Although water levels have finally dropped below flood stage on Lake Champlain this week, a Flood Warning remains in effect and facilities and businesses near low-lying shorelines continue to be heavily impacted by high waters.
The Ausable Point Campground remains closed, as is the campground access road. Many Valcour Island campsites and access points are still flooded and due to the high waters, floating docks have not been installed and bathrooms are closed at Peru Dock, Port Douglas, Willsboro Bay and other boat launches. Vermont closed all access to Lake Champlain except for Tabor Point, malletts Bay, Lamoille River, Converse Bay, and Larabee’s Point. Quebec closed all access and shut down boating to prevent further shoreline erosion due to wakes. » Continue Reading.
A series of remarkable photographs issued by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) shows shoreline erosion and sediment and nutrient loading of Lake Champlain as a result of the flooding that continues to occur around the region. The lake has reached historic levels that have accelerated shoreline erosion and sent dark plumes that likely contain contaminants into open water.
The filling of historic wetlands, channeling streams and development along watersheds that empty into the lake have increased storm water run-off and added what is considered an unprecedented about of contaminants – pollution, nutrients and sediment – into the Lake Champlain ecosystem according to the LCBP. “While there will be time in the future for a careful assessment of the flooding of the many tributaries and of the Lake itself,” an LCBP press statement said, “it already is clear that the impact on water quality (in addition to the immediate human distress) will be very significant.”
Among water quality managers’ concerns is controlling run-off phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers, believed critical to managing and reducing water pollution. Increased phosphorus pollution is linked to the growth of potentially toxic and economically disruptive algae blooms.
During unseasonably warm weather last July health warnings were issued in New York and Vermont for algae blooms in Lake Champlain (including some near Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point). At the time health officials recommended avoiding all contact with the affected water including swimming, bathing, or drinking, or using it in cooking or washing, and to keep pets and livestock from algae-contaminated water.
The water quality issues come at a time when Plattsburgh is celebrating its 10th year of hosting professional fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain. According to Dan Heath, writing in the Press Republican, Plattsburgh has hosted more than 50 tournaments that included some 25,000 anglers since 2001. More than 3,000 bass anglers are expected for this year’s tournaments which together will offer $1,8 million in prizes. “Lake Champlain has earned a reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America,” Heath wrote.
The tournament season will kick off withe the American Bass Angler’s Weekend Series on June 11th.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program has posted the aerial photos (taken on April 29-30, 2011) online; the photos are also linked to Google Maps. It’s likely a similar situation is occurring on many of the Adirodnack region’s lakes and reservoirs.
Photos: Above, sediment plume from the Ausable River and Dead Creek; Below, headland erosion and suspended sediment north of Mooney Bay. Photos courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has received two awards that will fund trout and salmon habitat improvement projects. The project will identify and replace structures that act as barriers to the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms. AsRA will receive $46,910 from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and will work with The Adirondack Nature Conservancy and SUNY-Plattsburgh to complete a fish passage study. AsRA will also receive $52,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to replace culverts and deconstruct dams that act as barriers to fish migration. The project will use field assessments and GIS mapping tools to identify and rank barriers to aquatic organisms, assess the overall connectivity of stream habitat in the Ausable Watershed, and prioritize structures for replacement. The collaborating groups will conduct a training workshop to present the results to Town and County highway superintendents, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Maintaining connections between rivers and small tributaries is important for protecting trout, salmon, and other aquatic organisms. Trout rely upon small upland tributaries for spawning and refuge from warm summer temperatures. Dams, culverts, and bridges can altered flow and block upstream movement to important refuge streams. Connectivity to upland tributaries is becoming even more critical as temperatures in valley bottom streams rise due to climate warming.
