Canoeing = Swimming in Rensselaer County, NY


One of the many reasons I love to canoe is that I love to swim.

The Capital Region has dozens of beautiful places to cannonball but very few of them have public beaches and/or places that allow a quick dip. The nearly 5-mile long beautiful Saratoga Lake is the worst culprit. They offer fishing, boating and water skiing but unless you know a property owner with lakeside access, there’s absolutely no place to swim from the shoreline without breaking some crazy law.

I really miss the days of my early youth when my parents would hunt and peck around St. Lawrence County until they found a swim hole where we could enjoy a warm sand bed in the privacy of state (or even unmarked posted) land. Try that today and you’ll be arrested for trespassing or worse. Where did those happy go-lucky days go?

Fortunately, my canoe provides me with the legal pathway to get wet.

This weekend I discovered the many lakes of Grafton Park and surrounding Rensselaer County. Thanks to my outdated but still very useful 1996 book “Quiet Water, Canoe Guide” by John Hayes and Alex Wilson, Dunham Reservoir is an easily paddlable body of water absent a lifeguard to bellow when you exercise your backstroke.

If you’re trying to avoid the crowded summer weekends on Long Pond at Grafton State Park, visit the other lakes. There’s no sandy beach at the others to wade into but rather small boat launches for your craft. The waters are just as warm and motor boats (even electric) are not allowed.

We saw blue heron, mallards, kingfishers and the remains of a heavy beaver population. A young boy reeled in a pickerel from the middle of the reservoir and kayakers found places along the shoreline to enjoy a bagged lunch. Beware of taking your canoe over the side of an unmarked 6-foot dam. In the 1960s the reservoir supplied water for Troy.

Other lakes to enjoy in the area include Shaver Pond, Mill Pond, Second Pond and Dyken Pond.

It’s common sense but I have to write it – be smart when you swim! Bring along a buddy, a floatation device and avoid alcohol.