Dirty Water Paddling

I’m relatively inexperienced when it comes to paddling. I built my first skin on frame kayak (Yost Sea Tour 15 EXP) last winter, and had plenty of fun paddling during late spring and the rest of the summer. I’d hit a few local lakes, but most of my paddling was on the Mohawk River, primarily due to its proximity to my house.

That was until a really big lady by the name of Irene passed through town. She was rather ill mannered, I might add. She didn’t directly affect me or my family, thankfully, but she tore up the neighborhood pretty well.

One of the side effects was flooding on the Mohawk river. All that water dumped on the hills had to go somewhere, and a great deal of it ended up in the Mohawk. During and immediately after the flood, there were plenty of reasons not to go kayaking: debris, swift currents, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if pollutants and sewage showed up on that list, too.

The river’s since gone down to normal levels, but ot remains silted up pretty well. The water has taken on the appearance of hot chocolate.

To pour salt in the wound, we’re currently finishing a move to a new house just off the river. So as I move stuff over to the new house, I’m constantly eyeing the water.

So when will it be “safe” to get back to paddling on it? I imagine that most of the debris has cleared by now, but all that churned up slit must make it hard to make out any submerged debris. It’s not something I’d want to go swimming in, either. I have no idea whether any of the other potential hazards (bacteria, pollutants, etc) have dropped back to normal.

where along the mohawk?
Are you in the stretch between Amsterdam and lock 7? There were some significant overruns at sewage plants thru there, so it bears more caution than other areas because the mud that was deposited along the launches contains remnants of that plus diesel fuel. And some of the launches may not be cleaned up yet. Kiwanis park was in need of massive work just before Lee for example.

As to debris, it appears that most of that has come down. But worth checking the bridges and locks personally to confirm.

General rule
if you are not willing to swim in it, do not paddle it. That goes out the window when I am in China. The water is just plain nasty

one good thing
About sewage is that in a river it goes down stream. Unless the leak is on going it should clear up very quickly. I would go out once the color returns mostly normal. The worst kind of waste is chemical. Local water folks should test it occasionally especially if anyone gets their water from it. Check with them.

Ryan L.

basic precautions
Though I am in no way a germophobe (I’ll usually eat anything that dropped on the ground or floor, even if I have to brush dirt off of it – 2 second rule works for me)I most often paddle in the handiest waters to me which are the Monongahela and Allegheny, both industrial rivers which will always have some level of chemical and fuel pollutants and e. coli flora. This latter problem is particularly bad after heavy rains, owing to our ancient sewage system which combines storm drains with waste pipes. So I am routinely cautious about contact with the water when paddling. I have a water bottle with a protective dome over the drinking spigot which I also keep in a large ziplock baggie. I am conscientious about touching my face with my river-wet hands and if I do eat a snack on the river I make sure my damp hands don’t touch it or I saturate them well with hand sanitizer before handling anything that will go into my mouth. I don’t practice rolls on the rivers (and conditions have never been rough enough to cause unwanted full body contact.) I don’t paddle the rivers if I have an open cut, and when I get back from paddling I hose off all my gear and leave it in the sun to dry and take a thorough soapy shower. So far, so good, after 8 years of paddling in the diluted effluent of Pittsburgh’s toilets.

Launch spots
I usually launch from Aquaduct park… convenient access with the docks there, and it’s close by. If the wife’s running the bike path, then I’ll launch at Lock 7.

Either way, it’s downstream from that carnage in Schoharie.

tchuck, my observation of Chinese
water was the same.Nasty beyond belief.

you are local then…
To me anyway. I would suggest two things. One alternative is to switch to the Hudson for another week,give the water on the mohawk time. It’s it is still downstream, but more dispersed. The other is to drop in at aquaduct and just hose down everything religiously.

Call DEC as well, see of there are any current tests of the water.

The Hudson
is tan as well. I went out in it last week and that was enough. It may not be unsafe but I found it not much fun anyway, since I’m mainly out there for the scenery.

Oh yeah, I also saw a dead pig floating out there, off Norrie Point.

I think it’s going to be like this for awhile yet, at least at the surface. I saw a tugboat pushing a barge this weekend from high up on shore and it appeared there was clearer water being churned up from below, so at least it isn’t like this all the way to the bottom.

CT River too
I made the mistake of paddling the CT River Sunday and not only was it brown but millions of dead horse flies on the surface - everywhere. I don’t mind the brown water but looking at dead bugs all day was disgusting. As I went out into LI Sound they were there too at least a quarter mile out. It was outgoing tide. Not too much debris that would be dangerous just small junk. Maybe it will clear in a few weeks.

that’s why corporations moved there
to avoid environmental regulation

I was at lock 7 last week’s Sunday
Last week’s Sunday my friend and I paddled off of lock 7. There was a lot of sludge from the floods left behind, but that didn’t stop us. We did have a lot of fun and the Mohawk wasn’t too bad; however, I wish I had cleaned all of my gear when I got home. Since then I have been finding some of my gear smelling like it came out of a cigar shop.

Immediately washing with fresh water prevented some of my gear from getting that smell, but my shoes and tether still smell a little bit. The worst offender is the nylon rope of my tether; leaving it out in the sun took care of the worst of it, but I will have to try a second day of leaving it out to be sun kissed. As for now, I am only sticking with Stewarts pond and other waters that are not tied to the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. The cigar like smell was enough to worsen a new allergy that had just appeared this year causing me to cough a lot (docs are still trying to figure out what is causing it).

I would recommend to wait a while, before going into either of the rivers, at least in the capital district area. Other than that I think you should be fine.

Waiting a week, then
Sounds like I’ll be better off not paddling for another week. Truth be told, I ought to concentrate on moving and getting the new house sorted out. Paddling would be a good stress reliever, though.

I stopped by Aqueduct Park this afternoon… looks like the rowing crews were packing up their equipment. Just about everything in reach of the floodwaters is covered in a layer of mud. At least the docks were clean.

Personally, I would resume paddling as
soon as the Mohawk is below flood stage and there are no longer floating hazards like trees.

But then, I used to scull on the Charles River when it had mats of untreated sewage floating on it. And I regularly sculled on the Schuylkill when it was high and brown.

Probably after 51 years on rivers, I have some immunity to most pathogens. I have poled other paddlers and trout fishermen who use Atlanta’s river the Chattahoochee after high water periods, and they do not report problems with gastrointestinal illness. Kayakers who roll often may get otitis externa, but I’m not sure that’s related to dirty rivers. I used to get it every summer from a swimming pool I carefully chlorinated myself.

You can be “sure” by staying home, or you can be reasonably careful.