The Ausable and River Association is a nonprofit watershed group that works cooperatively with landowners, municipalities, and government agencies to preserve the natural, scenic, and recreation resources of the Ausable Watershed. For more information call 873-3752 or write [email protected]
There will be a meeting to discuss Wilmington’s recreation options now and in the future and to develop a Wilmington Recreation Plan on Thursday, February 24th at 7:00 PM at the Wilmington Fire Station Meeting Room. The purpose of the meeting is to gather residents to identify Wilmington’s recreation resources and determine what resources currently exist; current and future project needs; priorities; how residents can work together to develop and maintain their resources; available funding; and what kinds of information residents and tourists need to take the best advantage of local recreation resources. Speakers will include Town Supervisor Randy Preston, who will provide an update on current recreation projects; Highway Superintendent Bill Skufka, who will discuss roadways for bikes and pedestrians; Matt McNamara on Mountain bike trails; Carol Treadwell, who will provide an update from the Au Sable River Association; Department of Environmental Conservation Forester Rob Daley, Wilmington Wild Forest’s Unit Management Plan; Josh Wilson, of Rural Action Now/Healthy Heart Network on shared roadways and a recreation plan model; and Meg Parker of the Wilmington Youth Commission, who will discuss the Park.
Last week my friend Barbara visited from Toronto, a city not known for its proximity to mountains. She had never been to the Adirondacks, and I wanted to find a hike that would both introduce her to the beauty and ruggedness of the High Peaks without the ice-covered vertical terrain that would be sure to stop our cramponless feet in their tracks.
So I took her to my favorite easy hike — the West River Trail.
It’s amazing that such an easy and (relatively) flat trail can pack so much of a punch. In less than five miles, hikers on this route parallel a deep, whitewater ravine, pass two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Adirondacks and walk beneath several cliffs gleaming with ice flows (at least during the winter).
Needless to say, Barbara was impressed. The only trouble with this hike is the half-mile walk from the parking lot near Route 73 in Keene Valley (also the departure point for Noonmark Mountain) to the trailhead at the Ausable Club. The trail begins right at the gate (hang a right instead of staying on the dirt road to Lower Ausable Lake, although you can cut off some of the hiking by taking the dirt road if you would prefer an easier route).
The route follows the East Branch of the Ausable River. It’s a dramatic trip in any season, but especially in winter, with the river half-frozen but still running over icy cascades. After about an hour walk, you make a steep climb and reach Beaver Meadow Falls. In warmer weather it’s a fairyland stepladder of frothy white, but in winter it’s a gleaming blue chandelier. It’s also a good place to stop for a bite to eat.
From here, the going gets flatter as the Ausable River meanders through a wide meadow. Eventually, you reach the outlet of Lower Ausable Lake, where a side-trail takes you to the even more impressive Rainbow Falls, its running water hidden behind a thick crust of ice.
Once at the lake, you can return to your car on the easy (but boring) dirt road. We elected to climb to Indian Head Cliff for a view of the frozen, fjord-like lake. This proved the steepest and hardest part of the route, as we had to find our way around a few tricky, ice-covered sections of trail (ski poles helped tremendously).
Eventually we made it to the top, and had just enough time to enjoy the rugged, ice-covered view in front of us before it we had to start the trip back to the car.
Besides the ice, that’s the other problem with hiking in early December — sunset comes way too soon. Alan Wechsler, who lives in New York’s Capital Region, has been writing about and photographing the Adirondacks for two decades.
The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative is reporting unprecedented success resulting from the on-going sea lamprey control program. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to improve and manage the fisheries of Lake Champlain. » Continue Reading.
In 1935, after years of planning, debate, and construction, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway was completed. It was named in honor of America’s veterans of the so-called “Great War” (World War I), and was expected to be a major tourist attraction.
Automobiles were becoming commonplace in the North Country at that time, and travelers to the region now had a thrilling view available to them at the press of a gas pedal. Seventy-five years later, it remains a spectacular drive and a great family excursion. But the macadam highway to the summit almost never came to be. New Hampshire’s Mount Washington nearly had a New York counterpart. » Continue Reading.
The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (Cooperative) will be applying lampricide to portions of five tributaries to Lake Champlain during the month of September. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be treating the Salmon River, Little Ausable River, Ausable River, and Putnam Creek in New York, and Lewis Creek in Vermont.
Treatments are scheduled to begin in New York on September 14th and finish in Vermont by the end of the month. These treatments are part of the Cooperative’s long-term sea lamprey control program for Lake Champlain. The trout and salmon populations of the lake are the primary beneficiaries of these efforts, yet lake sturgeon, walleye, and many other species are affected too. » Continue Reading.
