by ELIZABETH LEE, Press-Republican, link to original post with PHOTOS
This time of year, North Country rivers are irresistible for paddlers.
The full spring flow makes steady currents over the shallow stretches that disappoint us later when water levels drop.
Recently I paddled a section of the Schroon River and found it perfect for a short trip on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I had seen a glimpse of one section from the North Hudson Trail System a few weeks ago and on the advice of North Hudson Town Supervisor Ron Moore, I made a point of seeing the rest from a boat.
The Schroon begins in Underwood from many small brooks and drainages that flow toward Interstate 87 from the west. As the brooks come east of the highway, these small brooks are joined by waterways in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest to form the Schroon River.
After an easy put-in at the corner of Frontier Town’s abandoned parking lot in North Hudson, we immediately took advantage of the current. We heard the traffic above us on the highway but quickly lost any sense of highways or high speeds. The river carves a long series of modest turns in the sandy ground, in some places shaded by steep shorelines with 75-foot hemlocks and in others insulated by 12-foot riverbanks of sand topped by 12 inches of carpet-like duff and pine needles. Along the banks there are occasional strainers left by last year’s floodwaters, including some full-length trees.
The paddling is mostly very gentle. We heard jays and belted kingfishers and saw signs of ducks and geese. We saw turtle tracks on a sandy island but few insects or fish. The river bottom is covered in many sections with a deep layer of silt where banks have collapsed. That may be inhibiting the creatures that need gravel bottom, but the timing of everything is irregular this year so they may appear later. There are plenty of cool, shady sections that are no doubt sheltering some of the brown trout stocked by the Department of Environmental Conservation in April.
In two or three places where the river gently drops there are swifts that nudge the level of difficulty up to a possible class 1.5, although they could be more challenging if the water is higher. There is a noticeable drop at an old fish weir. It was apparently reconstructed in 1989 but is rapidly being returned to nature. Troubling spikes left from the weir could rip through unsuspecting small crafts — the best course is through the center of one of the three wide passages. The river isn’t difficult above the weir and the sound of the drop should give paddlers plenty of notice.
The rest of the paddle is an easy, pleasant hour of floating. The take-out is just above Schroon Falls, about 4 miles by road from the put-in, where Route 9 crosses the river. Again, the sound of the Falls should tell you when to look left for the protected, shallow take-out.
We are lucky to have the alphabet of nearby rivers that flow around us — Ausable, Black, Boquet, Boreas, Chubb, Great Chazy, Hudson, LaChute, Salmon, Saranac and Schroon.
For families, beginners, solo paddlers or those seeking quiet water, the upper section of the Schroon is perfect. Plan on a leisurely few hours and bring a picnic.