Thursday, April 29, 2010

West Branch of the Fish Creek & Gifford Lake, part two

Continuing with my description of our paddle up Fish Creek:

As we paddled upstream, we saw Canada geese just past an area where people were fishing.  Here is a photo of them.

And here is another shot of the creek as we paddled further upstream:

 The creek has many twists and turns.  It allowed us to see some Red winged blackbirds before they flew off.
Here is the only one I managed to photograph that day:

We stopped talking and paddled quietly as we rounded a curve in the creek, hoping a great blue heron or some other water bird might be waiting.  Nope.  But at the next turn in the creek, I was ahead and spotted something orange with it's head bent, looking in the grass.  A red fox! By the time I signaled my husband, the fox had picked up his head and decided there wasn't enough room for all of us on the creek.  It was too late for a photo.  The whole encounter took less than 5 seconds.  But that was definitely the highlight of our first kayaking trip of 2010!  We've seen many red fox as they hurry across the road in the evening, but this is the first time we've seen one while paddling.

There is a channel off the creek which leads to a very small lake, Gifford Lake.  The entrance to the channel is marked by a fishing camp on the right as you paddle upstream.  There is one house on Gifford Lake, and the highway is behind it.  For these reasons, we chose to turn around instead of paddling the lake.  Here is Gifford Lake:

After reversing direction and heading back to the creek, I consulted my guide book for the way upstream.  We headed along the channel and turned right, continuing upstream, but there wasn't much current to guide our way.  When we reached what seemed like an impassable area, we poked around, looking for a way upstream.  I am able to float in very little water in my kayak, but the closer I got to the overgrowth-- last year's dried reeds and cattails-- the more the water smelled stagnant, and the bottom looked full of silt, which isn't much better than mud when it comes to paddling a kayak!  So, I advised my husband, who sits lower in the water in his kayak, to turn around before he got stuck.  I was able to back out of the area, but was disappointed since this meant the end to our upstream paddle, and we had expected to go for at least a few more miles.   While on the water, we were concerned that we somehow missed the channel, but now that I've thought about it, I don't think so.  The West Branch of Fish Creek had water going over the dam where we put in, but I think the low level of the creek upstream is an indication of what is, so far, a dry spring.  We did not get nearly the amount of snow we usually do in Northern NY, and this creek looks like it's feeling the effects.  I did not check the water levels of area waterways before we went on this paddle, but I have now.
There is website with water level info on some rivers, lakes and streams in NY.  It is part of the US Geological Survey site and is called WaterWatch.  This is the link:

We headed slowly back downstream and saw a number of turtles sunning themselves.  They are very creative when there's no log or rock to get out on for a soak in the sun.  We found them "dry docked" on the dead, brittle reeds and cattails, such as the ones in this photo:

We saw more Canada geese in a side channel as we headed back.  They made a racket when we paddled in their general direction.  Who knew 2 geese could honk so loud?  We decided they might have already been tending eggs, so we turned around with the noise of their warning in our ears.

Back at the bridge, our exit from the creek went better than expected.  We were a bit disappointed in the length of the trip, but it was such a beautiful day, we were happy to have had the chance to paddle, no matter that it was only a few hours.

We're looking forward to the coming weekend and hoping the forecast of rain won't be for the entire time.  For now, I'll leave you with a photo that is more typical of our kayaking trips in terms of greenery.  This is the Raquette River:

Monday, April 26, 2010

West Branch of the Fish Creek & Gifford Lake, part one

Our first paddle of the season was on the west branch of Fish Creek and up to Gifford Lake.  Finding the put in was easy.  It's not far off Route 13 outside of Camden on Cemetery Road.  The put in is at a state public fishing area, so there's a parking area.  If you're into fishing, there is a nice set of steps down to the creek where you can sit and fish.  Here is a photo:

Putting in here wouldn't be a good idea since the water is deep and there's not much area to balance your kayak.  Downstream from these steps is a dam, upstream is a bridge.  We scouted out the area on each side of the bridge looking for the best place to put in.  The upstream side of the bridge seemed best, but the banks are a bit steep and there isn't much of a gradual bank to scoot in.  We found a grassy spot and put in one at a time.  It worked out quite well, but we're getting better at tricky situations like these.  The creek cuts through a residential area where you put in, but within a half mile or so, the houses thinned out and soon there weren't any.  The day was beautiful-- sunny with a temperature of about 64.  I like kayaking in shorts and a t-shirt, and it wasn't warm enough for that, but the day was pleasant.  Once away from the houses we heard lots of birds, but I was only able to identify two:  Eastern Phoebe and Red winged Blackbird.  Our first wildlife encounter was with what I think is a green heron.  He/she was pretty skittish, but I managed a few photos:

He thinks he's hiding in the shot above.

He flew away when my kayak floated toward him (but still far away, as you can see.)  You may not be able to see his feet, but they are orange.  From the info I gathered, the orange feet are for breeding season only.

And here he is in the tree he flew to, waiting for us to go away and leave him alone, which we did once I took this photo.

Although this was a "short" paddle, we really enjoyed getting out on the water for the first time.  The peacefulness we feel when on the water washed over us as we paddled along, enjoying the sun and the scenery.  Here is a photo of the creek as we paddled upstream:

And another of the creek a bit further upstream:

As you can see, nothing much has "greened up" in northern NY yet.  There were some lily pads already grown and lying on the surface, but for the most part, other water plants haven't started their new growing season yet.  This creek is probably chock-full of reeds and lillies in the summer.  Part 2 of Fish Creek will be coming soon.  Be sure to check back!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quiet Water Kayaking Season in Northern New York Has Begun!

Hello and welcome to my kayaking blog.  I'm looking forward to sharing with you some of our kayaking adventures and photos as the 2010 season gets underway.  April in northern NY can be fickle, but this weekend we were able to get in our first paddle of the year.  We choose a new location, the West Branch of Fish Creek, near Camden, NY.  Although this short trip begins in a residential area, the creek upstream from the dam soon becomes wild.  We heard lots of birds but many were out of sight like the Eastern Phoebe.  We saw Canada geese, a green heron (I think,) many red winged blackbirds, a couple of small snakes in the water, and.... a red fox!  Unfortunately, he/she only stuck around for a couple of seconds once we rounded a bend in the creek, so no time for a photo, darn it!  It was quite a treat to see the fox out for a stroll along the creek in the middle of the day.  I would say that was the highlight of our first kayaking trip of the season.

I'll be back with photos from our first trip.  But I will also add some other photos as we go, since April is not exactly the best time to photograph waterways in northnern NY state.  We're just beginning to get some tiny light green leaves on our trees here.  That means lots of brown and tan along the creek we visited.