The Ausable and Boquet River Associations (AsRA and BRASS) will host native plant sales offering gardeners a selection of plants native to northern NY and the Adirondacks. A Master Gardener will also be present to offer gardening advice.
BRASS will host a sale tomorrow, on Friday, June 25 from 9-1pm at the Elizabethtown Farmer’s Market located on Hand Avenue. AsRA will host a sale this Sunday, June 27 from 9-2pm at the Keene Valley Farmer’s Market located at Marcy Field. » Continue Reading.
After winning an important legal battle and a decade of waiting, paddlers expecting to finally be allowed access to one of the most intense whitewater opportunities in the Adirondacks are still waiting. This time for regulators to send a simple letter.
After the lengthy battle that pitted paddlers against the state’s energy monopoly, federal energy regulators, and private landowners, a year ago the Almanackreported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)issued an order requiring New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG) to permit access to the Ausable Chasm across its Rainbow Falls hydroelectric facility. The hydro dam is just upstream of the point where the Ausable River flows into Ausable Chasm, from there expert paddlers (many sections are Class IV, one route is Class V) could make their way the nearly three miles downstream through Ausable Chasm to the bridge at Route 9. Both banks of the river downstream to the take-out at Route 9 are private property, including portions owned by the popular tourist attraction. The original order was appealed to FERC by NYSEG (and others), but upheld in September of last year. The standing order required NYSEG to develop a whitewater access plan from the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend through the end of October and required NYSEG to consult with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation (OPRHP), American Whitewater, and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) in the development of the plan.
With the help of its required partners NYSEG developed the plan [pdf] and submitted it to FERC in late November, but memorial Day has come and gone and the 4-foot-wide, 7-foot-high, galvanized steel pedestrian gate that was to provide access to the river has remained closed. NYSEG refuses to open the gate until it receives a letter accepting the plan and formally requiring them to grant public access.
American Whitewater (AW) has asked FERC to approve the whitewater access plan for the Rainbow Falls Project (Project # 2835), but received no response. AW is now asking paddlers send FERC a comment requesting access to the right away.
What Paddlers Are Missing
According to NYSEG’s plan, the gate will be open from sunrise to sunset from the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend through October 31; gate will be locked during the rest of the year.
Those who wanting to scout the river from above will need to use the Ausable Chasm Company’s private trails (their fees apply). Flow information is available via the USGS Ausable River stream gauge.
What follows is a description of the key feature provided by the NYSEG plan, and a response by the Almanack‘s own Don Morris about the safety of the route.
All river descriptions and classifications are user-generated estimates based on limited experiences at limited flows (173-576 cfs). All features have the potential to change.
Horseshoe Falls (III/IV): Visible from the Route 9 bridge, Horseshoe Falls consists of U-shaped,8-foot-high vertical ledge/waterfall followed by large eddies.
Unnamed Rapid (III): Immediately below Horseshoe Falls is a short rapid containing a several waves ending in a pool.
Diagonal Slide (III/IV): A long low angle slide with a diagonal wave stretching across it serves as the lead in to Devil’ s Oven.
Devil’s Oven (IV left line, IVN right line): The left channel, accessible at moderate and high flows, is a twisting series of small drops and waves. The river-right channel is a more challenging vertical drop of 6-8 feet with a steep entrance.
Unnamed Rapid (IV): A series of breaking waves terminating in a cliff wall at the base of the rapid. Paddlers have paddled left to follow the river, or eddied out to the right of the cliff wall and then ferried across the current to continue downstream.
Mike’s Hole (IV): Mike’s Hole consists of a series of waves and holes leading to a narrow constriction containing a final hydraulic. The rock wall on the river right side of the final hydraulic may be undercut. Submerged remnants of an old steel bridge are located in and at the base of the rapid and may pose a hazard to boaters. Portaging or scouting this rapid at river level is extremely difficult or impossible.
Table Rock (II): This rapid is characterized as a small wave train.
Concrete Wall (II): Concrete walls constrict the river and several pieces of an old steel bridge are submerged.
Whirlpool (II): Includes rapids and a large eddy where the river makes a sharp 90-degree righthand bend.
Below Ausable Chasm (I): Between Whirlpool and the Route 9 Bridge, the river is wide and shallow and provides limited whitewater challenge.
