By Sue Freeman
One of the things I love about kayaking is the opportunity it affords me to escape into nature, away from motorboats, away from throngs of people, and away from man-made noise. By combining camping and kayaking you can extend the escape and submerse yourself in nature. Some wonderful opportunities for these escapes exist in the Finger Lakes region. But first, camping needs to be sub-divided into two distinct experiences. The first is the use of campgrounds where you can set up a tent or use a camper and enjoy the luxury of a shower after a day of paddling. As drawbacks, you won’t escape the noise and throngs of people and there is a cost involved. Primitive camping, on the other hand, is free and offers solitude and quiet, but you have to be willing to forgo showers and flush toilets. You choose.
- Stay at Fairhaven Beach State Park and paddle Sterling Creek. Fairhaven Beach State Park is a spectacular 1,400-acre site with nearly two miles of Lake Ontario shoreline. A stay here can combine shoreline walks, hikes on trails, and paddling on Sterling Pond and Sterling Creek. The creek is easy to paddle both upstream and down so you won’t need to hassle with a shuttle. Be sure to take along binoculars. A swamp called “The Moat” abuts the creek and is teeming with hawks, herons, ducks, geese, turtles and frogs.
- Stay at Hickories Park and circumnavigate Hiawatha Island on the Susquehanna River. Hickories Park is a campground owned by
the Town of Owego that sits on the banks of the Susquehanna River. Launch from the campground and paddle upstream or down on the wide, slow river. Bring along your fishing gear and angle for walleye, bass and tiger muskellunge. Downstream it’s a short paddle to 112-acre Hiawatha Island which is owned by The Waterman Conservation Education Center and offers two miles of hiking trails.
- Camp at Park Station Recreation Center and paddle Park Station Lake. Park Station Recreation Center in Erin offers 6 miles of hiking trails, a RV and tent campground, and a 100-acre man-made lake to paddle or fish.
- Tent camping is allowed at the locks along the Erie Canal. Simply ask permission from the lockmaster. Camp at Lock 30 Canal Park in Macedon and you can paddle through history. Between Macedon & Palmyra you’ll experience 3 versions of the Erie Canal – each from a different time period, see remains of an aqueduct, and even lock-through a canal lock.
- Become an explorer on a 21 mile loop using the Erie Canal and Clyde River and camp along the shore in the Galen Marsh Wildlife Management Area. A true sense of adventure is helpful for this trip.
- Long Pond in Smithville offers 10 primitive campsites at its north end that are free and on a first-come, first-served basis. The mile-long pond is undeveloped and tree-lined, part of the Long Pond State Forest, and is dappled with pond lilies.
Maps and details for each of these camping/paddling adventures and others can be found in the guidebook “Take A Paddle – Finger Lakes New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks.”