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Adirondack Paddling: Dunham Bay Marsh

Paddling on a sunny day.
Paddling on a sunny day.

Lake George is the biggest and arguably the most beautiful lake inside the Adirondack Park, but with its winds and motorboat traffic, it is not the best place for paddling. Canoeists and kayakers can find a refuge from the busy lake in Dunham Bay Marsh.

A canoeist enjoys a sunny day in Dunham Bay Marsh.
A canoeist enjoys a sunny day in Dunham Bay Marsh.
Photo by Phil Brown

The outlet of the vast marsh flows into Lake George from the south. From Dunham’s Bay Marina, you can paddle two miles up the inlet to its source. The marina charges a put-in fee of $5 per boat.

You launch from a quiet, grassy area near some boat slips. The stream seems to have no current. In summer, blooms of white water lilies and pickerelweed abound. The vegetation on the edges of the outlet is a mixture of cattails and grasses.

Although Dunham Bay Marsh is never far from roads, it seems like a wild oasis. Paddling upstream, you are likely to flush great blue herons and mallards. Red-winged blackbirds frequently flit across the water and call out from the cattails. You’ll also see a few beaver lodges.

As the stream bends, you are afforded views of Pilot’s Knob and the rocky summit of Buck Mountain to the northeast. Sugarloaf Mountain is closer and directly east.

At 1.5 miles, the stream becomes weedier and soon becomes clogged with lily pads as well. If you push on, the lily pads thin out, though the weeds remain. At about two miles, you reach the end of the stream in a hardwood forest. When I paddled here recently, the place was abuzz with cedar waxwings.

On the way back, you’ll often have the rocky ledges of Cat Mountain in your sights. It’s located in the northwest, about halfway up the lake.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

DIRECTIONS:
From Northway Exit 21, drive east a few hundred yards to NY 9. Turn left and go 0.3 miles to NY 9L. Turn right and go 4.5 miles to Dunham’s Bay Marina. They will direct you to the launch off Bay Road (a right turn just before NY 9L crosses the marsh’s outlet).

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