Canoe on Saranac RiverThere is really nothing like a canoe trip to really bring out the strengths and weaknesses in a family. It requires balance; strength and teamwork. We find we are in short supply of a little bit of each.

As we transition from winter sports, indoor fun to summer fun our organization skills are put to the test. The children have outgrown their lifejackets and the weather can't decide whether to snow or rain. The bug spray has to be found along with my very attractive bug netting. Citronella wafts around us like a cloud sparking memories of spring.

We have decided to take two cars and leave one at the end of our destination so we will only be going downstream on the Saranac River. We are not equipped to go over the permanent rapids and decide to portage isn't in the cards for this short outing. We start just north of the Village of Saranac Lake and spend a few moments going over the rules of the river. It may seem like common sense, but my children always need to be reminded not to stand up in a canoe.

geese on shorelineThe current is swift though the river isn't as high as an average spring. It isn't flood stage so we are able to see signs of erosion along the bank from the sculpting forces of the water. We hug the shoreline and are prepared for any opportunity, especially hypothermia, in these chilly spring waters. We are just guiding ourselves along with little effort. The children take turns paddling but each is just as eager to look for signs of wildlife. A muskrat warns us off and we are startled by a herd of deer. They blend in so well that we only notice them when the herd turned under the row of nearby branches.

Geese and mallards squawk and dance along the water in an attempt to lead us away from shoreline nests. We are even guided by a pair of sandpipers that skim along our bow like dolphins, seemingly clearing a path free of bugs just for us. We are all excited to see so many different things that we sometimes can't contain the shouts and thrills of finding an animal in the wild. I try to turn down the volume without curbing my children's enthusiasm, though I am just as guilty of eagerly pointing to a new flicker on the water.

mountain view on Saranac RiverThere are various places to put in a canoe along the Saranac River as long as you are mindful of private property. If you are unsure of what is private and what is public, the Adirondack Paddlers Map by Dave Cilley is a great resource. It clearly highlights private and public land. 

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time"Tri-Lakes and High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities. Her second guidebook about family activities for the Champlain Valley will be in stores summer 2012.