By Phil Brown
Paddlers will find a popular stretch of the Bog River significantly changed this summer, though it shouldn’t interfere with enjoyment of the wild waterway.
The water level of the Bog from Lows Lower Dam to Hitchins Pond has been lowered temporarily to enable the state to repair a leak in the 250-foot-long concrete dam.
The 3-mile trip to Hitchins Pond is one of the best half-day paddles in the Adirondacks. It also is the first leg of longer trips to Lows Lake, a popular camping destination.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation says the river will return to its usual level once the work is finished sometime this year. To see what paddlers can expect in the meantime, I recently canoed to Hitchins Pond.
Heading upriver from the dam, I could see the old waterline on bedrock along the shore. It reminded me of a dirty ring in a bathtub. Based on the waterline, I estimated that the river had dropped 3 or 4 feet.
Less than a half-mile into my journey, I came to an islet of rocks and timber — apparently the remains of crib dam exposed by receding water. Soon after I encountered a kayaker returning from a camping trip on Lows Lake. I asked about the conditions ahead.
“Stay in the main channels,” he replied. “You can get bogged down real easy.”
That’s good advice for anyone paddling a craft weighted down with camping equipment. In my unburdened solo canoe, I had little trouble navigating the river. I struck bottom only once when venturing into shallow water.
At 1.4 miles, I reached the outlet of Horseshoe Lake. The outlet provides an alternative route to the Bog, but you must be prepared to pull over beaver dams and wrestle with alders. Just past the outlet, I pulled ashore near a railroad trestle over the Bog. Wooden pilings that are normally submerged poked out of the water beneath the trestle. My guess is they were supports for an earlier bridge.
Incidentally, the tracks are part of the state-owned rail line whose future has been the subject of so much controversy. The state decided to remove the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a recreational trail, but it plans to refurbish the tracks south of Tupper Lake. Critics say the rehabilitation is a waste of money, but the work has already begun. I discovered that the trestle’s rotting ties have already been replaced, with new gravel laid in rail bed. A stack of more new ties sat beside the tracks.
Once back in my canoe, I continued another mile to Hitchins Pond. The lowering of the Bog left mudflats along the shores of both the river and the pond. They were not entirely brown, however, as they were adorned with sprouts of green grass.
On my return trip, I ventured a short distance up the Horseshoe Lake outlet. I stopped when I saw a pair of adult geese with goslings wading downstream. I didn’t want to disturb them, but I stopped to watch. Soon, I saw three other pairs of adults and a bunch more goslings headed my way. Canada geese feeding on grass in parks or ballfields in town are regarded as a nuisance. I can understand why. But how majestic they appear in the wild. It’s where they belong.
I saw other wildlife on my paddle: a mother mallard with ducklings, painted turtles sunning on logs, a belted kingfisher flying above the water. Unseen but heard: white-throated sparrows, ovenbirds and red-eyed vireos, among other birds.
Dam or no dam, the Bog River is a wild place. It’s nice to know that hasn’t changed.