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Helpful Links: Tide information - Marine forecast - State launch sites, Suffolk County, N.Y.C. Water Trail
Floatation devices (pfd's) should be worn at all times while kayaking, and if you learn nothing else learn to reenter your kayak after capsizing.
It's never too early to remind all paddlers to "Dress for the water, and not for the air".
Been out paddling only twice this July, once on the Connequot River (launched with friends at the State site adjacent to the golf course in Great River). The second time out was on the Peconic River and we launched across from the Sportman's Club, by the RR tracks, in Wading River. Had a beginner paddling the Peconic with me and it was good exercise, as the water was low in spots necessitating exiting the kayaks and walking a bit while towing the boats in ankle deep water; a very cooling experience. We Lunched 'under' the L.I.R.R. tracks and retraced the trek from that point. On the Connequot River I was accompanied by two beginners and most of the paddling was for the purpose of getting aquainted with the experience; lots of fun. It was a very hot day but the water was very cooling.
During warm spring days don't be tempted to don summer gear when deciding to paddle. The water temperature is still very cold and if you wind up in the water, for whatever reason, you will experience cold shock which can incapacitate and kill. Consider visiting Chuck Sutherland's site for an excellent article on "Cold Shock and Hypothermia". And, as always, Happy Paddling.
I have to admit to being a little disappointed at not having gotten to do much kayaking recently, what with everything happening in the hiking journal. It isn't that I haven't done any kayaking at all it's just that I haven't done any kayaking that warrented a journal entry. I was out recently on the Connequot River though. Launched at the county site by the golf course, in Great River. The occasion was a family outing of sorts. My cousin from Hopewell Junction came visiting and brought along a daughter and a friend. We used 3 sit-on-tops and I was in my Old Town Loon 120. This was the first time since the end of my summer camps that I got around to using my H2Yo sit-on-top. I didn't even consider bringing a camera as all three of my guests were newbies (okay, Brian said he had been on a kayak once before), however, Jaime and her mom, Lu, were sort of all over the river. Not that we didn't all have our measure of fun, but I take safety very seriously so most of my time was using backward paddling muscles. The day we chose was overcast and a little windy so the paddle wasn't an all day affair but a couple hours. I was reminded though of how much I like the H2Yo: she's sleek, and long (more than 11' and has 29.5" athwart its widest), and she moves through the water with nary a ripple. She even comes with a removable strapped down dry hatch that fits over its rear if the space isn't used for a pal or..... The H2Yo is equally competent with waves as on water that's like glass; you could even surf with her, or fish, or..... And this particular H2Yo was the favorite of everyone at summer camp and I couldn't tell how many offers I've had for her. I've friends who think me silly for having kayak loyalty.......they're just not capable of understanding.
A while ago I launched at the mouth of the Nissequogue River in Kings Park and paddled south, which is upriver. A bit confusing but the Nissequogue runs toward north - it's source is in Caleb Smith State Park and the mouth is the L.I. Sound by the Smithtown Boat Ramps. The river is mostly estuary and there can be a considerable difference between normal high and low tides so it's important to consult the tide tables as getting stranded on the river is possible and the river bed has lots of suck mud. There's a sign at the Nissequogue State Park launch ramp that mentions the mud can be like concrete. The sun was high this day and as there's little shade to be found by the river banks I spent less than a couple hours paddling - 'cause I'm very cautious in the sun. Summer isn't my favorite season either, obviously, and I much prefer the cooler Spring and Fall. Not everyone feels as I do though, about the heat, and there were plenty canoeists, and kayakers, and even some people cooling off in the water between the marina and the ramps. I enjoy brief talks with other paddlers and it'd be impossible to not offer a hello to all those sharing this great sport. The Nissequogue can be a great paddling experience - just use care when in the sun for long periods.
On a recent weekend I headed up to Putnam County around Patterson N.Y., not far from the Connecticut border, to join a group canoeing in The Great Swamp. Led by members of F.R.O.G.S. (Friends of the Great Swamp) we enjoyed a leisurely paddle north and were treated to our first sighting in the wild of a mink, Neovison vison. We watched this creature for some minutes as it seemed in no way upset with our presence and we even witnessed it make a frog kill. It seemed to almost pose for us. Liz had exclaimed so excitedly when she saw it I thought we might capsize the boat. Wow! That sort of excitement can truly make paddling so much fun. After that we paddled past fallen tree obstructions and followed the twisting river north but although we saw a Great Blue Heron, some turtles, and were thoroughly amazed by the swamp itself nothing could compare to the mink sighting. And that was just a few minutes past the launch point. F.R.O.G.S. leads these canoe trips each year and I'm happy we had made the trip. We were on the water less time than the two hours travel from Sayville though and were considering hiking when it was suggested by people we spoke with while canoeing that we might try kayaking a little further up route 22. Kayaking? The day just kept getting better. We rode up to "Great Blue Outfitters", had a talk with the proprietor and, after but a moments hesitation, rented a couple kayaks. Chris, from the outfitters, drove us to the launch site and Liz and I could not have asked for a better days adventure. On our paddle downstream, although we didn't encounter any more mink, nor did we see any beaver, we passed many chewed up trees, quite a number of beaver lodges and muskrat. The Great Swamp is home to many bird species and other critters too, and an incredible assortment of flora. As a great sage once said, "I'll be back". First 2 mink photos compliments of Liz.
