The Best Time to Paddle an Adirondack Lake
The Best Time to Paddle an Adirondack Lake

The Best Time to Paddle an Adirondack Lake

Moss Lake is one of the hundreds of small lakes found in the Adirondack Park.

This one is a favorite of mine for a number of reasons. It is only a few minute drive from the family camp with a short carry from the parking lot to enter the water with a kayak or canoe. It features several coves and a small island hosting an osprey nest that has been active for years during the species’ breeding season. There is also a 2.5 mile hiking loop all the way around the lake where white-tailed deer may linger and the more secretive warblers, such as the Black-throated Blue, can be found nesting trailside in the witch hobble.

It is, however, the voice of northern wilderness that has drawn me most often to any Adirondack lake. For more than a decade before beginning to high the Adirondack high peaks, I had been documenting the life cycle of the Common Loon.

All during that time I was unable to get a great shot of a loon vocalizing. Justin was 12-years-old when I first got him into his own boat there and he asked me if he could use my 35mm manual camera. Holding my breath, I said, ‘yes’ - and wouldn’t you know it? A loon popped up right in front of him and cool as a cucumber, never having used such a camera before, he got the shot that had eluded me for years!


It was those early visits there that inspired Chapter Six of the first book in The Adirondack Kids® series!

Common Loons arrive on Adirondack lakes as soon as the ice departs and can usually be heard or spotted by late April or early May. Loons leave just before the ice returns and can still be spotted in autumn as their breeding plumage fades. I have yet to paddle on Moss without spying at least one Common Loon, usually a breeding pair, and on several occasions more than half a dozen at once. Summer is a great time to watch loons, but respect their space and be especially sensitive during the breeding season.

When paddling, it is desirable to get out on the water as soon as possible – even just before dawn. The lake can be other-worldly then – the surface like a silver mirror. If the call of a loon breaks the silence at that time, you are definitely in another world, the sense heightened when socked in by slowly dissipating fog.

As the fog gives way to the early morning light the shoreline and island are less and less abstract. Then clearly, there are osprey dancing near their nest – a damsel fly sailing on a floating leaf – the motionless frogs or turtles on the fallen log.

And because it is so early, the water surface is still like glass, and so it is easy to spot even off in the distance, the shapes of the loons.

By mid-morning the wind begins to pick up and with the wind comes the waves. The kayak begins to rock now making still photography much more difficult, and it’s much harder to enjoy watching the water birds with just their heads now bobbing in and out of view. The quality of the light has also changed from warm to cool, the sound of the wildlife has grown quiet and the scenery has begun to lose much of its definition.

That is when we head for shore and as we are pulling our boats out of the water – that is usually the time usually when many of the visitors with their boats finally begin to arrive.

But really, by that time, the show is over.

Let’s see now – breakfast at camp, or the Tamarack Cafe?

Question: Do you have a favorite Adirondack lake?




Fishing, hiking, paddling, swimming & reading books.
The use of electronic devices kept to a minimum.
Nothing like family vacation in the Adirondacks!







© 2018 Adirondack Kid Press, Ltd.

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