In Halfmoon, between the Route 9 bridge and the Northway’s Twin Bridges, lie several islands worth exploring. One contains the foundation of a large barn once used to store ice harvested from the Mohawk River in the winter. This was a source of ice for the Albany area during the latter half of the 19th century. Today this and a couple of adjacent islands are home to lush vegetation and wild bird populations. The shale shoreline looks foreboding, but nooks and crannies can make a unique spot for a picnic lunch or a perch from which to enjoy passing boats.
Warm days in early spring and late fall present a unique opportunity for kayaking. Find the low point of Riverview Road, just west of the intersection with Boyack Road. Here the Byway crosses the north end of Wager’s Pond. Park on the broad gravel shoulder on the north side of the road and launch from the south roadside. Paddle south across Wager’s Pond to a secluded outlet through the remaining section of the original Erie Canal into the Mohawk River.
Entering the Mohawk from Wagers Pond Outlet, visit the unnamed island on the north side of the river and the massive shale cliff across the river. These features mark the location of what was historically referred to by the Dutch as “Wat Hoix Gap,” and by Native Americans as the “White Horse” or “Evil Spirit.” Since 1907, when power dam construction at Crescent formed a five-mile lake between Crescent and Vischer Ferry, this area has been flooded and is navigable. The geologic formation is less formidable and the water is flat, but is every bit as interesting to explore.
Before the 1900s, Wager’s Pond was productive farmland. The field was fl ooded by the construction of Crescent Dam for hydropower and improved navigation in 1907. It is now a lagoon filled with aquatic vegetation during the summer that obstructs forward motion of even the smallest kayak. In late fall, as the vegetation dies off, it is a great place to observe waterfowl during migratory seasons.
In Niskayuna, Aqueduct Park provides a good access point to the Mohawk River. From here paddle upriver beyond the old trolley line abutments, cross the navigation channel and enter Alplaus Creek. As you pass through the hamlet of Alplaus, both banks of the creek offer a parklike setting as property owners groom their lawns and gardens right to the creek. Further upstream the creek becomes more natural until it reaches the shallows downstream of the Glenridge Road bridge. When launching, please respect the Rexford Rowing Club’s property and the privacy of property owners along Alplaus Creek.
In Clifton Park, Clute’s Dry Dock at the eastern end of the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve, a Town-maintained floating dock, is ideal for launching car-top watercraft. The historic dry dock opens to the Erie Canal where you may explore a half-mile in either direction. Going east about a half-mile, the Canal opens to the Mohawk River to the south (right) and to Wagers Pond (left).
At the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve, you can launch a car-top craft at the Whipple Bridge entrance to the Preserve. The Towpath Trail passes under this bridge’s south abutment and dips along its north side right to the water’s edge. From this launch site you can explore the 1842 Erie Canal, from the causeway a half-mile east of the launch a mile west to a point just east of the Lock 19 remnants. At the eastern end of this canal segment, a short portage across the 1825 Towpath Trail can place your small craft in a segment of the original “Clinton’s Ditch” which runs a short distance right along Riverview Road. This is the only area remaining along the Erie Canal corridor where you can actually experience all three eras of canal history in a canoe or kayak. And all of this within a half mile of each other right within the Preserve. History lovers who canoe or kayak are inspired by the opportunities here.
Ferry Drive is the historic site of the Vischer Ferry landing and abutment to the short-lived bridge that crossed the Mohawk just after the turn of the last century. The bank of the river drops 10 or 15 feet to the water.
Mohawk Landing off Riverview Road provides access to the River west of Lock 7. A 300 meter carry is well rewarded by a unique perspective of the shale cascade that line both sides of the river. Even on the hottest summer days the shale wall, overhanging vegetation and water falls along the south side of the River provide a cool retreat as you bob on the water watching the passing boat traffic.
Where ever you kayak on the Mohawk remember your personal flotation device and keep an eye on the weather. It can change dramatically in a short period of time here in the northeast.