Posted on March 12th, 2013 1 comment - 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 22nd, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company has been indicted on five misdemeanor charges accusing him of endangering clients on whitewater trips.
The defendant, Patrick Cunningham, pleaded not guilty to the charges last week in Hamilton County Court, according to the office of District Attorney James Curry.
Cunningham is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment in the second degree and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The charges stem from incidents on August 10 and August 12.
The first count of reckless endangerment alleges that on August 10 Cunningham sent clients down the Indian and Hudson rivers in overloaded rafts and at a time when the water was too low for safe travel. The customers included “children and counselors from Camp Morasha.”
The three counts of endangering the welfare of a child name three girls who took the trip that day. In each case, the indictment alleges that the girl had to paddle the raft while “physically exhausted and after the defendant had failed to provide sufficient food or drink.”
The second count of reckless endangerment alleges that on August 12 Cunningham persuaded Robert and Savannah Carson to undertake the trip in an inflatable kayak even though they had no kayaking or whitewater experience. The indictment says they received no instructions on the safe use of the kayaks or the dangers of whitewater.
As we reported in September, Cunningham and one of his guides, Heath Bromley, were initially charged last summer before the case went to the grand jury. Charges against Bromley have since been dropped.
In that article, Cunningham insisted he had broken no laws. Cunningham has been running Hudson River Rafting for more than three decades.
Posted on November 18th, 2010 35 comments Add a comment >>
A few days ago, the Brandreth Park Association filed a lawsuit against me, alleging that I trespassed when I canoed through private land last year on my way to Lake Lila.
As part of the suit, the association is asking the New York State Supreme Court to declare that the waterways in question—Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet, and Shingle Shanty Brook—are not open to the public.
I did my two-day trip last May, starting at Little Tupper Lake and ending at Lake Lila, and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read that story.
I believe the common-law right of navigation allows the public to paddle the three waterways even though they flow through private land. The state Department of Environmental Conservation—as well as several legal experts I consulted—support my position. In September, DEC wrote to the association’s attorney, Dennis Phillips, and asserted that the waterways are open under the common law. The department also asked the association to remove cables and no-trespassing signs meant to keep the public out. Click here to read about DEC’s decision.
But the landowners are not backing down. They served me with the complaint in the lawsuit at the Explorer office on Tuesday.
The legal papers do not mention DEC’s decision. We have reported previously that the department and the association disagree over whether a waterway must have a history of commercial use to be subject to the right of navigation. The association contends that Shingle Shanty and the other two waterways have no such history, so they are not open to the public.
The department maintains that if a waterway has the capacity for trade or travel, and if it meets other necessary criteria (such as legal access), then it is open to the public. Furthermore, DEC says recreational use can demonstrate this capacity.
If the Mud Pond-to-Shingle Shanty route is open to the public, paddlers traveling from Little Tupper to Lake Lila will be able to avoid a 0.75-mile portage. That certainly would be a boon. But the larger question is whether the public has the right to paddle waterways that connect parcels of public land, public lakes, or other legal access points. After all, how many rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state pass through private land at times? I’m guessing a lot.
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 May 26th, 2010 6 comments Add a comment >>
I went missing for five days recently. I was out canoeing on various waterways in the western Adirondacks. One day I took two trips on the West Branch of the Oswegatchie. On the second of those trips, I paddled through several ponds owned, largely or entirely, by the Oswegatchie Educational Center, a nonprofit institution in the middle of the woods run by the Future Farmers of America.
This was on Day 4 of my mini-vacation. By then I was pretty much sated with scenery. I was thinking to myself that I really needed to see something spectacular to rouse me from my aesthetic torpor. And I did.
After exiting Mud Pond near Long Pond Road, I portaged around a small waterfall and paddled less than a mile downstream to the head of another falls. I pulled over and walked to the middle of a footbridge across the river. I was stunned by the view: the river was washing over pink-gray slabs of gneiss, dropping into a dark pool, and then winding away through a lush-green marsh. It was one of the most enchanting scenes I have come across. The photo above doesn’t do it justice: I’m a lousy photographer, and the light wasn’t right. But I hope it serves as a reminder of the unexpected beauty that can turn up on any day in the Adirondacks.
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.