Posted on March 12th, 2013 2 comments Add a comment >>
After State Supreme Court Justice Richard Aulisi handed down his decision on navigation rights a few weeks ago, several media outlets wrote about the case.
As the defendant in the lawsuit, I tracked the news coverage closely. Given the public interest in the case, I thought I’d share the articles that I found.
The news about Aulisi’s decision was first reported by the Associated Press and the Adirondack Almanack (which is owned by the Explorer). The AP must have put the story on its national wire, since the first link is to a version that appeared on the Washington Post website.
Two daily newspapers that cover the Adirondack Park, the Glens Falls Post-Star and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, published their own versions of the story.
The Daily Gazette, based in Schenectady, also produced a local version of the story. Incidentally, the Gazette’s writer was the only newspaper reporter who attended the oral arguments back in November.
Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio interviewed me and aired a story a few days after the ruling. He included parts of a story on the issue of navigation rights that ran earlier on NCPR.
The Albany Times Union wrote an editorial praising the decision.
The New York League of Conservation Voters also praised the decision.
Will Doolittle, a columnist for the Glens Falls Post-Star, wrote a piece criticizing environmental activists who cheered the ruling, accusing them of hypocrisy.
Peter Bauer, the executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, wrote a long piece responding to Doolittle’s column, accusing him of getting his facts wrong.
Canoe & Kayak Magazine had written about the case before and followed up with an article on its website.
Outside Magazine published a short item on its website, with links to longer stories.
If you’d like to read the decision yourself, click the link below (PDF file).
Posted on November 4th, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is holding its annual online auction through December 3 to raise money for maintaining the 740-mile paddling route.
You can bid on 477 items donated by sponsors, including outdoor gear and clothing, paddling lessons, GPS equipment, and a guidebook to the canoe trail. The Adirondack Explorer donated six year-round subscriptions and six copies of Wild Times, our anthology of paddling and hiking trips.
Click here to view all the items for sale.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail starts in Old Forge and ends in northern Maine. The Adirondack leg includes the Fulton Chain of Lakes, a stretch of the Raquette River, and the entire length of the Saranac River.
Posted on October 21st, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>Our latest story about Shingle Shanty Brook has attracted some attention in the blogosphere and elsewhere. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has determined that the disputed stretch through private land is open to the public under the common law right of navigation.
Click here to read the online version. The print version in our November/October issue will have a few more details.
There’s a chance the dispute will wind up in court. If DEC prevails, it could be a big win for paddlers. Presumably, a ruling in DEC’s favor would affirm that waterways suitable for recreational paddling are subject to the common law.So what waterways besides Shingle Shanty might be affected by such a ruling? One candidate is the Beaver River. I paddled that river this spring and wrote about the trip for the Explorer. Click here to read the story.
The Beaver passes through a large private estate en route from Lake Lila to Stillwater Reservoir. A major question is whether this stretch has enough water to be considered navigable.
“The river is full of rocks,” one of the landowners told me. “It’s navigable only for a short time during the spring. The rest of the time it’s very treacherous.”
When I did it in May, I carried only twice, once around a collapsed bridge and once around some rapids. I also got hung up on rocks several times and had to step out of my canoe.
While researching the story, I talked to two others who have paddled the Beaver in spring, and they said they had to get out of their boats only once or not at all.
Today I talked with Brian Delaney, the owner of High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid, who paddled the river last week with his wife, Karen.
“It was a wilderness experience, absolutely unbelievable,” Delaney said. “We didn’t see anyone.”
The water was higher than usual. Delaney said they carried only once, around a log jam. “We just skirted the shoreline,” he said. “Our feet were still in the water.”
He also said they scraped bottom a few times. Even so, he thinks the river could be paddled in lower water. “You could stay on the water and pull your boat over the rocks, but that’s normal paddling for the Adirondacks,” he said.
In short, the experience of several paddlers suggests that the Beaver is navigable. However, questions remain: How much of the year is it navigable? How often do paddlers have to portage? These would need to be answered if the landowners went to court to contest the right of the public to travel on the Beaver—regardless of the outcome of the Shingle Shanty case.
Posted on August 10th, 2010 17 comments Add a comment >>
No charges will be pursued against three kayakers who paddled through Ausable Chasm in June, the Explorer has learned.
The Ausable Chasm Company complained that the three trespassed on the company’s land on the first weekend that the river was declared open (against the company’s wishes) to whitewater paddlers.
Based on the company’s complaints, state troopers filed “a request for a criminal summons” in the Chesterfield Town Court, according to State Police Captain Brent Gillam. However, Gillam said it was up to the town judge to decide whether to press charges.
Today, Gillam said troopers ended up making no arrests and considered the case closed.
