Sunday, September 2, 2012

Exploring the Backwaters at Big Bay

I've been studying this map for years, hoping to find a way into all the backwaters and byways of the Hudson River where it makes this big bend just south of the city of Glens Falls.  

Earlier this week, my friend Ed Miller introduced me to the area just east of the I-87 bridge, an area called Big Boom for the cables that used to stretch across the river to capture logs being floated down from the Adirondacks.  We had a very pleasant paddle up a canal constructed to bypass the jams once created by the massive accumulation of logs.  

Then earlier this summer, my friend Sue showed me how to access the Hudson where the river takes a sharp turn to the east upstream from Haviland Cove Park, and we had lots of fun exploring the convoluted islands that swoop around that bend.

Today, I found my way into the part of the Hudson called Big Bay, pictured here at the center of this map, through a nature preserve called Hudson Pointe, accessible from County Road 28, which runs between Glens Falls and Corinth.  I  could see from the map what looked to be an interesting backwater that I could reach by carrying my canoe along a trail to the river.

The trail itself was pleasant enough, cool and shady and scented with pine.  From the map, it looked as if this trail would lead quite directly to the river, so I hoisted my Hornbeck onto my shoulder and set off into the woods.

Sure enough, I soon caught sight of the Hudson through the trees.  Unfortunately, though, the river was way, way down beneath steep bluffs, and there was no easy way to get down to the water.  But a passing hiker assured me that if I just continued on, the trail would eventually descend to the water's edge.

And so it did.  Maybe a half mile and one steep hill further on.  This is what carbon-fiber canoes are made for.  Twelve pounds of boat on my shoulder cost me hardly any more effort than simply hiking without a boat.

 The Hudson here is broad and beautiful, with mountains rising  behind the Queensbury water-treatment plant.  The Sherman Island Dam is just around the bend upstream.

A short paddle downstream brought me to the area I'd been hoping to explore, where the river runs back behind several islands and into a quiet marsh.

Winterberry shrubs on the shore of one island were bright with fat red berries.

The shallow waters held many kinds of interesting plants.  I could see the underwater structures of some kind of bladderwort swirling around the shiny curlicue stems of Wild Celery.

Although the yellow flowers were long gone, I could still recognize this emergent stalk with its trailing mass of hair-fine underwater  leaves as Water Marigold.  Listed as a threatened species in New York, this plant has found a happy niche along this stretch of the Hudson.

Here's another rare plant, Small Floating Bladderwort, that thrives in this stretch of the Hudson above and below the Feeder Dam at Glens Falls.  Almost every patch of Water Lily leaves had captured a specimen or two of this cheerful little flower, which floats along freely on little inflated pontoons.

A feature of the Hudson Pointe Nature Preserve is this wooden bridge, which allows hikers access to wooded wetlands, as well as providing a platform for observing the many species of waterfowl and other wildlife that inhabit this area.

I beached my canoe at this site to get out and stretch my legs, and I was pleased to find this bright pretty stalk of Cardinal Flower still blooming along the boardwalk.

The trail here led into a wetland woods far greener than the parched piney woods I first encountered when I entered the preserve.

Abundant along this trail were the rayless flowers of Beggar Ticks, whose tiny yellow disc flowers will later produce the hooked seeds that stick to every passing pant leg or scampering dog.

Well, I know of several species of Beggar Ticks, but I've never seen any with such puffy green centers as these.  I wonder if it's a new species for me, or just an aberrant form of one of the common ones.

The disc flowers were full of exuberantly curly yellow pistils, worth a closer look.

Update:  Carol Gracie, co-author of the comprehensive wildflower guide, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest,  has told me she is almost certain that this is Purple-stemmed (or Swamp) Beggar Ticks (Bidens connata), especially considering the wetlands location.

There were little islands scattered  about the open water,  this one providing a resting spot for a congregation of bright white gulls.

Ah, little children, enjoy your last days of summer freedom, splashing and playing in the river's clean cool waters.

How lucky for me, retired as I am, that my playtime can just go on and on, whatever the season.  And how especially lucky I am, to have such a beautiful river to play in, with so many fascinating shores to explore.


The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

The beauty in which you live, is the idyll to which I dream of.
So im so happy that you bring your adventures and lovely pictures, to this blogishere here thing, so I can at least have a little snippet, a keyhole to spy through.

Nature Weaver Gypsy said...

I'm new to your blog, and thank you for sharing beautiful photos taken on your canoe trek. I especially like the picture of the curly water weed. You are definitely zipped up in Nature's jacket.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear readers Cranky and Nature Weaver, knowing you like to come along with me through my blog is what keeps me posting it. Thanks so much for stopping by to leave your comments.

Anonymous said...

And so I happen by, years after this post! I have been searching for information about a large weed in my yard, and you had it--beggar ticks! I keep finding it, and pulling out every year, but this year I let it grow so I could learn more about it. Thanks so much for your informative, beautiful post!