That is, of course, the danger of doing the Adirondack’s greatest canoe trip in the middle of black fly season. But with a bit of perseverance, some luck as to the weather (lower temperatures and wind keep the flies down), bug dope and a head net, and the trip this time of year can be not only tolerable but even grand. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Paddling’
The 740-mile paddling route known as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge, the NFCT was just an idea in the late 1990s when two executives retiring from Mad River Canoe founded the nonprofit to establish the trail.
Kay Henry and Rob Center have spent their retirement bringing to life the long distance paddle route which opened June 3, 2006. The trail is marked with NFCT’s yellow diamond with blue lettering trail markers and includes 56 lakes and ponds, 22 rivers and streams, and 62 carries (totaling 55 miles). Portages, campsites, and access areas are marked on some sections of the trail. The NFCT includes more than 150 public access points, and more than 470 individual campsites on public and private land. » Continue Reading.
The race begins at Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. There, kayaks and canoes of all types will depart in a staggered format. You’ll see avid races with tight-fitting shirts and sleek, tippy racing canoes, guideboats, kayakers of all stripes, and canoes ranging from 1 to 8 people.
After the race begins at 11 a.m., competitors head through Lower Saranac Lake, down the Saranac River to a short but slippery portage. From there, the race traverses the left side of Oseetah Lake to the finish line — only a few miles from the start.
The race is the first of a half-dozen regional races, culminating in the famous three-day 90-miler in September. You’ll recognize the serious competitors by their odd-looking racing boats, and their various time-saving techniques (such as taping energy food to the side of the boat, or attaching a tube to a water bottle to make for instant access to a drink).
Those who don’t expect to win might want to take a breather now and again to enjoy the fantastic views, along with the sheer thrill of being part of a racing pack.
When I joined a team of four last year, rain was threatening and the wind was blowing hard. On Oseetah Lake, we made the mistake of following a lost kayaker into the middle of the maelstrom. It was only by divine providence and a well-slapped paddle from the experienced racer in the bow that kept us from being knocked over in the huge waves.
Eventually, we turned around and made it safely to the other side, passing several other dumped boats whose former occupants were not so lucky.
For those who have never canoe-raced before, it’s a great way to try out the sport — and you can rent a local, lightweight boat if you don’t have one. The race begins at 11 a.m., and entry is $25.
For more information on the race, click here.
If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.
You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.
After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.
Canoe and kayak enthusiasts have braved the rapids of the Upper Hudson River in the whitewater derby since 1958. Every year the Derby is hosted on the first full weekend in May. » Continue Reading.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) will bring its Northern Forest Paddlers Film Festival to Lake Placid on Friday, April 16 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and screenings begin at 7:00 p.m.
Four documentary films and a clay-animated short will cover a range of themes on recreational canoeing and kayaking from exploring the Antarctic peninsula and Inside Passage, to finding record whitewater kayak waterfall runs and building a traditional birch bark canoe.
The lineup of films:
– Selections from Terra Antarctica: Rediscovering the Seventh Continent (20 min) An up-close look at the iceberg and turquoise blue water landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak.
– Selections from Dream Result (30 min). A group of extreme whitewater kayakers explore wild rivers and monster waterfalls in Canada, Chile, and Scandinavia, and one dares the world record descent of 186-foot Palouse Falls in Washington.
– Earl’s Canoe (30 min). Follow Ojibwe Nation member Earl Nyholm as he builds an Ojibwe birch bark canoe on Madeleine Island, Wisconsin, using traditional tools and methods.
– Paddle to Seattle (50 min). This independent documentary chronicles the journey of two intrepid adventurers paddling handmade wooden Pygmy kayaks from Alaska to Seattle via the 1,300-mile Inside Passage.
– Kayaking is Not a Crime (7 min). A clay-animated short with a fun pro-kayaking message created by young New York filmmaker Ben Doran.
All proceeds from the festival will benefit NFCT programs and stewardship activities along the canoe and kayak waterway that begins in Old Forge and stretches for 740 miles to northern Maine. There will be paddling-related door prizes and a silent auction.
Tickets are $8 for students and $10 in advance or $12 at the door for adults. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at .
