Monday, October 27, 2008

NYSOEA and the Chubb River

I am back from the NYSOEA conference (New York State Outdoor Education Association) and am rarin' to go!

It was a very good conference, and I added some new skills to my lexicon (such as making slate tools using stone age technology) and expanded my horizons (how to work with Generation Y). And I did indeed see many familiar faces - some of whom I knew and many others who looked very familiar but I just couldn't place them! The weekend was capped off with a wonderful paddle on the Chubb River with a group of four - what could be better!

The Chubb River
Things were looking rocky weatherwise on Saturday as we peered ahead towards a Sunday morning paddle. Newcomb was hit with over 2" of rain, gale force winds were whipping up the western portions of the Park. But Sunday morning dawned clear! As I was out putting the canoe on my car a o-dark-thirty (okay, it was about 6:00 AM), the stars overhead were glittering at their most spectacular. Orion, the Big Dipper - all my celestial friends were there. This boded well.

I drove into Lake Placid as the sun came up - blinding me as I crested the hill into town. With the fog still settled over the village, it was really quite pretty. I pulled in early, so I curled up with my book by the fireplace of the hotel. At 8:40 we rolled out of the parking lot and headed for the river.

The Chubb River flows through Lake Placid, coming in near the railroad tracks, flowing through the mill pond next to Placid Boatworks, under the road that heads out towards the ski jumps, and on out of town. Access is down a side road (Averyville Road) and is not marked. If you slow down and look carefully, on the south side of the road there is an itty bitty pull-off and a DEC sign tacked to a tree. From here it is about a 120 yard carry down the hill and through the woods to the water's edge.

We launched our two boats and piled in. The fog had things pretty well covered still, making us all glad for an extra layer of warm clothes. Upstream we headed. Chickadees (black-capped), nuthatches (red-breasted) and kinglets (golden-crowned) greeted us from the shores as we paddled along the slow-moving water and into the first marshy bit (noted for the very large home perched on the shoreline slope to our right as we rounded a bend). The first mile and a half is a very pleasant paddle. Pine siskins joined in the early morning song- and feeding-fest, and ubiquitous blue jays called from the trees.

All too soon we could hear the rapids. After searching the shoreline, we found the carry, and thanks to all the rain the day before, it was a very wet carry, as in large sections of the trail were up to a foot or more under water! Cheers to our paddlers who carried the boats and slogged through the water! The carry is about a quarter mile long, according to Paul Jamieson in his book The North Flow. After putting back in, there is supposedly a three-mile stretch of easy paddling. We maybe did another mile when we encountered a beaver dam (lots of beaver activity all over). While it was a small dam and still in the making, it would've required another carry to get around it (or ramming speed and two strong paddlers), and we opted to turn back instead.

On the paddle back (more of a float and steer, actually), the sun was mostly behind us, and the fog was completely gone. Wild clematis (Clematis virginiana), aka: virgin's bower, was everywhere! We didn't see it on the way out, no doubt due to the fog and the sun in our eyes, but on the way back everything seemed to be draped in the long-haired flowerheads. Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) was fruited out and still had green leaves. Speckled Alder (Alnus incana), however, was THE dominant plant along the water's edge.

We had some great views of Street and Nye mountains, and the Sawtooth Range in the more open and marshy sections of the river. And as we approached the start/finish of the paddle, we saw a large stick nest in the top of a dead tree. Eagle? Osprey? More likely the latter, but since they've all moved on by now, we had no way to know for sure.

On a scale of one to ten, I'd give the Chubb an eight for ease of paddle, an eight for plant and bird life, and an eight for views. All in all a nice morning (or afternoon) paddle that doesn't require a lot of effort. I recommend going any day but after a heavy rainfall when the carry will be submerged!


  1. Hi! I just bough a canoe and I'd like to do some remote canoe camping trips. Can you tell me more about this area? Is the water level always high enough for an enjoyable paddle? I'm only asking because last year I started a backpacking trip near that river and the spot I saw was merely a trickle!

  2. Hi, Tim -

    I've only been on the Chubb this once, but I can tell you that Lake Placid has has a LOT of rain this summer, so water levels are likely to be plenty high. When we were there, the water was good and deep in many spots (I don't think the paddle would've touched bottom), and I don't think there were many spots where it was shallow.

    The put-in is a bit tricky to find. I am going to suggest you send an email to Fred vonMechow, at - he's the one who set up the trip and should be able to give you directions.

    Is your boat lightweight? Are you willing to schlep it a fair distance? Then you might want to look at places like Preston Pond and Duck Hole. The Bog River Flow is nice, and Henderson Lake is a nice gem that has only been open to the public for a couple years.

    I also suggest Paul Jamieson's book "Northern Flow" and John Hayes' book "Quiet Waters" - both list good trips, and Jamieson's is especially detailed.

    Good luck!