It was a fine Saturday in Pawling, NY. The river had been recently augmented with .86 inches of rain creating spring- like water levels on February 28th. Peter, Christian, and I were excited to paddle a reach of the Swamp River that is inaccessible during most of the year. As an added bonus, the temperature was hovering around 60 -time to go!
We put in on Corbin Road in Pawling – a first for us and what a beauty! Once through the difficult phramites section with some quick and fun water, we enter a section with long meanders housing mallards. They fly in an explosion of strength, straight up from the water, in the same way that’s captured people’s affections for millennia. Their quacks are augmented with the clicks and chatter of blackbirds and pileated woodpecker drums.
As we pass under the bridge at River Road, our usual put in, we are faced with one of the most lively runs in the Great Swamp. With banks barely wider than our blades, the swift water moves us along at a decent clip, while we spy emerging skunk cabbage on the banks.
Once through that channel, the river opens up and the views become Adirondack-like with boulders and hemlock reaching down the embankment. We enjoy looking at the flora clinging to the boulders, seemingly unaware of their precarious position.
This brings us to a huge phramites area. If it weren’t for knowing how invasive this non-native is, we could enjoy it’s beautifully swaying reeds more readily. This plant is taking over wetlands at an alarming rate in the process dispossessing cattails and other essential food and shelter sources for indigenous birds and mammals.
We also have our most difficult area to get around at the end of this section with the phramites root sections clogging the channel. We portage over a fallen tree and rock our kayaks over a couple of other obstructions.
We came to the bridge at Old Pawling Road, where we usually pull ou, but in our enthusiasm thought we’d paddle all the way to Wingdale, another couple of miles. We hadn’t realized the first section was so long. Tired, with light dimming, and some apprehension, we paddled on. This brought our total up to about eight or nine, rather a long one in the Swamp.
The last section narrows down a bit with a large tree obstacle to deal with and then it’s the land of turtles with an exciting section where I saw a green heron three years in a row. One of my favorite birds, it flies as if auditioning for a Disney movie.
Multiple channels mostly created by the beaver with snags providing cavities for nesting birds, The bluebirds and red-tailed hawks love this section of the swamp and we see both. The ridge to the west always makes me think of bob-cat since it looks like a prime area for them with its long views and rocky crags.
We’re paddling through paradise!