Paddling Harris Lake and the Hudson River
Since many years ago when I spent a day poking around the ghost town of Tahawus near Newcomb, I've felt the desire to go back to Newcomb to paddle, but have never done so. Finally, on a spur of the moment, early one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to strap the kayaks on the car and take off for a day of Adirondack paddling. It was a spectacular clear and hot day, perfect for paddling in the Adirondacks. Did I mention it was dead calm as well? Even more perfect!
A beautiful 53 mile drive from our house near Lake Placid landed us in the center of Newcomb, in the very heart of the Adirondacks. As the crow flies, it's only 21 miles, but one has to circumnavigate the High Peaks region to get there from Lake Placid. I was pleasantly surprised at the hustle and bustle of this tiny little hamlet! Newcomb is one of the oldest communities in the Park, having been established in 1828 as a logging center. Logging has been a large part of Newcomb's history and many of the French Canadian loggers who came to work for the logging companies have remained to this day. Teddy Roosevelt spent time as a youngster vacationing in the Adirondacks. It was on one such trip as president, that an Adirondack guide by the name of Harrison Hall had the daunting task of climbing Mt. Marcy to find Vice President Roosevelt and inform him that President McKinley was dying. It was on the train from Tahawus (near Newcomb) to North Creek that Roosevelt was sworn in as president after McKinley had died. On Route 28N a historic memorial plaque marks the site. As a matter of fact, Newcomb celebrates the former president at Teddy Roosevelt Weekend from Sept. 9 - 11 this year. Lots of fun events are on the schedule. There's a great deal more to the history of Newcomb and vicinity, but this blog is about paddling!
Arriving at the boat launch for Harris Lake on Beach Road (just off Rt. 28N), we found a very well-maintained launch site. Driving right up to the water's edge makes launching most any kind of boat a breeze on the paved boat ramp with dock. There was ample parking on the Saturday we were there - not another car was parked in the launch area! Beach Road continues on to a point of land where Newcomb's white sand public beach is located.
Paddling out of the large cove in which the launch is located, Harris Lake opens up in both directions The views are beautiful and the water is fairly clear. Many waters in the Adirondacks are tea-colored due to the tannin from decaying vegetation on the banks of the waterways. It is perfectly safe water if dark, but sometimes makes it impossible to see more than a couple inches through the water. Lake Harris is clear, by comparison to some.
We paddled across to the North shore to where Lake Harris State Campground is located. I wanted to scout out possible sites for our annual girls camping trip next June. The location on the lake is exceptional. Almost all sites face South, giving them sun exposure all day - a bonus to be able to watch sunrise and sunset! The shoreline is mostly sandy and shallow. There are many deciduous trees nicely shading most of the sites. The only drawback would be the close proximity of the campsites. There is very little space between them, so you better like your neighbor!
We continued paddling to the Eastern end of the lake, where the Hudson flows by. It is a somewhat strange confluence, as you can see from this map.
We paddled upstream, heeding the warning about not paddling too far downstream, lest one be swept into the class 5 rapids of the Hudson River Gorge! It was not on my itinerary that day to end up in Albany - in a boat! It's easy to tell the flow of the river here by the grasses on the bottom. The upstream section of the river we paddled is very slow moving and deep in spots - at least you can't see the bottom most of the time.
We rounded a bend and it felt like we had stepped back a century in time. There on the banks of the river is a very old log cabin with tin roof and an outhouse, and no power lines. It's a testament to the history of this remote area of the Adirondacks. The river and shore here is probably pretty much the same as it was 175 years ago when this region was first settled.
It brought to mind a quote by Adirondack author William Chapman White about the land remaining the same in the wilderness areas of the Adirondacks for centuries - I can't put my hands on the exact quote, but it's a beautiful passage.
Along the way we encountered a group of two families on inner tubes, floating down the lazy river - a great way to pass part of a hot summer day. It sure looked like lots of fun! They told us there is an outfitter just down the river who will drive you and the tubes up to the bridge and drop you. You then float back down to their headquarters on Route 28N.
We paddled back to the launch area and on the way encountered what turned out to be the North Country Canoe Challenge paddling race, originating at the town beach.
Numerous paddlers passed by us, some in kayaks, single canoes, double canoes and I believe I spotted a war canoe as well, but I'm still not sure about that one. The lake was bustling with activity on that fine August day.
We ended our day with ice cream from a little stand called "Scoops". It was the best soft ice cream I've ever had, and very reasonably priced for a HUGE cone. Don't miss that part of the day! I'm going back just for the ice cream. We both agreed this was one of the best days ever.
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