I vividly remember my canoe excursion down the La Chute River in Ticonderoga although it was many months ago. That day was the kind of hot summer day that compels you to be on, in, or near the water. I had heard from others what a terrific (think "easy") paddle it was for someone with my skill level, practically nil. I knew the trip wasn't very far; a couple of miles from the launch at Bicentennial Park to the mouth of the river where it empties into Lake Champlain.
The LaChute River connects Lake George to Lake Champlain. In its entirety only about 3 ½ -4 miles long, but the river drops over two hundred feet. No one could, or should want to, attempt to paddle the upper end. When the water first leaves Lake George it rushes down steep falls, passes through penstocks of former mills, and races around sharp bends. After the large and final falls in Bicentennial Park, the river flattens out nicely and rather lazily makes its way to Lake Champlain emptying out near Fort Ticonderoga. A flatwater paddler myself, and only occasional at that, I felt this lower part of the river would suit me very well.
My canoe is an older fiberglass one, about 80+ pounds; 15 feet long and very wide. The craft may not be as swift or maneuverable as some, but it has proven to be very stable and reliable. I find that rather comforting for despite the heat, I like to be the one to decide "when" to take a dip. This boat has consistently put up with some of my antics generally not recommended for canoes....like remaining upright while I retrieved a 5 foot driftwood sculpture from a pond bottom.
My canoe suits me because I can be a pokey paddler. I like keeping a slower pace so I can lookout for nature's activity and other natural treasures. When planning an outing with an 80 lb. canoe, I must also plan a breakfast of Wheaties if I want to go it alone. Downpours from thunderstorms had recently passed through the region and I wasn't certain how this might affect the normally lazy current. Inviting someone to go along seemed like a good idea so I asked a friend with decent biceps who was never in a hurry for anything. The adventure promised to be a relaxing afternoon.
The car-top boat launch for accessing the lower end of the river sets adjacent to the Kissing Bridge in the park. From there we had a spectacular view of Bicentennial Falls. I swear just looking at those falls dropped the outside air temperature. We off-loaded from the truck bed easily, tossed in the gear and were off, immediately passing under the Kissing Bridge. The slight current was a help and no problem at all, but the run off from recent rain clouded and muddied the water. Once again I was grateful for the canoe's stability because the water didn't look particularly inviting for an unexpected dip.
Once around the first bend, we quickly forgot how close we were to the downtown Ticonderoga area and became mesmerized. The sights, sounds and smells of nature flooded the senses. Noises of human activity disappeared. Water-loving birds that I couldn't identify were camouflaged in the thicket and kingfishers chirped at us overhead.
An occasional splash into the water let us know something had spotted us first. I tried to be a little more watchful, but I was soaking in amazing shades of textured green along the river's banks.
Overhanging trees and foliage made for a nice shady paddle breaking the heat of the afternoon. Basking turtles were plentiful in the rare spotlights of sun. I felt absorbed in a private, lush Adirondack oasis. Passing under the bridge on Route 22 snapped me back to geographic reality and reminded me I was not that far from civilization after all. Therefore, this was in fact an oasis.
Sometime later we discovered that the mouth of the La Chute expands into a wide maze-like marsh where it meets Lake Champlain. It was a great deal of fun meandering around those odd shaped islands of marsh grasses. I could imagine a terrific game of hide and seek with other paddlers.
A long peninsula on the south side of the river offered us a small beaching area to stretch out our folded legs and explore a bit. I knew Fort Ticonderoga wasn't far off, but the fully leafed foliage, coupled with the rise of the terrain across the marsh, gave limited visibility. I was trying to determine how far away the Fort actually was when I first heard it...... the rhythmic sounds of the Fort's Fife and Drum Corps. The music seemed rather muffled, a bit ghostly at first, but then the sound became more intense. It rose and fell along with the breeze off the lake. I couldn't help but wonder who may have heard similar cadence from this very spot over the many years of military activity here. What a delightful payoff for reaching our turning point. The sounds provided return motivation as our paddles broke the water in time to the fading drumbeat.