Easily paddling the Brown's River, in Sayville.
An excellent destination for a short paddling day, or when you've a newbie in tow, is the Brown's river. Although Islip Town seems to be making every effort to dissuade kayak and canoe launching anywhere near the town beaches or launch ramps. Although exceptions can be made to those who purchase a launch permit which allows for launching at town ramps. Of course the ramps are magnets for algae and a safety hazard. We were on the water about 2 hours total and to my surprise were treated to the sight of mamal, fowl and one thoroughly cleaned turtle carapace; more than I've seen on this river in a long while.
First day on the water .
My friend Liz and I chose the Peconic River for our first L.I. river adventure this year. We launched our kayaks, my Old Town 120 and Liz's Poke boat (the Poke Boat is at least 30lbs. lighter - not great if you're looking to build your physique but beneficial nonetheless), at the State launch site on S. River Rd., off Edwards Ave. in Riverhead, and the water level was so high it reached over the step at the launch. Here's a photo of the site. The plan was to paddle up to the L.I.R.R. trestle (This R.R. track is active), secure our boats, have lunch there and then proceed upstream to the Connecticut Ave. launch site. Having lunch with a friend, on the river, seemingly in the middle of another century is a unique experience that I recommend. After lunch Liz decided to ford the area and relaunch on the west side. I just had to give a try to paddling under the trestle though, which was a complete waste of time as the water was swift and I couldn't get close to an attempt at paddling through. It was easy to ford on the north side though and from there we resumed our paddle upstream. We found it necessary to ford again at the path that leads from across the old Grumman site as the water was really high in the culverts and running swift. You couldn't ask for a better day to be on the water paddling as the temperature was high in the 60's and the sky was clear with few clouds. There wasn't much wildlife to see. A turtle and a snake trying to warm their cold blood in the sun is all. I didn't see the snake so I couldn't get a photo, however, Liz saw it and the yell that escaped her lips could be heard over a good part of the river - scared the heck out of me. We didn't see many birds either but we heard them; they were loud, and everywhere. During the trip we passed a couple kayakers heading downstream and were also surprised by a group who were launching at Connecticut Av. I thought it might be an early tour, however, Mike, who owned the boats, said he was just taking some friends out for the day. We spent a brief moment relaxing across the road, facing the Sportsman's Club, then got back in our kayaks and did the entire trip in reverse. All told Liz and I spent a little more than 4 hours on the Peconic today. Here are a couple more photos.
Spring begins my kayaking season and after having missed a great part of 2009 I'm very excited about getting started. Each week I'll write about where I've kayaked along with photos and descriptions to better show the sorts of adventures that can be enjoyed while paddling on Long Island. I hope you'll stop by now and again. And if you send an email to describe your adventures I'll attempt to place the information on this website. I hope we'll see each other while having fun on the waterways of Long Island.
This past Sunday 9 of us got together at Caleb Smith State Park, which is situated in Smithtown off Jericho Turnpike, for one of our river clean-ups. If you've read other journal entries you'll have noticed we help clean both the upper Nissequogue and Connequot Rivers of a considerable amount of debris on a regular basis. On this day the nine of us with five single kayaks, one tandem, and a canoe met at Caleb Smith State Park and caravanned behind an official government truck across Jericho Turnpike to the lake where we assembled (kayaks, gear and all. While we were getting prepared to launch we had the opportunity to talk with some hikers and fishermen who were surprised to see kayakers in the park. And when we explained what was happening a couple were impressed enough to express an interest. The paddle downriver was an absolute pleasure as the sky was clear of clouds and the temperature was in the low 70's. There were no obstructions in the waterway to speak of, and also much less debris than earlier clean-ups (obvious to us all that our efforts were showing results). The scenery was spectacular and beyond description but you can be a witness by viewing here and here. The southernmost part of the river, which is within the park, is truly pristine and while paddling downriver it's easy to lose oneself in the majesty of nature and conjure thoughts of how it may have been many years in the past. At this spillway, which is about the half way point, we tied up and stopped for a snack and a moment to enjoy it all. After a short while we again started off downstream where some Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) were spotted, then Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), and Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon). It wasn't long after that we approached the end of our trip which is at the falls that marks the end of the upper and the beginning of the lower part of this river. We were on the water about 3 ½ hours.
After all the rain, and then wind, of this past week, Saturday was an absolute jewel. My friend, and recent paddling buddy, Liz, and I, shared a ride out east where we met up with a group in Southampton (led by Steve B.). There were about 13 boats and 15 kayakers in all, and we were treated to magnificent scenery like this, and this during the trip. We launched off Bullhead Bay and meandered toward Scallop Pond stopping for a breather, a chat, and some lunch here. During lunch most of us were treated to some unexpected humor when one of the ladies in the group spied a stowaway rodent that might have been a mouse but could have been a vole (family Cricetidae) in the cockpit of her kayak. After the rodent was evicted, and upon finishing lunch, we started our return trip, and within 15 minutes of our destination we were invited by one amongst us, Rudy, to stop off at his home which is conveniently located by the waters edge. Some of us accepted the invitation, and after parking our boats we all enjoyed some light conversation as Rudy graciously supplied a libation and light snack which provided the needed strength to paddle through the white caps and wind that blew up while we were acting like hares, and not tortoises. And as an afterthought I took this shot of the bay from Rudy's pier. Wow! What a reward. I rarely if ever carry a timepiece while on the water so I estimate the entire time spent in kayak amounted to about 3 hours.
