In the mood for some scenic paddling on one of the nation's largest lakes where the views are gorgeous and the fun is plentiful? Head to Noblewood Park and Nature Preserve, located in the Town of Willsboro, where the 40-mile long Boquet River flows into Lake Champlain. The 69-acre property was created in partnership between the town and The Nature Conservancy to protect important shoreline habitats, wildlife, and plantlife. As a result, this pristine spot makes for the perfect place to paddle, walk, and enjoy the beauty of the edge of the Adirondacks.
Noblewood is a favorite spot for many to enjoy all that Lake Champlain has to offer and is a good way to dip into big lake paddling; although paddling on Lake Champlain provides for gorgeous views and can be a lot of fun, its open surface can lead to bigger waves than are seen on most Adirondack lakes. Noblewood has some calm waters, kayak rentals, beautiful birds, and a nice beach, so don’t let the bigger water scare you off from giving it a try.
Even if you're like me and you own a canoe or kayak (or both!), visiting a spot with a rental can make a trip much easier. At Noblewood, kayak rentals are available from July 4 to October 14. $20 gets you three hours per kayak, plus paddles and gear, giving you ample time to paddle a little ways up the Boquet River if you like, or into the lake itself. The sheltered mouth of the river provides smooth paddling close to the open lake, so if things out on the lake get too rough for your comfort, you can duck back into the calmer waters of the river. I find this a good way to get comfortable with the bigger waves and you won't feel out of control. The area around the mouth of the river is so pretty in itself that you can get in a great adventure without having to go far into the lake.
As you paddle, you can venture out into the lake a bit or stay close to shore, traveling either north or south, to enjoy fabulous views of the Green Mountains across the lake or the richly wooded shoreline of New York. The river and the area of the lake just beyond the mouth are relatively shallow, so if the light is right you might glimpse the bottom and even a fish or two. Because Lake Champlain is such a popular lake with boaters, you're almost guaranteed to spot sailboats of all sizes, motorboats, and even kitesurfers if the day is breezy. You probably won't spot the infamous lake monster, Champ, but you will probably see a few other animals, maybe even sharing a small wave with a swimming duck.
Noblewood is known as a great place for birding, both on the water and on the nature trails. More than 180 species of birds have been spotted here, so it’s no surprise that for birders, this is an Adirondack paradise. Part of the work done by The Nature Conservancy is to protect shoreline habitats for the wide range of species native to the area. Birds are drawn to the clean, undeveloped shoreline, particularly a variety of gulls and shorebirds, including several varieties of plovers. Also frequently spotted are kingfishers, great blue herons, and hermit thrushes, the state bird of Vermont.
The Nature Conservancy’s work includes the health of the water; if fishing is your game, Noblewood is a pretty, clean spot to cast your line from your kayak. There are plenty of shops in the area to purchase your fishing license if you don't have it already, plus bait, lures, and any other odds and ends you might need. Lake Champlain is known for more than ninety species of fish, but is especially popular for bass, bullhead, perch, pike, and trout. If you do fish from your kayak, please remember to be careful reeling in your line and keep your kayak well balanced.
While you’re at Noblewood, enjoy time in the sun (don’t forget your sunblock!) at the beach. With its scenic views of the Green Mountains and clean sand, it’s a wonderful spot for a swim or reading with a good book. If there is a lifeguard on duty, swimming is allowed. If time on the beach isn’t your cup of tea, try a walk on the Noblewood nature trails. After the wide open spaces of the lake, the cool woods will provide a nice, and no less engaging, experience in nature. Please remember to treat the land kindly, as this is a nature preserve.
Noblewood Park and Preserve is open from Independence Day to Labor Day, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., with the beach open from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. There is a day use fee of $5 per car. Three primitive tent camping sites are available for $10 per night. Reservations must be made through the Willsboro Town Hall.
After a day on the water at Noblewood, stop for a relaxing meal at one of our great restaurants, or tuck in for a good night's sleep. You might even want to do a bit of shopping while you're here, too!