Paddling South Inlet

A Cool and Foggy Start

The  mid-October day started foggy and cool as we awoke in camp, but I knew the sun would soon burn it off. After a short hike, Wren and I made our way to South Inlet which feeds Raquette Lake; we set out in the warming mid-morning air as the songs of a Pine Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo set the ambience for our departure. South Inlet is a short paddle of about two miles each way, but it can be combined with longer outings on Raquette Lake as well. In fact, while we were unloading, we saw two women paddling hard and moving quickly coming from the lake as they headed out into the Inlet. They were moving so fast, I swear you could almost feel the breeze they created as they passed. We would pass them later as we were heading out and they had already turned around.

South Inlet has a mild current as it feeds the lake, and we moved along without much difficulty on calm waters which allowed me to stop for photos of the surrounding scenery. With the leaves at peak color, there was plenty to choose from in this corner of the Blue Ridge Wilderness Area. The inlet quickly lost the sound of traffic on Route 28, as we dipped and curved around the many bends.

Wren South Inlet
Wren takes in the sights, sounds, and smells of South Inlet.

Birding as I Paddled

A short time after we set off, a Great Blue Heron glided along the marshy edge of the inlet, apparently spooked by the paddlers who had started just before us. It stood on the shoreline and then plunged its head into the water. It appeared to catch something as it tilted back its head and swallowed, but I couldn't tell what it was – likely a small fish or tadpole. A Belted Kingfisher was working the edge of the waterway and it chattered as it flew from perch to perch in search of similar fare. Further along a second Great Blue Heron prowled in the grasses and sedges at the water's edge. We also saw a number of flyover birds while we were out - including a Hairy Woodpecker, an American Pipit, and a Pine Siskin. Siskins had descended upon the region in mid-October, coming in from the north. Many had already moved south of us.

Having Fun with Wren at South Inlet Falls

The paddle of South Inlet ends at a small set of waterfalls known variously as the Cascades or South Inlet Falls. From the falls a pair of trails run out toward Sagamore and Sagamore Road and folks can also hike into the falls to view them. Wren was very excited to get out of the boring - you must sit still and not tip us - boat and she immediately wagged her way down the trail, taking a detour for a swim as I tied the boat up. We walked the trails for a short distance, but for the most part I let her play in the water which is what she wanted to do. She dunked for sticks which she promptly chewed and she dropped sticks at my feet for me to throw – nothing new there. Her fun soon made me join her – I was warm from the paddle and knew the sun was gaining strength while we rested in the shade.

Wren - South Inlet Falls
Wren enjoyed swimming and playing at South Inlet Falls that she didn't want to leave!

Eventually it became time to head back in order to avoid a hot sun and so we could get some lunch. I untied the canoe and sat back down. Wren stood and watched and then ran away along the shoreline. "It's time to go," I said and pointed to her position in the boat. She had no interest in resuming her seat. It was far more fun swimming in the nice swimming area near the waterfalls. She ran up and down the trail and along shore – splashing close to the boat, but always racing away. Finally I started to paddle off without her. She initially watched me with interest and then raced off again as if calling my bluff. I came back (of course) and finally succeeded in getting her to sit in the boat. I assured her there would be other places to play this afternoon.

Our respective swims not only were great fun, but proved helpful on the warm return trip as well since our bodies had been cooled by the water. We made easy work of the two mile trip out, watching the same two herons and listening to a small group of Yellow-rumped Warblers along the shoreline. Other folks were heading out as we returned and after reloading the boat I prepared lunch while looking at maps for our next adventure of the day.

If you're visiting the area - and need to pick up lunch before finding a place to stay - you should check out our many lodging and restaurant options!  Trying to plan your next adventure? Check out our extensive hiking and birding options - the Adirondacks are waiting!