A Beautiful Jewel
A beautiful lake
Although some folks drive right past Massawepie Lake on their way to Massawepie Mire without giving it much thought, it is a mistake to do so. On the property of a Boy Scout camp, the beautiful lake is only accessible when the camp is closed — meaning that any chance to paddle it during the dates it is open is worth the effort. So, with fieldwork taking me to Massawepie Mire the other day, it was an easy decision for me to check out the lake after I finished my work.
A quick swim and birds to send us on our way
A Broad-winged Hawk greeted me overhead with its high, thin whistle as I unloaded the boat surrounded by my mosquito and deer fly attendants — all attempting to offer me help in their own manner. Wren, my dog, nosed the bushes along the parking lot and followed me excitedly to the put-in for a swim. My dog always opts to go swimming any chance she gets!
The midday sun offered thermals to a Bald Eagle overhead, and while the woods were much quieter than they had been earlier that morning, the songs of Brown Creeper and Blue-headed Vireo sent us on our way. With the sun high in the sky (I prefer morning or evening paddles), we hugged the shoreline to stay in the shade for as long as possible, here and there breaking into the direct sunlight thanks to a gap in the trees. A Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Hermit Thrush, and an American Redstart added their songs to our trip and not far along we passed a distant Common Loon sitting on the open lake. Wren quickly took to her usual sleeping pose in the canoe and rested.
We worked along the eastern shoreline, eventually reaching the southwestern corner of the lake where there are some quiet nooks to explore, and we continued to add bird species to our list. Black-throated Blue and Blackburnian Warblers sang here and there from the neighboring forest, and a small group of Cedar Waxwings and a Great Blue Heron flew overhead. When we stopped to stretch our legs at a scout campsite in the pines, we added Pine Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and more Blue-headed Vireos. Midday or not, there were still things to see and hear.
After poking our bow into the coves on the southwest side of the lake, we looped back around past the campus of St. Lawrence University’s Adirondack Semester. But we didn't stop, we instead hugged the shoreline on our way back toward the take-out, eventually cutting across the lake toward the shaded shoreline, which had become less shady during our time on the water.
Worth the wait until fall
I chose to skip the loop of the lake that heads toward the beach area — we had already been on the water for a while and lunch was calling. There was a Least Flycatcher as I took the boat out, and Wren joyfully splashed in the water once she was free from the boat. I encouraged her exuberance by throwing a few sticks in the water and she was more than eager to retrieve them. Her body cooled as I loaded up to head home.
Our perfect paddling day was one of the last available for folks to paddle Massawepie Lake this spring. With the scout camp starting operations on June 15, the lake will be closed until September 1. That said, interested paddlers and birders will find it a great spot to explore during the late summer and early fall and well worth the wait. And with so many other lakes to explore in the region, paddlers will not be cheated the opportunity to get out and go this summer.