Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paddling the Feeder Canal

Wow! What a contrast in my canoe adventures this week! Just a few days ago I was paddling the pristine motor-free wilderness waters of Elk Lake and Lake Lila, while today I passed through the industrial heart of Glens Falls, with highways and smokestacks and factories pressing close on either side. (There were serene and lovely green stretches as well.) Friends Ed and Nan asked me to join them on a one-way trip down the Feeder Canal, a man-made waterway built in the 19th century to supply water from the Hudson River to the Champlain Canal seven miles to the east.

A hydroelectric dam now stands where the original dam was constructed to divert water from the Hudson into the Feeder Canal, seen here in the foreground.

As this map shows, the canal starts in Queensbury, just west of Glens Falls, and continues through the city of Glens Falls on into the town of Hudson Falls, where we took out, having left a car at each end.

Here, Ed and Nan lead the way as we start on a calm and beautiful stretch where the Feeder Canal begins.

Trees overhang the water, and a pedestrian/bike path parallels the canal along the bank. An ample current nudges us swiftly along.

Very soon, signs of the city appear, with high-rise buildings and a construction crane.

We promptly then enter the industrial zone of Glens Falls, where paper mills and chemical and cement plants line the waterway . . .

. . . and even pass right over it. Better duck!

Instead of soaring mountain cliffs, huge hoppers loom over our heads, impressive in their own right.

It doesn't take long, with the current and wind in our favor, before we return to a stretch where nature reigns, with fruiting vines and shrubs tumbling over the walls.

This gracefully arching bridge signals to us that we are now entering the town of Hudson Falls.

Oooh! Dark and echoing under here!

Here we are on the final stretch before we take out. Reflected ripples played on the walls and tall trees met over our heads in one of the prettiest passages we encountered. Bikers and dog walkers waved from the parallel path as we passed.

I couldn't help thinking about how filthy this waterway must have been just decades ago, before the Clean Air and Water Act required that cities and factories not dump their poisonous effluents in such canals. Today the water is clean and clear, perfect for a paddling adventure with friends on a sunlit afternoon of the last day of summer.

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