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Kayaked Ballston Creek


By jstookey - Posted on 08 May 2012

Route: Ballston Creek from Ballston Lake to Round Lake
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation change: 92 feet
Steepest Mile: 60 feet

05/08/12 Trip Report

Finally, the first real rain of the entire season. The forecast called for 100% chance of rain for most of the day totaling more than an inch of rainfall. It never downpoured, but rained steadily throughout some of the night and all day long. At its peak while we paddled, the water level gauge for the Mohawk River in Cohoes reached 40,000 cft/s. For reference, I consider 3,500 to be very low, and 10,000 to on the low-end of high water. 120,000 was the level at the peak during Irene. The first 2 miles were pleasant and easy through the large marshy area. We paddled through an area of tall dead trees where several giant blue herons were flying around their sky nests. It was here that J discovered that his ship was steadily sinking. The long kayak drag to today's put-in had worn a small hole in the back of his kayak. Taking on water would mean lack of control and stability as the boat filled with water followed by regular stops to dump it out. Throughout the ride, the high water level elevated us over many obstacles, although there were several logs requiring either walking around or some fancy footwork to get past. Small portages were always a good opportunity to dump water out of the kayaks. During mile three, the water was swift but generally manageable. Mile 4 involved 60 feet of elevation drop, and there was plenty of water to rush us through it. The thrilling roller coaster ride required intense paddling to survive, and we didn't whoosh through without a few flips. No sooner had we survived the long series of rapids when three tunnels under interstate 87 presented themselves, side-by-side all descending into parallel darkness. Choose your fate. Without much to go on we picked the rightmost one with slightly more water than the others. The inside of the tunnel was completely disorienting. At the midpoint, the tunnel took a left turn, so there were no visible guarantees that there would be an exit on the other side. Our boats, paddles, heads, and hands deflected back and forth against the unseen walls like bowling balls at a five-year-old's bumper bowling birthday bash. The water level at the end of the tunnel was higher than at the beginning of the tunnel, so as we proceeded, the walls were literally closing in around us. A faint spot of light slowly came into view. My sense of direction was so completely lost while floating in the absolute blackness that I mistook the spot of light for a sewer grate on route 87, far overhead. However, as we got closer, the spot of light set like the sun until it reached the horizon at which point it was a huge relief to realize it was in fact the exit. After the tunnel, the creek spread itself out into a large floodplain. Water was rushing through ordinarily dry grass and bushes. At one point J pointed out that "the river is over there". We were kayaking comfortably over a grassy field, and clearly the actual creek was a hundred yards to our left. The only remaining obstacles were a few low bridges before we reached Round Lake and completed the trip. The ride was pretty outrageous, and both of us were happy to be back at the car by the end of it. We have come along way, but today's rapids tested our limits to be sure.

Summary

Time taken to kayak: 2.5 hours
Mohawk River at Cohoes Water Level: 40,000 cft/s (!)

4/3/11 Trip Report

I kayaked the length of Ballston Creek from Ballston Lake to Round Lake. This was my first trip out in the kayak, besides a very short paddle around Ballston Lake a few days earlier. I had to learn as I went. It was pretty scary at times with the fast moving water, the lack of helmet and spray skirt, and my own inexperience. Once a branch clonked my head. I was scared because I had no idea how the kayak was going to respond to conditions. The kayak had felt a little awkward in the lake with no current, but it turned out to respond really well in the fast-moving water. Getting over my fear was largely a matter of learning that the kayak was capable of handling some situations without my influence.

After the swampy section, the creek's fast moving water was scary, particularly at first because I hadn't figured out how to bail out in fast moving water before a difficult spot. I eventually got better and learned to hop out of the boat and walk to shore. My guess is that the area is not usually kayakable, but with the high water after the recent snow melting, it was a bit of a bushwhack, but not too bad. The water was quite cold, as Ballston Lake was still frozen over. I was wearing mostly wool, and stayed luke warm even after wading chest-deep in water once or twice. I took a few breaks to sit in a sunny spot to fight off the cold.

After I reached Round Lake, I locked up the kayak, and ran back to the car.

Summary

Mohawk River at Cohoes Water Level: ~10,000 cft/s

Wildlife

I saw a pair of northern pike in the marshy section near mile 1. One looked huge, and was probably several feet long. Around the same area, there were lots of huge nests in the trees. I believe they were Great Blue Heron nests. There were hordes of ducks and Canadian geese along the way. I saw 2 little creek chubs in the small stream section. I also saw a giant carp in Round Lake.

Links

* The Saratoga Trail - A very interesting trip report that overlapped a small section of this route
* Ballston Creek Preserve - Some hiking trails that bring hikers to the Heron nests.

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