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
Peruse the colorful Adirondack Park Agency land-use map and you’ll notice that many of the region’s rivers are overlain by strings of big black circles, small black circles, or open triangles. These rivers are part of the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System (WSR).
And then there are the eight rivers overlain by open circles. These are “study” rivers, candidates for the WSR system.
The legislature first asked the APA to study these rivers in the 1970s—more than thirty years ago—and the APA did recommend that all eight be added to the system, but apparently for political reasons, they never were.
The rivers are the Osgood, North Branch of the Saranac, North Branch of the Boquet, part of the Oswegatchie, Main Branch of the Grass, Pleasant Lake Stream, East Stony Creek, and the Branch.
In addition, the APA identified in the 1970s at least eight other waterways as potential study rivers: the Chubb, Little, Jessup, and Miami rivers, Hays Brook, Otter Creek, and Fall Stream.
WSR rivers receive an additional measure of protection from development—something that doesn’t always sit well with local politicians and landowners. This, no doubt, is the reason that no river has been added to the system since the late eighties.
The Adirondack Explorer brought attention to this issue in a series of articles five years ago. The articles inspired the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) to deploy a team of volunteers to paddle a number of rivers in the Park to ascertain whether they should be added to the system.
ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth told me he hasn’t given up on the WSR initiative. As a matter of fact, the club has drafted a bill to declare the Chubb—a lovely stream that winds through the High Peaks Wilderness—a Wild river. This is the most protective designation.
Yet Woodworth said this isn’t the right time to introduce the legislation, not with environmentalists fighting to restore cash to the Environmental Protection Fund and waging other battles as well. “The bill is certainly important, but we have other issues and other priorities right now,” he said.
Although WSR provides some protection against development, critics say the restrictions need to be strengthened.
Consider the Chubb. The proposed Wild stretch passes through one parcel of private land where there used to be a small hunting cabin. Several years ago, the cabin was replaced by a large house. Even if the Chubb had been in the system, that would not have prevented the construction of the house. APA regulations allow landowners to replace an existing structure with another. The new structure can be bigger, taller, and more obtrusive, as long as it’s not closer to the water.
As of today, all or parts of fifty-one rivers in the Park—totaling more than 1,200 miles—belong to the system. It looks like we’ll have to wait till next year, or longer, to see if the Chubb becomes the fifty-second.
Photo by Phil Brown: a paddler on the Osgood River.
Kayakers and canoeists will find improved portage trails, new and rehabilitated campsites, and new information kiosks for the 2010 paddling season along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) between New York and Maine.
Trail staff and volunteers completed projects last year on the historic 740-mile waterway in New York, Vermont, Québec, Canada; New Hampshire and Maine. The first official guidebook to the trail will be released by the end of the month and will include 320 Pages, 100 black and white and 35 color photos, and six maps. Here are the improvements made for 2010 in New York:
Overgrowth was cleared from the Buttermilk Falls and Deerland portage trails. The trails were signed and a 25-foot stone causeway was built.
A 20-step stone staircase was built on the Permanent Rapids portage trail just south of Franklin Falls Pond. Eight campsites were rehabilitated in the Franklin Falls area, and 100 saplings were planted at locations of impact and erosion in the region.
A dilapidated cabin was removed and two new campsite areas were installed on Upper Saranac Lake.
A kiosk was installed at the Green Street boat launch on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.
The NFCT now has more than 150 public access points in four states and Canada, and more than 470 individual campsites on public and private land. An interactive online map gives paddlers a detailed look at the 13 sections of the trail and nearby accommodations, services and attractions.
Other resources include the new Official Guidebook to the NFCT and water resistant trail section maps. These can be found on the NFCT Web site, at specialty outdoor retailers, outfitters along the trail, and at booksellers.
Winter paddling in the Adirondacks? Sure! Sometimes. While not a preferred activity for everyone, it can be done. I’ve paddled in every month of the year and have managed to have fun (most of the time).