Last year, Don Morris responded to concerns that the route was too dangerous. Here is what he wrote:
To me, safety is a relative term and absolute statements about safety are not appropriate. Safety is related to the skill of the paddler, the paddler’s judgment, water levels, and river features. I ran the Chasm at about 600 cfs as part of a feasibility study. It was a Class 4 run at this level and no one had any problems with the run as far as I know. At 600 cfs the river is safe for competent Class 4 boaters. In my opinion, people with only Class 3 skills should not be on this section at this level, though could probably paddle it safely at lower flows. At some point the Chasm becomes too high. I’ve heard people guess that 500-800 cfs is a good range and at least one paddler (who is better than I am) has guessed that 1,000 cfs is all he would ever want to tackle. Many Class 4-5 paddlers have done harder runs than this and have been in remote gorges where it would be even more difficult to get someone out. At 600 cfs, the biggest hazard in the Chasm is man-made: a large I-beam above Mike’s Hole. At higher water I suspect Mike’s Hole would be a bigger hazard. Bottom line–I think this is a safe run for competent paddlers at moderate flows. Strong intermediates could probably do fine at minimal flows and more extreme paddlers could paddle it safely at higher flows, but it’s up to them to decide what they can handle based on their skill and judgment.
Take a look at this video of a paddler running this section in 2006.
It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruellest month.” He also wrote, in his epic poem “The Waste Lands”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).
Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives? For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few: » Continue Reading.
It’s springtime! While it’s still a bit early to be paddling lakes, the rivers have opened up and have been ready to paddle for a few weeks now. Let’s discuss the extent to which snowmelt contributes to being able to paddle rivers in the spring.
Every year friends and co-workers who know that I’m a paddler ask if I’m excited about this year’s snowmelt and I always give the same answer – Yes, but for the most part it’s not the snowmelt as much as it is the saturated ground and the rainfall. In my years of springtime paddling, it seems to me that most of our snowpack has come and gone before the rivers get high enough to paddle. This is almost certainly the case for the lower elevation rivers and those that have large expanses of wetlands and lakes (think the St. Regis and Saranac). My experience is that snowmelt does relatively little to bring these rivers up. Most of my runs on these rivers occur after decent rainfalls. The snowmelt saturates the lands around the rivers and the trees do not yet have their leaves. This results in a lot more of the rain winding up in the river itself. It’s not uncommon for a relatively small amount of rain (say a half-inch) to bring up a river in April. However, if you’re paddling the same river in mid-May, after the ground has dried and the leaves are out, it may take double or triple the amount of rain to result in a paddleable level.
The exceptions to this rule of thumb are the rivers that drain high, steep mountainsides—think the Ausable. For one, the high mountain snowpack is more substantial than that at lower elevations, so it extends later into the season. Also, there is more of a tendency for the meltwater to course down over rocky shelves, which don’t soak up water. Streams draining the higher mountains are sometimes not paddleable early in the morning but can become so later in the day, especially when it’s warm and sunny. You can often see this on graphs of gauge readings.
I planned on writing on this topic a while ago. However, I’ve noticed that this spring I’m paddling more on snowmelt than in most other years — that’s the problem with generalizations. I guess the river gods just wanted to make their point.
Photo: Wadhams Falls on the Bouquet River on March 31, 2010 Courtesy of Kathryn Cramer
Among theme-park historians Arto Monaco is a legend. The work of Monaco in designing the area’s theme parks has become a central part of the history of tourism in the Adirondacks. His creations have been found in the defunct Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Makebelieve (Upper Jay), Gaslight Village (Pottersville and then Lake George), and Frontier Town (North Hudson), at Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington (the last of a breed and a spot that made our Seven Human-Made Wonders of the Adirondacks). Monaco was a local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Makebelieve. Monaco died in 2005, but not before the Arto Monaco Historical Society (AMHS) was organized (in 2004) in order to preserve and perpetuate Monaco’s legacy, assemble a collection of his work, and stabilize and restore the Land of Makebelieve which was closed in 1979 after the Ausable River flooded the park for the eleventh time.
Since they first went into the woods with tools in 2006, volunteers of the AMHS have hacked the now overgrown Land of Makebelieve out of the encroaching forests in hopes of saving what’s left of Monaco’s legacy there from the ravages of nature.
