Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Paddling Long Trail: The Northern Forest Canoe Route

Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge by Abigail McKay.A few hundred water enthusiasts showed up last week at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts for the Reel Paddling Film Festival hosted by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters. We watched two hours of the daring adventures of canoeists and kayakers battling North American rivers and the Alaskan wilderness. I learned of a way to test how to hold my double-bladed paddle to fit my upper torso and fitness level. At the raffle of donated goods by local sport shops and the NFCT organization, we won a copy of the three-hundred-page guidebook for the 740 mile paddling trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine.

A reincarnation of ancient trade routes used by Native Americans, First Nations, and early European settlers became of interest in the 1990s to Mike Krepner, Ron Canter, and Randy Mardres from Native Trails, Inc. in Vermont. They hatched an idea to study the east-west water routes used by Native Americans and early settlers in the mountainous regions of the Northern Forest.

For the first decade they navigated obscure waters, studied old maps and assembled blueprints for the route. However, after all this research, they concluded they did not have the time, money or inclination to turn their hobby into a going activity. Rob Center and Kay Henry of the Mad River Canoe Company took up the charge. Using their contacts in the paddling industry, they obtained corporate sponsors to help move the project forward. Local guides and other experts assisted in creating maps of the 740-mile Trail. Since a formal organization was formed in 2000 funding for maintenance of the trails have been obtained, staff hired, volunteers organized and guidebooks and maps produced. The most intensely used portion of the Trail is the 58 miles in the Adirondacks beginning at the Fulton Chain of Lakes in Old Forge and stretching 10 miles to Inlet, then across Raquette and Long Lakes to the Saranacs.

Various parts of the Trail are appropriate for paddlers of every level of expertise from novice to expert. My canoe buddies and I have paddled many of the sections in the Adirondacks, a few in Vermont. Our favorite Vermont trip is a spring paddle in the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge where the Missisquoi River enters Lake Champlain. One day we saw over 100 nests and their occupants – Great Blue Herons and Cormorants nesting in the trees in the river delta. From the mouth of the river in Vermont, the view shed of the Adirondack Mountains as they tower over the lake is spectacular.

The Trail from New York to Vermont crosses Lake Champlain from the Saranac River in Plattsburgh to the mouth of the Missisquoi River near Swanton.

An NFCT event June 10 and 11th in Saranac Lake offers paddling clinics, guided trips, and two evening programs. An annual cleanup on the Saranac River is scheduled for June 25th.

Attached photo of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge by Abigail McKay.

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Award winning author Lorraine Duvall's newest book contains stories about where she has lived in the Adirondacks for the last 24 years, titled "Where The Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home." She writes of her paddling adventures in the book "In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventure in the Wild Adirondacks." Some experiences from her memoir, "And I Know Too Much to Pretend," led her to research a woman's commune north of Warrensburg, resulting in the 2019 book, "Finding A Woman's Place: The story of a 1970s feminist collective in the Adirondacks." Duvall lives in Keene and is on the board of Protect the Adirondacks.

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