Flatwater paddling is generally limited to short sections of rivers below dams, where the released water produces fairly consistent current. Whitewater paddling is generally possible only after extended thaws. In my experience, this is pretty hit or miss from year to year depending on how thick the ice build-up is, how warm it actually gets, and how long the thaw lasts. The topography of the river counts too. Deep, narrow ravines and gorges get little sunshine. Twisty rivers and rivers with very large boulders or small islands often trap ice.
Obviously, you have to dress warmly. For flatwater, basic paddling clothes, layers of fleece, neoprene booties, and gloves (or poagies) are usually sufficient as long as you don’t flip. [Poagies are hand covers that go over your paddle shaft or grip and are attached via velcro—some are insulated.] Whitewater paddlers need very warm clothing. A drysuit is preferred (though a wet suit can work too) and you’ll definitely want a helmet liner and poagies.
I limit my winter paddling to rivers I know well and that are well within my skill level. I prefer shorter trips and ones that don’t require me to get out of my boat very often because it’s easier to stay warm. Before paddling in winter, you should check out your take-out spot and make sure you can get out of the river. This seems obvious, but you never know. If you can, also view the river at mid-points as it’s not unheard of to have an open river at the beginning and end of a trip, only to have it iced up at the mid-point.
Often, your only way to get into a river in winter is to get in your boat and slide down an ice shelf or snow bank and plop into the water. (You want a strong boat for this.) The problem is that when you’re ready to get out of the river, you can’t slide uphill. Once on the river proceed cautiously and be ready to exit the river. A clear river can quickly turn into a congested one. Sharp bends are often a problem—stay to the outside of the turn so you can get a better view of what’s around the corner. If you’re concerned about a bigger rapid or a possible obstruction, get out earlier than you normally might because you may not be able to get out further downstream. Prepare to deal with ice chunks coming down the river–some are small and some can be huge. They can nudge your boat or smash it—again, you want a plastic boat. Try not to flip. Even with a good roll, flipping in winter water gives you a major “ice-cream” headache that can be very disorienting. Start your car as soon as you get off the river so you can warm up and change into dry clothes as quickly as possible. Zippers, straps, etc. are likely to seize very quickly and spray skirts become stiff. A friend and I once had to drive about 15 minutes before we could take off any of our paddling gear.
You can actually have fun as long as you pick times/locations very carefully, paddle within your experience level, only paddle rivers that you know very well, and take extra precautions.
Photo: WinterCampers.com’s Mark, Chris, Sparky and Matt on a back-country “paddle”. Courtesy WinterCampers.com
As Almanack contributor Alan Wechsler reported yesterday, the big rain we had on Monday has wrecked havoc on Adirondack winter recreation. Alan noted that ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and local ski resorts were particularly hard hit (West Mountain just south of the Blue Line was forced to close), and to those we should add snowmobiling, as many trails around the region are all but impassable. Even the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival felt the pain, when rain seriously damaged this year’s Ice Palace necessitating builders to almost start from scratch.
Over the past two days the region’s nearly 30,000 miles of streams, brooks, and rivers have gathered volume and strength. In Washington County the Mettawee and Hoosic Rivers have flooded their banks, and the Batten Kill is near flood stage. The Hudson and Schroon Rivers are running very high and the Boquet has topped it’s banks, but the most serious flooding has occurred in the Franklin County community of Fort Covington where flooding along the Salmon River has threatened a number of buildings and required evacuations.
Those interested in accessing information about what is happening to streams in your local area as a result of the heavy rain can access the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) streamgage network, which operates a nationwide system of about 7,000 streamgauges that monitor water level and flow. Streamgages transmit real-time information, which the National Weather Service uses to issue local flood warnings, and which paddlers in the know can use to estimate conditions. Some streamgauges have been operational since the early 1900s; the gauge just upstream from the Route 22 bridge over the Boquet, for instance, has been recording since 1923.
Illustration: The level of the Schroon river over the last few days at Riverbank.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify the state-owned Lows Lake-Bog River-Oswegatchie wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.
The move comes on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s signing off on the classification and reclassification of about 8,000 acres (the Lows Lake Primitive Area, a portion of the Hitchins Pond Primitive Area, and additional acres south of Lows Lake) to wilderness their addition to the Five Ponds and Round Lake wilderness areas and also creating a new Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area. » Continue Reading.
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