Monday, October 11, 2010

Crooked Creek, part one

Hello and welcome to fall in northern NY!  We had our first FREEZE on Saturday night, October 9th.  No, I was not thrilled... I admit to being one of those long time northern New Yorkers who manages to complain all winter about the cold.... I should be used to it after living here over 31 years...

Anyway, with frost on the ground and winter around the corner, flat water kayaking will be coming to an end very soon.  In fact, it could be over for us, but we're hoping to get one more paddle in next weekend.  Wish us luck!

Here is a photo of Crooked Creek from the put-in on Route 1:

Crooked Creek is in the northwestern part of New York and it empties into the St. Lawrence River at Chippewa Bay which is north of Alexandria Bay.  Wind for the entire weekend did not look good.  But, with only a few more chances to kayak, we decided to go anyway.  This makes the third paddle we've taken this season despite the wind.  I still don't recommend it, but compared to the other two times we paddled in wind, this one wasn't as bad.  Probably the main reason is that we purposely chose a creek rather than the openness of a lake.

As you can see, the put-in is not what we'd consider ideal.  But, it wasn't horrible, just not "easy."  The bank slopes down to the water and there are cattails and reeds once you leave firm ground, but there was an opening large enough for a kayak.  The bank slopes away past the reeds, so there is not a lot of shallow area. By balancing, we were able to get in with no problems.   This is a type of entry that we are getting better at, thankfully.  Also, it looked as if you could put in under the bridge, but carrying your canoe or kayak to the spot would be a bit difficult on the steep edges of the bank (though not impossible.)  Under the bridge though, there is not enough head room to stand up.  I'm 5'3" and had to bend over almost in half to walk under it.  So, I wouldn't recommend it, though we could tell that others had entered from here.

Here is another view of the creek at the put-in.  There are two other places to get on Crooked Creek, both are further downstream.  One is where Route 12 crosses, the other is at Schermerhorn Landing, even closer to the St. Lawrence River.  We chose to start at the Route 1 access, then paddle upstream for a while before going downstream past Route 1 and on toward Route 12.

And one more of the same area, these shots are all looking downstream from the Route 1 bridge.

As you can see, it was a beautiful day.  There was a breeze and there were gusts of wind, but the sun was out.  The temperature here was about 50 degrees when we got on the water, and after 3 hours, had warmed up to about 57.  We used our gloves and I put cotton in my ears since I'm bothered by the wind.  We began paddling upstream, not only against the current but also against the wind.  I forgot to mention that although the bridge is quite low for walking under, it was fine for paddling under!

Sorry about the tip of my kayak in the photo!  Sometimes my eyes are so focused on something in the distance I don't even realize there's an unwanted object in my frame!  The creek was rippled due to the wind and naturally, the more open the area, the more we noticed the wind and its effect on the water and our paddling.  We scared up a number of ducks-- at least 3 separate bunches/flocks.  Unfortunately, they were so timid that we were a long way from them when they took flight.  So, I have no photos of them, nor do I have any clue what kind they were.

If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you may remember my mention of the spotted sandpiper and how I had no idea that there were fresh water sandpipers.  Well, the spotted sandpiper (along with the wind!) has become one of the themes for this season's kayaking adventures.  We spotted (pun intended) one of these cuties on the short upstream part of our paddle. They are solitary birds and do not gather in flocks.  This is a zoomed in photo of him.  The bright sun combined with the waves on the water make this photo difficult to look at.  But it's the best shot I have of the sandpiper.

CORRECTION:  Thank you to one of my blog followers who happens to know a lot more about birds than I do!  She was (rightly) suspicious of my identification since sandpipers don't typically spend time swimming around in the water.  They are shore birds.  I knew this, but did not even consider it at the time-- which proves I have A LOT of improving to do in the area of bird identification!  This bird, based on its behavior (paddling around in Crooked Creek as we were doing!), photos I've now used to compare (thanks again to my blog follower/birder,) and with the help of said birder, is a Red-necked Phalarope! Apparently they are a rare bird to see in "our" area-- northern NY!  My birder friend tells me these birds breed in Arctic and subarctic tundra and winter chiefly at sea in the Southern Hemispere!  How cool is that??  I actually got a photo of this rare (for NNY) bird.  Believe me, there have been many times when we've seen something awesome and couldn't get the camera out in time.  Maybe because I thought it was a "mere" spotted sandpiper, that made the difference? Thanks once again to one of my blog followers for the correction and correct identification of this bird.  I appreciate it.

Here is a photo of the shore line and the trees in the distance, beyond the marsh.  Trees in this area are turning, but are not at peak yet.  They are past peak near me, thanks to all the rain and wind we received over the last couple of weeks.  Our leaves are on the ground!

The maple trees in this area seem to be at peak color near the St. Lawrence.  Here is a beautifully colored tree along the creek:

And a close-up of its leaves:

Crooked Creek is aptly named.  If you check it out on a map, you will see its many twists and turns through a marsh on its way to the St. Lawrence.  The creek's middle channel was full of water and looked fairly deep, but it was impossible to see the bottom with the wind/waves.  We DID see the bottom on the inside turns of the creek-- but not until we were already in a spot that was too shallow.  A word of warning:  if you paddle here and try to cut off some of the twists to save paddling time, you may be sorry!  Without calm water to help me see the depth, I ended up in muck twice.  Not stuck, but almost--and if you're an explorer-type of kayaker, you'll know what I mean when I say that stirring up the muck is very unpleasant to the nose!

In the photo below, you can see one such shallow area.  It's also clear that the wind is blowing strongly since many lily pads are sticking up.   Yes, I know what you're thinking-- lily pads are a very good indicator of water depth.  I agree!  But we've paddled many places where the lily pads have grown up from a bottom of say, 6 to 8 inches, rather than the 3 inches I found myself in twice!

This creek must be loaded with fish because we saw some great fisherman on the water-- we believe there were at least 3 different great blue heron eating their lunch at different points of our paddle.  They were just as skittish as the ducks.  Based on size and coloring, we're fairly certain we saw 3.  But, it's possible that it was only 2.  Bright sunlight really does wreak havoc on identification-- the white on these herons was blinding when at just the right angle.

Here we are taking a much needed rest as we turn and head back downstream.  We will go past the put-in and continue further downstream.  We "hooked up" so that we could float together for a bit down the creek.  Due to the wind and the current, this required a lot of steering, so our hooking up and our rest didn't last long.

The wind was at our backs, but not directly, so we had to correct even as we paddled downstream.  We have found that in most cases, the wind has a much bigger effect on our kayaks than the current.  I'm sure if we were in an extremely strong/dangerous current, that would not be the case, but we do not paddle in those types of situations.  The wind is an annoying part of flat water paddling, but it is welcome in the spring (black flies!) and also on a very hot and humid day.  For the fall, usually we have many calm days.  That has not been the case lately.  I wonder if anyone else in northern New York agrees that it's been a "windier" than usual season?  At any rate, we knew we'd be dealing with the wind and chose to paddle in spite of it.  We're glad we did.

Meet me back here for part two of this paddle in a few days.  And please feel free to use the "reactions" to send me feedback if you don't feel like making a comment.   Thanks, and happy kayaking!


  1. Loved the photo of the maple tree! Autumn is truly beautiful.

  2. sounds like fun, we were too scared to try a cool kayaking trip when we went camping. we're not the best at getting in and out of kayaks!