Paddle to Raquette Falls
Access point off Corey's Road
On a nice fall morning, my paddling group met at Corey’s Road, off Route 3, about 8 miles east of Tupper Lake. We all arrived on time and made our way the final 1.8 miles to Stony Creek Bridge, our put-in and take-out area. We elected not to put in at Axton Landing as the access loop is rough and not recommended for sports cars. Stony Creek access is just a few steps from the road. Even though there's a steep bank, it is short and not difficult. We unloaded our kayaks, parked our cars on the other side of the bridge, and we were on the water by 10:30 am.
Meet the "Ducks"
Joining me were Mary Valley from Lake Placid, Anne White from Parishville, Susan Orosz Parisian and Joan DeRosie from Massena, and Jane Hazen Dyke from Colton. This was my third time paddling with Mary, Joan, Anne and Susan. Earlier this season we had paddled Lake Placid Lake in Essex County and Hatch Brook (off County Route 27) in Franklin County.
Anne, Mary, and Susan have paddled over 50 bodies of water in the Adirondacks; on one outing they decided to call themselves the “Adironducks.” Jane paddles with them occasionally, so she is an occasional “duck.” They are full of stories, fun and games - you never know what one will do from one minute to the next! I felt honored to be a “duck” for the day. If one joins them, you're required to bring your kayak, paddling equipment, and a readiness to laugh – a lot!
They had not paddled the Raquette River before, and I was excited to show them a part of the River. My original plan was to paddle up river as far as they wanted to go from the Crusher (Raquette River Boat Launch), but I really wanted them to see Raquette Falls. Being that all the ladies are avid paddlers, I knew the five-hour trip would not be difficult for them.
Once in the water at Stony Creek we headed left, downstream, to reach the river. At the junction, about ¼ of mile from the put-in, we turned left to go upstream. The outlet and the river were more shallow than I anticipated due to the lack of rainfall. No problems with paddling though! In spots you could actually walk, as Mary did. However, the bottom had its low points, so Mary’s walk was a short one as she was soon up to her neck!
The Raquette River does have a current, but it isn’t so strong that you can’t paddle both ways. There are no beaver dams, portages, or rocks to contend with on this section of the river. You cannot see houses nor hear vehicles. The wilderness rating in the Adirondack Paddler’s Guide is six (ten = most wilderness). Motors are allowed; however, I have been on this section of the river many times and have only encountered small fishing boats. The river is easy to follow, except be cautious in the spring when the water is high – it is easy to get mixed up, I was mixed up this past spring!
A fall swim -brrr!
As the day progressed the sun warmed us and we enjoyed the color of the trees, although they were not at their peak. There are many primitive campsites on the route, and we chose to have lunch on a sunny beach. The lunch ended with Anne’s homemade desserts and much laughter; what you hear on the river stays on the river! Mary was the first one to jump in the river after lunch. Susan soon followed, but the rest of us decided to stay warm and dry!
A single Merganser!
Back in our yaks, we kept our eyes open for wildlife, wanting to see something. We did get a bit chatty, so maybe we scared a few critters! Finally, we encountered a single Merganser and even managed to get a few shots prior to it hiding in the brush along the riverbank.
As we got closer to the falls we could hear the rushing of the water, at the take out area the ladies liked the boulders at the bottom of the rapids. Once on the shore we grabbed our water bottles and cameras and headed toward the trail, stopping to check out the rustic Adirondack Chairs, which Joan and Anne tested out.
We then admired the DEC barn - a post and beam construction built in the 1800s. The DEC Ranger cabin is really nice with a screen porch, I believe each of us commented that we would love to spend a night there.
Not far from the cabin we found the privy with a horse stall style door. I guess you can enjoy the view while taking care of things! Or perhaps be social with those walking the path? Or maybe you would opt to close both doors!
We walked to the lower falls and enjoyed the view. Mary then decided to go for a ride down the rapids. I am not fond of rushing white water and was in a bit of a panic! Mary reassured me that she is an experienced swimmer, has done many rapids and had thoroughly checked out the area. She explained one must get into a sitting position, keeping their legs straight out in front of them, in case there are rocks, their legs hit first! (Nobody would convince me to try this!)
Mary had a pleasant ride, as I watched fearfully! I couldn’t take her photo as I was terrified that she may get hurt - I was relieved when she was safely on shore. Joan, who also has done rapids and is an experienced rapid-swimmer decided she wanted to do the ride! Joan followed Mary to the access point and downstream. It was obvious one had to be a strong swimmer to go through the current to exit. This time I was more relaxed and able to watch get a few shots of them doing the rapids, but nonetheless, I was relieved when they emerged smiling and called it quits for the day.
We returned to our kayaks and took a long last look at this beautiful spot and talked of doing the trip next summer, allowing more time to enjoy the falls and perhaps walk to the Upper Falls.
Our return to the launch site was as enjoyable as our trip to the falls, a bit faster due to the current. Once back at the launch site, the four of us that had the shortest trip home (Mary, Anne, Jane and myself) decided dinner in Tupper Lake would be a perfect ending to a wonderful day!
Editor's note: Swimming rapids can be dangerous due to undertows. Personal floatation devices should be worn at all times. Doing rapids should not be attempted unless you are a strong experienced swimmer.
Ready to hit our lakes for a late-fall paddle? The unseasonably warm weather is tempting many folks to take a November paddle - even if it is too cold to take a swim!