On Saturday, September 26, the AMHS will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting followed by a another work session at the former Land of Makebelieve site from 1 to 4 pm. The morning meeting will be held at Paul Johnson’s Bakery, on Route 9N one mile south of the Upper Jay bridge. Lunch is available for those who stay for the afternoon work session. To RSVP, or for information on the upcoming work day or volunteering for the AMHS in general, contact them through their website at http://www.artomonaco.org/.
Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has officially opened the Flume Trail System as the first trail system on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks designed to allow mountain biking. Representatives and staff from DEC, the Town of Wilmington, the Wilmington Mountain Peddlers, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Whiteface Mountain Ski Area and the members of the public attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the trailhead in the Wilmington Wild Forest. Earlier that morning volunteers spent time working on the trails. Afterward the Town of Wilmington and the Wilmington Mountain Peddlers hosted a barbecue. The Flume Trail System includes approximately eight miles of trails for four season recreational activities including mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. The trails were designed to meet the specifications of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and include trails rated as easy, moderate and hard. The system includes a trail along the West Branch of the Ausable River and a hiking only trail to Flume Knob.
The majority of the trails lie within the Wilmington Wild Forest unit of the forest preserve, however, approximately two miles of trail are located on the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area, which is operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority.
The Town of Wilmington strongly advocated for mountain bike trails during DEC’s development of the management plan for the Wilmington Wild Forest. In addition to the Flume Trail System, the management plan, which was approved in October 2005, also proposes a seven mile multi-use trail system in the Beaver Brook Tract, off of Hardy Road, designed to include mountain biking. The Town also appropriated funds to pay for the Adirondack Mountain Club’s professional trail crew to construct new trail segments at the Flume in 2007.
The Wilmington Mountain Peddlers have been involved from the early days of trail development at the Flume, and have also been strong advocates for mountain bike trails. The group has volunteered countless hours to construct and maintain the trails. They will continue to maintain the Flume Trail System under DEC’s Adopt-A- Natural-Resource program.
In addition to work by their professional crew, the Adirondack Mountain Club has organized numerous volunteer work projects to upgrade existing trails and construct new trail segments at the Flume. An ADK volunteer trail crew will be constructing a new trail to connect the Flume Trail System with the Whiteface Trail from the Wilmington reservoir this summer.
The Whiteface Mountain Ski Area has allowed some of their trails to be included in the Flume Trail network for the free use of the public. These include a scenic trail along the West Branch of the Ausable River, utilized by bikers, hikers, and anglers. Mountain bikers can pay a fee to access the ski areas other 25 trails and the gondola to the top of Little Whiteface. Crews from Whiteface also assisted in the construction of some of the initial trails in the trail system. A proposed hiking only trail to Bear Den Cliffs, will be constructed in the future on the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area lands, and will be open to the public as part of the Flume Trail system.
The Flume Trail System can be accessed from trailhead on Route 86, approximately 2 miles west of the hamlet of Wilmington or from the Kid’s Campus parking lot at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area.
Serious whitewater boaters are frothing at the prospect of access to a Class IV multidrop stretch of the Ausable River along Upper Ausable Chasm. Word on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ordered New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) to develop a plan to enable kayakers to cross its land to reach the river for the period between Memorial Day and October 31.
But patience: paddlers are saying it’s doubtful NYSEG will be able to comply in time for this season. The Adirondack Mountain Club and American Whitewater, a national organization, have battled for years for the right to use NYSEG’s land to get to a 3.4-mile stretch of the Ausable, from the NYSEG powerhouse below Rainbow Falls Dam to the Route 9 bridge. “BOO YAH. That thing runs ALL SUMMER,” comments one paddler on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board, which has more information. The run is expected to draw boaters from around the Northeast because of its consistent water.
NYSEG and the Ausable Chasm Corporation, which operates a tourist attraction at the gorge, had argued against boating access because the steep and narrow canyon, 150 feet deep in places, makes rescue difficult. Ausable Chasm Co. also offers tubing and rafting for paying guests on the lower portion of the chasm. But ADK and American Whitewater countered that FERC had a duty to maintain public access to a public waterbody that had become obstructed by the power dam.
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