Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New State Lands: Paddling the Upper Hudson River

Marty Plante on Ord Falls, Hudson RiverMount Marcy to the left;  NY City to the right.

As I entered the upper Hudson from the outlet of Lake Harris, the sign was more utilitarian than it appeared at first glance.  The coffee colored water was completely still, with no discernible current, and boaters exiting the lake could easily become confused about which way to go.

I had wanted to paddle this section of the Hudson ever since I read in the Adirondack Explorer last year that the adjacent land had been acquired by the State.  Starting at Lake Harris in Newcomb, two trips are now possible.  The shorter one ends near the Hudson’s confluence with the Goodnow River, the other near the confluence with the Indian.  My attempt to round up a group of paddling buddies last autumn was thwarted by low water levels.  This year’s snowmelt and April showers raised the level, but the access roads to the two take-outs had been closed by the DEC due to muddy conditions.  A fortuitous combination of events finally gave me the opportunity I sought:  the access road for the shorter trip was opened, the water level was just right, there was a one-day break in the rain, and my darling wife consented to spending four hours in the car shuttling my boat and me on her day off from work.

After passing under the Route 28N bridge, the river spread out, giving it the impression of a lake. After a mile, the banks converged and I saw Long Falls, the first of several rapids.  Taking out on the right to scout it, I saw that it’s a Class 2 run, well within my skill level, and ran it without incident.  After a mile of flatwater, I encountered the most difficult rapid of the day, Ord Falls.  I scouted the upper half and it appeared to be much like its predecessor, but towards the end it intensified into an unexpected Class 3 chute that hadn’t been visible from my vantage point.  Both of the “falls,” like the remaining half dozen rapids that I’ll later encounter, are read-and-run:  straightforward rapids with no hidden dangers that require must-make maneuvers.

Marty Plante on the Hudson near NewcombSince the 19th century, a trip on this section of the Hudson had been available only to those who were willing to run the Class 4 Hudson Gorge or were members of the hunting clubs that owned the take-outs.  Information about the river is hard to come by.  I mostly relied on the description of some paddling buddies who had run it a few years ago and on Phil Brown’s article in the Adirondack Explorer.  On the day of my trip, the U.S. Geological Survey gage in Newcomb registered the river depth at nearly 4 feet, but it’s likely that this section can be run at lower levels.

After three hours of paddling, I reached the take-out at the iron bridge, below the mouth of the Goodnow.  Strapping a canoe cart onto my boat, I schlepped the boat back to my car, nearly a mile away, making mental plans for my next trip on the upper Hudson.

Photos: The author paddling Ord Falls, above, and approaching the Rt 28N bridge near Newcomb.

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Marty Plante

Marty Plante was born and raised in New York City, but now lives in a log cabin in the Adirondacks. He has hiked and paddled on four continents, but feels most at home in the North Country. Marty can be found in the Adirondack woods playing with his skis, hiking boots, snowshoes and disturbingly large collection of canoes.




3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Marty as I understand it this now open route is supposed to be quite popular. Curious, did you see a fair number of other people on the river?

  2. Marty Plante Marty Plante says:

    Hi Paul. I had gone on a blue-sky day during the Memorial Day weekend, when I expected to see at least a few other paddlers, but I had the river to myself. There were no other cars at the take-out parking lot. A DEC policeman that I ran into said that the access road had been closed for mud season and had just opened a few days earlier, so that may be the reason for the lack of boating traffic.

    This was a great trip and I plan to do it again, but I think its popularity will be tempered by the take-out. It requires a 0.8 mile carry uphill to the parking lot. And to get to the parking lot, a long shuttle is required on a rutted dirt road.

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