Yesterday my hiking and kayaking buddy Liz, myself, and a couple other intrepid souls (Homo sapiens), were on the upper Nissequogue River at one of our regular river clean-ups that Liz organizes. After having stopped briefly at the park office, to obtain access, we launched at about 11 A.M. at Winston Pond (on the south side of Jericho Tpk.), by the waterfall. We had assembled kayaks, gear and enthusiastic participants by the waterfall where the work of gathering discarded glass and plastic, etc. began. It was chilly at first but once on, and at times in, the water it became very comfortable, even warm. Being shielded from the wind by trees and brush helped measurably. The day was bright if not very colorful (much of the flora was budded but not in bloom), and there seemed to be waterfowl everywhere. We witnessed a couple pairs of Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), what must have been a dozen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), at least three Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and an assortment of smaller birds. The water level was somewhat lower than our last clean-up, and there was much debris collected. Heavier than water items, i.e., water filled bottles, cans, etc. seen at river bottom are collected by mechanical extenders, but often we'll leave our boats to gather junk seen on the nearby shore. The river, at its beginning, is narrow like a creek, and at times blocked in a place or two by a fallen tree, as it was this day. However, obstacles are usually passed by easily, and it's truly a pleasure floating leisurely through scenery much like what may have been enjoyed by earlier generations of boaters.
Not an extensive hiatus from an adventure on the water, however, for newbies, and those ill equipped it's still not the right time of year to be kayaking. In fact we're months away from when kayaking, without cold weather gear, would be a consideration to the reasonable. I'm a strong advocate of enjoying the sport safely: being aware of, and prepared for what nature is capable of dishing out. And at times that can be extreme. As far as cold weather goes it isn't only the temperature of the air that should be of concern, but more importantly the temperature of the water. And it never ceases to amaze me when I hear people report they've no intention of falling in the water - yeah right! Perhaps those people should be reminded of the definition of "accident". Anyway, having mentioned the caveats, yesterday (Sunday) was our annual river clean-up on the upper Nissequogue, the entrance to which is obtained through Blydenburg County Park (this portion of the river is off limits to boaters normally). The level of the river was optimal for a fun, and interesting day on the water for our diverse group of stalwart river cleanerupppers. There was a crew working alongside the river busily cutting away shrubbery and such, and, besides collecting debris, at one point we had to move a fallen tree to the side in order to pass. What boggles the mind is the amount of garbage collected in the form of plastic containers, bags, general wind blown debris, and the incredible array of beer containers strewn into and alongside the river by those assumedly unaware, or perhaps uncaring, of the pollution they're causing. About midway along our adventure we stopped for a snack at a convenient place, and shared thoughts of the day. There are myriad ins, and outs to explore along the river (both upper and lower sections), as well as sights such as the lone Great Blue Heron, Sharp Shinned Hawk, and ubiquitous Canada Geese, Mallards, and Swans seen. Time, or our sense of its passing, occurs at breakneck speed when having fun, and although more than four hours went by from start to finish it seemed as no time at all.
Yesterday my kayak buddy Tony and I took advantage of the excellent weather to do some easy paddling on the Connequot River, in Great River. There's a county launch point at the end of Great River Road next to the Timber Point Golf Course entrance with considerable parking available - be sure not to run into deer as they sometimes seem oblivious to human intrusions. I've made comments in the past about this river not being my favorite, and that's probably due to its being so accessible. It's just so easy to get to, easy to get onto, and easy to paddle. There are a couple coves on the west side if your paddling south toward the island that's fun to circle. An adventure perhaps for the beginning paddler or anyone, for that matter, when the wind picks up. This view is looking south from the island, and this looking north. When the tide is in there's a cut that makes paddling past the marina unnecessary. However, it's shallow, and deeper draft kayaks, or those boats containing heavier occupants, may ground out requiring walking the few feet to open water. I often paddle into friends while on the Connequot as it's a popular paddling spot, and today was no exception. It's also easy to make new friends as most everyone on the river is in a friendly say hello kind of place. For exploring there are entrances to canals on the east side of the river. Although I've not yet explored it I'm told one entrance is by the old La Salle Academy (now St. John's U.), and another couple a little further north also on the east side of the river. If you continue paddling north you'll pass Dowling College on the right, and Bayard Cutting Arboretum on the left, and eventually find yourself at a fork in the river (actually just a meandering circle). When the tide is right you can gain access to the trout pond on the other side of the L.I.R.R. tracks too. It's just a destination though and not a place for spending time at as if there are anglers present you'd be an unwelcome intruder.
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