Don't be afraid of the kayak
Oct
19
2016

We don't need to fear the kayak. Or the canoe.

When I bring up paddling as a great way to see our breathtaking scenery, some people look nervous. And they don't have to feel that way. Concerns about "tippiness" seems to come up more often with kayaks than with canoes, but in either case, this concern is groundless. (So to speak.) These watercraft are very stable, especially with kayaks, where the seat (and our bottom) are actually below the waterline.

Pulling a paddle through the water propels us forward while we stay seated and enjoy the view. It's that simple. Here are some great reasons to explore our Lake Country as nature intended.

see more scenery

One compelling advantage of paddling is how we can cover a lot of territory. The famous Seven Carries canoe route covers areas in one day that would take a whole week to hike through. If we like our scenery to change up often, paddling is the way to go.

While paddling has a shorter season than hiking, (not being operational in the winter), it makes up for it in breadth of access. The Saranac Lake area has fifty bodies of water in the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness alone. These areas have much beautiful territory to explore, with no motor boats allowed.

Go where there is only birdsong, and see only skylines that nature has made.

While I love hiking, there are a lot of forest views along the way. It's wonderful to be in a lush grove of trees, but it can all start to look like the same trails at many points. We have to actually climb the mountain for each unique vista to start paying off.

We have to wait.

But with paddling, we start racking up gorgeous photo opportunities very quickly. If we have ever been hiking and wished for a different vantage point... that's so easy with a kayak or canoe. Paddle in or out, right or left, and we have a whole new perspective on our scene.

Walk Saranac Lake's historic downtown, then explore the flip side with the Saranac River.

We are also a place of rivers, and that's got the changing scenery built in. Let the current take us from rocky crags to lush bogland. Many of our finest mountain views are best seen from a water vantage point. A favorite paddle is the Downtown Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale route, which begins behind the town hall for a peek at the other side of downtown, then moves through river plains, stunning forest, and colorful watersheds all the way to Bloomingdale.

We have many areas where, even without portaging, one water body leads to another, like Church Pond to Osgood Pond, or the trio of ponds known as Hoel, Turtle, and Slang. Then there's the six lake string accessed from the Lake Flower boat dock, downtown, which includes Lake Flower, Lake Owassah and Lake Kiwassa, and then the expanses of Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac lakes.

visit islands

Of course, the only way to reach one of our islands is by boat. That's why they call it an island!

I find it hard to resist the pull of these little land gems scattered on many of our lakes. Something about the variety of these self-contained land masses beckons us to explore. They also make lovely lunch spots.

Yo ho ho! The urge to explore islands can be easily met with our many lake locations.

I find these islands to have so much variety. There might be a huge rock, an ancient gnarled tree, or a large clump of wildflowers. St. Regis Lake, both upper and lower, is a favorite for its varied shoreline, and many different islands. Shorts and kayak shoes are all we need to conquer (temporarily) our own little bit of paradise.

In the Saranac Lake chain, we have camping on our popular Saranac Lake Island campgrounds. For more about island camping, see our blog post, “One Particular Island” all to ourselves.

These rugged cliffs used to be featured in early silent movies.

With a visit to Bluff Island, we can get over our fear of heights, too.

Back when silent film companies used the rugged terrain of the Adirondacks to film adventures, this cliff was a favorite location. It is only accessible by water, and can be enjoyed even without climbing it on the steep side, or (as seen in the video above) jumping off.

Bluff Island is really a phobia cure for a lot of things, looks like. Because paddling is a great way to cure any fear of boredom.

it's so easy

Perhaps the best reason for exploring the Adirondacks by water is because it is so easy. It's okay to stuff that backpack or pack extras in that lunch, because we won't be carrying it. With proper packing, we can bring that zoom lens, extra shoes, or even a towel for swimming, and not worry about lugging its weight or jostling it around. Our boat is doing all the work.

There's no question about the path we're taking, either. Get a good paddling map, and we can more easily figure out our location than if we are hiking.

Before there were roads, there were our "water highways."

Many people seem timid about paddling because it may seem more complicated than putting on a pair of shoes that leads to hiking. But while it might take a bit more equipment, the process of paddling couldn't be easier. Even if we stop, and just sit there, we can coast to new places, especially on a river.

Our many small ponds are deceptively big once we start exploring a complicated shoreline or find the outlet to a new pond. Miles unwind behind us. While many hikes are "there and back," ponds and lakes are natural loops. There's always a new vista coming up.

This is as close as we can get from shore. By boat, it's even more impressive.

Birding gets a whole new element when we are paddling, because we get to see waterbirds from much closer in such small and silent watercraft. I've once drifted within fifteen feet of a blue heron. It's easy to spot raptors over the water. An eagle sighting is very common, such as on Lake Kiwassa.

If we don't have a watercraft, that's easy too. Our local outfitters specialize in helping us find the route which is most appealing to us, and then taking us there, getting us launched, and picking us up afterward. And if we feel uncertain about getting into, and out of, our canoe and kayak, they take care of that, too. We are tucked into our watercraft at the beginning, and helped out at the end.

There's nothing to be afraid of. Except, I do have to warn about one thing: it's very addicting. But in a good way.

This is the most luxurious way to explore the Adirondacks, a popular pastime from the Gilded Age to now. For over one hundred years, it's been hard to improve upon. Go on. Suspend ourselves between lake and sky, perfectly balanced; and feel the appeal.

Find a place to stay on the water. Work up an appetite and then find a dining spot. Find rentals, outfitters, and guides on our guide page because there's just no end of paddling!


This week in the ADK we conquer our fears:

Zip it up

Motorbikes and tasty flights

Peak fear

Towering heights

Lost and found

Night hiking newbies

Get high on the Coast

The Possibilities Of Fall Birding
A Fall Paddle On Lake Clear Outlet

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About The Author

Pamela Merritt's picture
Pamela Merritt finds a library's reading room as exciting as a hike through the forest. She met the Adirondacks in 1999 and declared it "home." She's been collecting stories ever since. She declares summer's hiking and kayaking blends beautifully into winter's snowshoeing and reading to create four great seasons of enjoyment. Her published works display her eclectic range, from How-To cat care manuals to literary short fiction.

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