While it’s true that every day in Saranac Lake is like Earth Day, the actual Earth Day is upon us. The 50th annual celebration - on April 22 - of our planet and its environs is also a great time to think about reducing our own impact even when doing something as lovely and low impact as paddling.
Paddling is a bit of an obsession here in Saranac Lake, where the entire month of June is typically dedicated to the annual Celebrate Paddling, when a paddling-related event takes place each night. And it’s easy to see why aquatic activities are front and center here: there’s just so much water to be explored!
From day trips to quick excursions to multi-day races and routes, Saranac Lake is the place to be in paddling season, and it’s a great place to celebrate nature and keep the ideals of Earth Day in mind.
Paddlers have a leg up on other Adirondack recreationists since the trails we take are not made of sensitive alpine soils or susceptible to the kind of erosion that occurs on land.
However, when traveling on waterways, there are still some ways to reduce your impact. Obviously, don’t litter or leave fishing line laying around, but also, be careful when getting to shore. While the rivers and lakes won’t erode because you paddled it, the shorelines where paddlers enter and exit the water can be soft and contain riparian plants and animals. When possible, use designated take-outs and stick to the trail if conducting any portages to limit the on-land impact of your water adventure.
If your Adirondack paddle adventure includes overnights, be sure to plan out which campsites will be on the route and camp at designated sites and lean-tos. Bringing a camp stove to cook on can also reduce the impact to campsites and surrounding woods.
Take only pictures
As the snow melts and the days get longer, people are not the only animals who want to get out and about. Animals will be moving around more looking for love, while birds and waterfowl return from their winter retreats.
One of the great aspects of any Adirondack trip is the variety of wildlife that can and will be encountered. But just as paddlers need to get their sea legs after a long winter, birds and animals also need some time to adjust. You can help by steering clear of ducks and loons as they return to their summer digs, and enjoy all wildlife from a distance. Except for mosquitoes and blackflies, those you can get real up close and personal with.
Clean, drain, and dry
One of the biggest potential impacts a paddler - whether in a canoe, kayak, rowboat, or SUP - can have is moving invasive species from one waterbody to another. Several groups in the Adirondacks, especially the stewardship program from Paul Smith’s College Watershed Institute and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, have established boat washing stations at lots of locations around the Adirondacks, and have even more stewards at boat launches and access sites to monitor for invasive species.
But even if there is no steward on duty, paddlers should take a minute to examine their boats, paddles, and gear for any aquatic hitchhikers - both before and after a paddling trip. Remove any hangers-on and then check again before the next paddling trip.
Anglers can also take action by looking up fishing regulations and abiding by no live bait areas, which are plentiful in the Saranac Lake area due to the number of fantastic fisheries that allow our favorite species to thrive. Fishermen and women should also ensure that no fishing line gets left behind.
Paddle close to home
One of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day is by taking a paddling trip close to home, especially in light of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the state Department of Environmental Conservation encourages New Yorkers to #RecreateLocally, that doesn’t mean you have to block out Saranac Lake from your mind.
Now is the perfect time to pull out the maps and guide books, settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and plan the perfect Adirondack paddling trip. So stay close to home and save up that gas money for a paddling trip to Saranac Lake when the time is right.