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:

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