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Some Experiences Will Never Get Old

A late blooming water lily on the Chadakoin River. Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

As far as I’m concerned, kayaking the Chadakoin River never gets old. Whenever I take a journey down the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, the river is different, and I never know what or who I will see on my adventure.

Somehow, this summer got away from me, but I finally got to paddle the river in early September. When I pulled into the parking lot at McCrea Point, I noticed that things were different right away – and in a very good way. The river looked a lot cleaner than I had seen it in the past, and I was pleased to see the Chautauqua Belle moored there. As I was parking my car, a mom and her young son were just entering the water. From their conversation, I assumed it was his maiden voyage. She was taking every precaution to keep him safe. First, she secured his paddle to his kayak with a rope and then tied the boats together so she could tow him.

She shoved off and tried to pull him in, but his kayak wouldn’t budge. I was right there, so I offered to push him in. As I did, I noticed that he seemed a little nervous, so I tried to assure him that everything was going to be fine. A little later, I heard them behind me on the river. He was excitedly talking about how much fun he was having. I smiled to myself, thinking about all the adventures awaiting this little guy because of this first positive experience. My first kayaking adventure came when I was in my mid-40s, and once I started, I’ve never stopped.

After I put my own kayak in the water at the boat ramp, I began looking for the new kayak launch. I didn’t see it, but once on the water, I finally found it near the rowing docks. It wasn’t ready for use yet but will be quite an asset to the community when it’s operational. As I continued down the river, the sun came out from behind the clouds and started to warm things up. The leaves on the maple trees were just starting to change color, and some of the vibrant reds were visible here and there. Most of the lily pads had already flowered for the year, but I did manage to get a beautiful picture of one in bloom.

There weren’t any Canada geese or mallards around, but I did come across a few female wood ducks with their trademark white teardrop shape around their eyes. I love their distinct cry as they take off when disturbed. The great blue herons were far and few between, as were the small green herons that I normally see. Although it wasn’t a great day for birding, I was still in my glory.

One thing I was happy not to see was trash along the shoreline. There were a few things, like the lids to night crawler containers and water bottles, but nothing like I’ve seen in the past. When I did spy some trash and went to retrieve it, I was rewarded. Just as I leaned over to pull a pop can out of the water, I heard a crashing sound on the shore. Looking up quickly, I caught the flash of a white tail as a deer bounded off. She didn’t go far. She stopped and looked back at me for a few minutes. I sat quietly, and we made eye contact. When she decided I was not a threat, she slowly walked away. It was epic, and I got to enjoy it all just by picking up some litter.

A lot of the credit for the cleaner shores goes to the Conewango Creek Watershed Association and their river clean-ups which take place in May. They are a hard-working group of individuals who “promote the health of the Conewango Creek…and the watershed.” The Chadakoin River is a tributary of the Conewango Creek, so cleaning up the Chadakoin also helps to keep conditions clean farther downstream. (Watch for articles and notices early next year if you want to become involved in the cleanup.)

It took me about two hours to come up the river, but when I rounded the last curve and caught sight of the sailboat masts in the marinas, I was both happy and sad.

Happy for the adventure and sad to see it end. I am blessed to have both my health and the opportunity to navigate this unique waterway.

As this beautiful fall weather leads us from the balmy days of summer to the windy, cold days of winter, try to take a minute to get outside. Enjoy a hike, a paddle or just a “sit down,” and count your blessings. It never gets old, and who knows what or who you will see – maybe it’ll be me.

Susan M. Songster Weaver is a retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit chautauquawatershed.org or facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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