A spokesman for the town court confirmed that no charges were filed.
“It’s not something I would be interested in pursuing, based on the federal court cases,” Gillam said. He added, however, that the judge made the decision to dismiss the case.
Paddlers waged a long legal battle to win the right to kayak through the chasm. This includes the right to portage around rapids and other obstacles and to scout the river.
Read my earlier post for more background about the controversy that erupted on the first weekend of paddling.
Posted on July 20th, 2010 Add a comment >>
You’re invited to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail this weekend. Although the party will take place in Rangley, Maine, you can take part in the celebration right here in the Adirondacks.
The NFCT is asking canoeists and kayakers to paddle any portion of the water trail on Saturday, July 24, and report their mileage (and upload photos, if possible) by 5 p.m.
The 740-mile trail begins in Old Forge and ends in Fort Kent, Maine. The Adirondack leg includes the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Raquette Lake and part of the Raquette River, the Saranac Lakes, and the Saranac River. Click here for an overview of the route.
Click here for more information on and to register for Paddle 740 Miles in One Day.
Click here to read a feature story about the NFCT in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Posted on June 22nd, 2010 44 comments Add a comment >>
Whitewater enthusiasts now have the right to paddle through Ausable Chasm, but they better be sure to obey the letter of the law.
Ausable Chasm Co. called the state police on Friday—the first day the run was open—to complain that kayakers were trespassing.
State Police Captain Brent Gillam said troopers filed criminal summonses against three paddlers, but the decision on whether to bring charges is in the hands of the town court.
One of the paddlers said on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board that he and two companions had entered private land after encountering a rope on the river.
“We were used to ropes meaning some type of warning down river,” the kayaker said. “We ventured onto private land. We asked the first staff member we saw, and went back. We were stopped by a cop when we were back in the water. After discussion and some waiting we were given violations.”
American Whitewater (AW) is trying to find an attorney to fight the tickets.
AW and Ausable Chasm Co., which runs a tourist facility at the gorge, offer different interpretations of the paddlers’ actions.
Kevin Colburn, AW’s national stewardship director, said they were confused by the rope and walked up an access road to scout the river.
But Tim Bresett, Ausable Chasm’s general manager, contends the paddlers were taking a short cut across the company’s land. “They were a half-mile from the river,” he said. “They were not scouting.”
Bresett said another paddler was ticketed Saturday for stepping out of his kayak to take photos, but Captain Gillam again said troopers only filed a criminal summons with the local court. Gillam said officers cannot charge somone on the spot with a violation (a low-level crime) unless they witnessed the incident.
Colburn suggested that the company is trying to intimidate paddlers from using the river. He said employees were yelling at kayakers who paddled down the river Friday and over the weekend.
“They don’t like the public floating through their river,” he said.
Bresett, however, said the company acknowledges that the public has the right to paddle through the chasm and scout rapids. “It’s not our position to play hardball with these guys,” he said, “but you got to play by the rules.”
After years of negotiation with New York State Electric and Gas, Ausable Chasm, and American Whitewater, the federal government ordered this stretch of river open to the public. Paddlers put in near the power plant at Rainbow Falls, negotiate heavy whitewater (up to Class 5), continue through milder rapids and flatwater, and take out at a bridge on Route 9.
Bresett said many of the kayakers who ventured down the chasm on Friday and over the weekend were “unskilled and unprepared.”
“I guarantee somebody will die on the river this year,” Bresett said.
Under the federal agreement, the river will be open each year from Memorial Day weekend until October 31.
Posted on May 12th, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
In the March/April issue of the Explorer, Mal Provost wrote about a long whitewater trip on the Middle Branch of the Moose River. Not being much of a whitewater paddler, I opted for a long flatwater trip on the same river earlier this week.
From Thendara, outside Old Forge, you can paddle down the Middle Moose for more than six miles. The catch is that you have to paddle back upriver. Although the current is slow, even a slow current can be tiring at the end of the day. You’ll need to judge for yourself how far you should venture before turning around.
The put-in is on Green Bridge Road in Thendara. At the start, the river winds through a marsh where you’re likely to see ducks and turtles. The right shoreline has seen a lot of development, but you’ll leave the buildings behind in less than a half-mile.
In just over a mile, you come to an old wooden dam. Take out on the left and follow a short path to the next put-in. Below the dam, the Moose has a much wilder feel as it meanders through a dark forest. As you continue downriver, the forest starts to open up and eventually gives way in places to alder swamps and marshes with big-sky views. On my trip, I enjoyed a close-up look at an American bittern hiding in the grasses.
You’ll reach a rapid about five and a half miles below the dam. Unless you’re a whitewater boater, this is the farthest you’ll want to go. Most people probably will want to turn around earlier.
