Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After Irene: Paddling The New Duck Hole

A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.

Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.

Well, someone already has: Adirondack guide Joe Hackett.

Hackett took the same route I took in the spring: he paddled across Henderson Lake, carried 1.7 miles to Upper Preston Pond, paddled across the two Preston Ponds, and then carried to Duck Hole. He said the short carry trails between Upper and Lower Preston and between Lower Preston’s outlet and Duck Hole were in good shape.

He found enough water at the end of the last carry to launch his boat. In fact, he estimates that the pool I saw from the far shore is about half the size of the old Duck Hole. In the deepest spots, he said, the water goes down six feet.

He paddled to the dam no problem. He also went a short distance up two inlets, Roaring Brook to the north and another stream that flows from the south. The water was shallow, but paddlers should be able to go farther in spring or whenever the water is high.

“Duck Hole is down, but it’s not out,” said Hackett, who writes an outdoors column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

For wilderness paddlers, this is good news. Anglers, however, will be disappointed to learn that Hackett found no signs of fish in the pool or in the streams. In the past, he had no trouble landing brook trout.

He speculates that most of the trout were washed into the Cold River, which starts at the dam. “I fished it all over and never had a bite,” he said. “I fished below the dam and had several hits.”

He added that many trout that remained in the shallow water probably were picked off by osprey, eagles, or herons, and any that weren’t eaten fled up the brooks to avoid a similar fate.

“When the water’s that skinny they’re as nervous as a whore in church,” he said. “They don’t want to be seen.”

Duck Hole has long been a favorite camping spot on the Northville-Placid Trail, prized for its fabulous views and remote setting. Before Hurricane Irene, hikers organized a campaign to save the Duck Hole dam. Coincidentally, Adirondack Explorer ran a debate on the topic in its current issue.

Tom Wemett, who wrote in favor of repairing dam, is now mounting an effort to get it rebuilt. Wemett is the chairman of the Northville-Placid chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

Bill Ingersoll, the author of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks, wrote in favor of letting Duck Hole revert to its wilder self.

Click here to read their debate.

Photo by Joe Hackett: Duck Hole near Lower Preston outlet.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. He has been writing about Irene’s impacts on the Adirondacks on his Outtakes blog and here on Adirondack Almanack.

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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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