stay at a bed-and-breakfast, shop at the general store, eat dinner at the local tavern, or even play a round of golf at the municipal course.

Newcomb already offers several canoeing and kayaking opportunities. With these new trips, the town could transform itself into a paddling destination, the home of the Hudson headwaters. All it will take is a little more state land.

Photo by Phil Brown: canoeists on the Hudson near Newcomb.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

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