If you’re interested in a shorter trip on the Middle Moose, see my earlier post on paddling to Nelson Lake.
Note: It is possible to paddle the longer stretch of the Moose and return by train. For information on this trip, call Tickner’s, an outfitter in Old Forge, at 315-369-6286.
Directions: From Route 28 just east of the railroad overpass in Thendara, drive south on Beech Street (which turns into Green Bridge Road). After crossing the Moose, park in the lot on the right. To put in, walk back over the bridge. The put-in will be on the right.
Posted on May 11th, 2010 12 comments Add a comment >>
The Middle Branch of the Moose River is not the wildest river in the Park, but try telling that to the American bittern, the osprey, the various ducks, and the kingfishers I saw when I explored the Middle Moose on Monday.
Starting in Old Forge, the Middle Branch more or less parallels Route 28 and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for its entire length. On my two trips on the river this week, I rarely felt I was out of earshot of traffic, but this did little to diminish my enjoyment of this beautiful stream.
For a quick trip into the wild, I recommend putting in west of Old Forge and paddling a few miles to Nelson Lake in the Black River Wild Forest.
The parking lot, marked by a DEC sign, is on the east side of Route 28 a few miles north of McKeever (or several miles south of Thendara). There is a 0.35-mile carry along an excellent dirt road to the river (bear left at the first fork, then take a right immediately after crossing the railroad tracks). The put-in is just below some rapids, across from a grassy island.
Paddle 0.6 miles downriver and look for the Nelson Lake outlet on the left, just past a marsh. Along the way, you’ll see one house on the right, up near the tracks, and several rowboats on the bank. Otherwise, it’s as wild as can be.
Nelson Lake lies entirely within the Forest Preserve. You can easily make a circuit of the lake. At the far end is a flat outcrop of bedrock with a sandy landing nearby—a good place for a picnic. Or eat at the old picnic table (one bench missing) on the northwest shore. A herd path leads to an old logging road that is now used for hiking and snowmobiling.
The stretch of the Middle Moose leading to Nelson Lake has little current, so paddling back to the put-in should not be difficult. The round trip, including a circuit of the lake, is about 3.5 miles.
Posted on May 2nd, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Last week’s snowstorm notwithstanding, this is paddling season. In fact, the additional snowmelt from the storm will improve paddling on Adirondack rivers.
This is a good time of year to explore the West Branch of the Ausable River on the outskirts of Lake Placid—a river that attracts schools of trout fishermen but is often overlooked by paddlers.
From a put-in at a steel bridge off River Road, you can do a 5.4-mile flatwater cruise to Monument Falls off Route 86. You’ll need to spot a second car or bicycle at the takeout. There is one carry around rapids. You can avoid it by ending your trip at the Route 86 bridge instead of continuing to the falls.
Although the river is never far from roads, the wildlife don’t seem to mind. You’ll see lots of ducks and other birds. The river also offers impressive views of the High Peaks, the Sentinel Range, and Whiteface Mountain.
The winding river is usually canoeable throughout summer, but it’s best paddled in spring when water levels are higher. Be prepared to navigate a few riffles.
From the put-in, it’s 3.5 miles to the Route 86 bridge. About 0.75 miles beyond, you’ll come to a flume at the head of some Class II rapids. Take out on the right to follow a rough path for 0.25 miles to a put-in below the rapids. If you’re comfortable in whitewater, you can shoot the rapids below the flume.
Less than a mile from the rapids, you’ll come around a bend and find a spectacular view looking downriver at Whiteface Mountain. After rounding the next bend, you’ll hear Monument Falls. Take out on the right just above the cascade.
DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of Route 73 and River Road, near the Olympic ski jumps, driver 1.1 miles down River Road to a pulloff on the left near the Intervale Way bridge. This is the put-in. To reach Monument Falls, continue 3.1 miles down River Road to Route 86, turn right and go another mile to a pulloff on the left, where there are two stone monuments commemorating the Forest Preserve.
Posted on December 29th, 2009 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Those of you who have been following the saga of Shingle Shanty Brook may be interested in an article that appears in the latest newsletter of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter, written by Charles Morrison, the former director of natural resources at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Morrison and two other Sierra Club members have asked DEC to force a private landowner to remove a cable strung across the brook to keep out paddlers. The club contends the public has a right to paddle the waterway. DEC says it is looking into the matter.
In the article, Morrison describes Shingle Shanty Brook as “a critical link” in the canoe trip from Little Tupper Lake and Lake Lila. The blockage of the waterway, he says, “forces paddlers to make a one-mile carry over a very rough trail in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.”
You can read the entire newsletter (which goes to about 35,000 members) by clicking here. The article in question appears on Page 8.
You can read the account of my paddle along the disputed waterway here.