Paddling the Bog River

Paddling the Bog River

Many of the most memorable paddles in the Adirondacks are quiet backwaters which take boaters into a watery wilderness away from the noise of motors and the din of everyday life. The Bog River is one such paddle. Wren and I took advantage of a slice of time we had the other day to explore the Bog River between Low's Lower Dam and Hitchins Pond, and we had a perfect day for it.

The Put-In

The put-in for the lower dam is off Route 421 south of Tupper Lake, and we pushed off onto a glassy surface beneath a blue sky accented with white clouds. I paddled upstream through the ravine of large moss covered rocks while Wren kept watch from the bow. It was a peaceful evening, but a few birds were singing as Blue-headed Vireo, Pine Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Magnolia Warbler led us along the channel. A light tapping caught my attention and I spotted a Black-backed Woodpecker working hard on a white pine, and I dug into my dry bag for my binoculars so I could get a look at the male's yellow crown.

The Black-backed Woodpecker was drawn to the boreal habitat along much of the route, as phalanxes of spruce and fir lined the shores. In some places large white pines towered above them, seemingly guarding the shoreline as they stood in ranks. 

dog dozes in canoe during birding paddle

The river was singing with birds

In areas where the river was bordered by mixed woods I heard singing Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, and Blackburnian Warbler while in other locations the river opened up, creating wide marshy margins on the side. There I heard Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird singing. Near one open space of water a canoeing group composed mostly of teenagers was putting the finishing touches on setting up camp. We waved to each other and Wren watched them attentively, looking like she might jump overboard to go greet them. Thankfully she didn't. 

As we continued along the river we reached the old railroad line which runs between the edge of Horseshoe Lake and the one-time station at Sabattis. Outside of canoeing, the railroad is the only way to access much of Hitchins Bog, which spills forth from Hitchins Pond and meets the Bog River to the south as paddlers approach the pond. Angry scolds from Red-winged Blackbirds rose up from the grasses in the bog and I turned to see a Merlin racing away – it apparently had missed its target and its progress across the bog was marked by the raucous play-by-play of a chorus of Blue Jays who clearly were unhappy with its presence.

Black-backed Woodpecker

A Swim to end our Birding Paddle

After plying the water toward Hitchins Pond, I needed to turn around our birding adventure since dinner and darkness were calling us homeward. We reversed and put the low sun to our backs and retraced the river's curves toward the car listening as Hermit Thrushes began to sing in the long shadows. The put-in doubles as an excellent swimming area and beach and Wren took full advantage of it while I loaded the gear back onto the car. She had been patiently waiting for a swim since her dip before we pushed off to start our paddle, and it was a well-deserved reward for sitting still for so long.

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