Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oswegatchie River near Star Lake, part one

Hello everyone!  I'm finally getting the chance to blog about one of our favorite kayaking spots!  The Oswegatchie is in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area.  It's popular, but since it's a river with many twists and turns, much of it hedged in by bushes and tall plants, it's pretty secluded feeling.  We kayaked here in 2008 and also just a week or so ago.  Both times were on weekdays in July and I think we saw maybe 10 people the first time and 8 the second.

I'll be using current photos for this blog post.  If I use something from earlier, I'll be sure to identify it that way.  This is the view once we got going on the Oswegatchie.  It's a prettier photo than the one I took of the put-in, so I wanted to start with it.  Gorgeous area, don't you think?

I would say that even though this is a great paddle, it's a bit different than most of our trips.  There is a current on this river and you paddle upstream from the put-in on Sunny Lake Road (dirt) off Route 3, just a bit past Star Lake.  For both trips we've done here we didn't get as far as we would have liked before turning around.  It's a lot of paddling and steering.  But the steering and the twists and turns are what make this such a fun river.  If you're a strong paddler and don't lolly-gag to take photos, give your dog a drink of water, or other such time consuming (but NOT time-wasting) things, then you will make it further up this river, maybe even to High Falls which is about 13 miles from the put-in.

Speaking of the put-in--  It is the best kind for us-- a gradual, sandy entry.  Rocks have been placed strategically so that if the current is on the strong side, you will still be able to enter your kayak or canoe without it floating downstream without you.  There was no danger of that, as the water levels (as are many places in the country this summer) are well below normal on this part of the river.

Here is a photo of the put-in from the water:

There's plenty of parking at the end of Sunny Lake Road, and there is an out-house down a short path from the parking lot.

The first stretch of the Oswegatchie is full of rocks, most below the surface.  In higher water, 2008, there were only a certain few that we had to watch out for.  But this year, the lower water level meant that we had to pay close attention, especially for the first half mile to mile.  There may even be places you will need to pull your boat along.  That happened to my husband since he sits lower in the water than I do.  I choose a different route and was able to paddle through the same area.  Two other kayakers in our party followed me and made it without getting out of their kayaks also. On our previous trip, no one had to get out.

There are many beaver dams on the Oswegatchie, from what we've been told by people who've gone as far as High Falls.  We encountered maybe three in the short piece of river we paddled (about 3 miles I think.) All of them had been breached to some extent or another and we were able to paddle over them.  One was quite a challenge though, with most of the water cascading down one 4 foot wide section which looked like our only chance of paddling through rather than carrying over the dam.  There was plenty of water, but the current tried its best to turn us onto some rocks a few inches beneath the surface of the river.  It took some of us a few tries to get up this section but no one tipped over or needed to get out and pull their kayak through.  If you're trying to picture this in your head, it wasn't anything dangerous.  The water was only about 2 feet deep and the worst that could have happened was a kayak tipping sideways and someone getting a bit wetter than they'd planned.

Brody has decided that he ALWAYS wants to kayak on rivers and creeks--  Especially narrow ones like the Oswegatchie.  He gets so interested in everything he sees and seems to enjoy the twists and turns and the changing scenery as much as we do!

We heard many birds and saw a few, but I couldn't get the camera out fast enough to catch them on this trip.
But, in 2008, I captured photos of a cedar waxwing and a catbird , both of which we also saw on this trip.  So here are those bird photos from 2008:

Here is cardinal flower that is just starting to blossom.  Every once in a while, there'll be a burst of red in the varied greens of the bushes and plants along the river.  Almost every time, it's a cardinal flower.

There are many interesting blow-downs on the river.  Some look to be old enough to have been from the micro-burst which hit this area in 1995.  The good news is that the DEC checks out these paddling/camping areas and will clear a path (albeit one just wide enough for a canoe or kayak) so that you don't have to get out and go around an obstacle.  It's a good thing, too, because there are not many places other than the campsites to actually get out.  Most of the vegetation is right up to the water.  There are a few "inside" curves of the river with a very small sandy bank in low water times, but these are usually covered.

Here is my husband, about to go through the rock-gauntlet.  The water was so low that most of this area was too shallow to paddle through.  He was ahead of me, so when I saw his trouble, I looked for a better route and found one.  He ended up getting out and pulling his kayak about 10-12 feet before getting back in-- not a big deal.

I'm not sure why, but we didn't see any ducks on this trip.  In 2008, around the same time, we saw quite a few.  It may be the time difference-- we got started later in the day this year.  Or, it could be that the ducks "ducked" out of the way when a canoe came downstream, shortly before we headed up the way they'd come.

But, we did see a whole lot of frogs.  They were soaking up the sun and were all very solitary.  Doesn't this guy look like a plastic toy?

I forgot to mention that the day we paddled here was one of the hottest we've had here in northern New York (although we've had some just as hot since-- maybe even a few degrees hotter!)  It was close to 90 degrees that day, and that's saying a lot for this area of the Adirondack Park.  That may be part of the reason why we didn't make it as far upriver as we would have liked.

This became Brody's usual pose for most of the trip.  On lakes he gets tired of the same view-- water, water everywhere.  But on the rivers and creeks, he stands up and swings his head back and forth, hoping to spot a duck or a bird.

We paddled around curves, twists, turns, and bends on our way to High Rock, which is a bit more than 3 miles upstream from the put-in.  When we began to see the marked campsites, I knew we were getting close, but each time we negotiated another bend, we still hadn't reached our goal.  It was past lunch time, and everyone needed a break and some food.  We ended up at campsite number 42 where there was a place to pull out our kayaks and eat.

Although there is a current on this river, there are many spots that are still as well.  This shot is somewhere before the place we ate our lunch, making this paragraph out of order!  But it is a perfect example of the beauty we encountered along the river.

Join me here again in a few days or so for part two of the Oswegatchie River, and I'll fill you in on the rest of our trip!

Happy Kayaking!

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