Monday, May 3, 2010

Francis Lake, part one

Wow, we sure had a warm weekend!  I am NOT complaining.  It was great.  We were able to kayak on Saturday.  Although we got very little rain, the forecast sounded like the afternoon might be "iffy" so we planned a late morning paddle on Francis Lake.

We paddle Francis Lake at least once each season.  It's an interesting  lake and since there are only a few homes/camps on the lake, it's usually pretty quiet.  There are a couple of set backs, making exploring lots of fun.  There was a breeze most of the day which worried us when we first arrived since it felt like the rain might be coming early.  The lake didn't look too rough, and it was warm, so no worries.  The rain never did came until evening.  I have to warn any northern New York paddlers:  THE BLACK FLIES HAVE ARRIVED!!  We were very thankful for the breeze when near the shoreline.  Black flies are a part of life in northern New York (and elsewhere) in the spring.  Sometimes they're thick enough that you feel as if you can't breathe without one entering your mouth or nose.  Luckily, this was not the case today.  They are out, but we didn't have any clouds swarming us.  They also didn't do too much biting, but that may be due to the breeze more than anything.

The resident pair of common loons made an appearance about 45 minutes into our paddle.  We were happy to see them.  We have no way of knowing if it's the same pair from year to year, but we like to think so.  They sat very low in the water and spent more time diving than floating or paddling, so it was obviously "lunch time" for them while we were on the lake.  They are skilled at swimming underwater and have a very good idea of the direction our kayaks are headed.  Their instincts keep them safe--  Often we loose sight of them and look back to see them many yards behind us!  They are fascinating birds who can stay underwater for, I believe, up to 4 minutes.  Here is a photo, though all that's out of the water are their heads and necks:

I'm getting ahead of myself.  I planned to start with a photo of the lake, and then go back to the beginning of our day on the water and show you the put in.  It's a sandy area but also has a dock.  Only one section was in the water, the other one up on the bank.  We are guessing that the DEC pulled it out for winter and just hasn't placed it back yet.  I use the dock since it's very low and the water is fairly shallow, but my husband just scoots in from the sandy bank.  He uses the dock a bit for support.  It's not as convenient as a gradual sandy entry, but it's not bad.  Here is a photo of the partial dock:

We had such a great time on this paddle that I don't know where to start.  I think we were both surprised by the birds we saw because we often see only our loons, and once in a while, a great blue heron.  We definitely HEAR birds, we just usually don't see them much.  Our paddle this time was different.  I'll get to the birds in a minute, but first, I want to mention that turtles were everywhere sunning themselves. I am not sure if these are "painted turtles" or some other type, but they are common in NY.  I will have to make another attempt at identifying them.  We found it interesting that all of those we saw on Francis Lake were sunning themselves with their back legs out (for balance, we're guessing) and their front legs drawn in.  Here is a photo so that you can see what I mean.  Maybe someone with more knowledge of turtles will let me know why they might be doing this.

Here are a couple of photos of the set back we spent quite awhile exploring:

My husband is great at spotting things before me and was quick to point out a bird in the marshy area along the shore that I hadn't noticed.  I yanked the camera out of the dry bag and turned it on, hoping it wouldn't fly away before I snapped it's photo.  Neither of us had seen this type of bird in New York.  I was stunned to learn just how little I know about wading birds in New York state.  Did you know that we have sandpipers?  Yes-- those small (or very small) wading birds that you see on our ocean shores and estuaries.  I had no idea there were sandpipers in our neck of the woods!  I used my field guide to identify him.  This little guy is, I believe, called a Spotted Sandpiper.  Here is his photo:

We also saw a lone Mallard drake in this area.  We're not sure if the female was on a nest, or if the male was just passing through, but he was very pretty with his beautiful green head and bright white feathers.  I took some photos, but he was too far away and flew when we inched closer.

There is an esker on this lake and we decided to get out here to stretch our legs and have a snack.  An esker is a pile of gravel, etc. left behind when a glacier retreats.  So, it's a raised area, like a finger sticking out into lake.  Here are a few shots taken from the esker, looking back at the marshy set back we had just explored.

The esker is a great spot to view a couple sections of the lake with its vantage point about 8 to 10 feet above the water.  We took a walk along the trail on the esker's spine, our footsteps muffled by the thick covering of pine needles.  The spot is peaceful and perfect for a picnic lunch... as long as it's not black fly season and there is no breeze.  As soon as the breeze died down, we headed for our kayaks.

Look for part two of our Francis Lake trip soon!


  1. This lake is my favorite fishing spot in the ADKs, Perch and Pickerel. So quiet on most days that I can hear my brothers fish splashing in the water as he catches it in the far bay. Most people drive right by this lake heading to Stillwater Reservoir and that is what keeps this body of water clean and quiet.

  2. I agree with you about the quiet on this lake. We really enjoy it. It's fine with me if most people just keep right on driving by to get to Stillwater-- more peace and quiet for us, right? We just kayaked there over Memorial Day weekend for about 3 hours. I will be blogging soon about our experience there. Be sure to check out my upcoming posts about Francis Lake-- we had an amazing sighting. I'll have photos!
    Thanks for your comments, and happy fishing!