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  • Writer's pictureBrad G.

Some neato places to canoe w/in 2 hours or so from Webster, NY....

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Growing up in the southern tier, Bath area, NY.........we grew up, training for races, on the Cohocton river, that grows from some barely visible farmland trickle around Atlanta, NY, and empties into the Chemung down near Corning, NY. In the early Spring, you can start above Avoca depending on how much snow there was during the Winter. It's a super neat paddle, with lots of snaky twists up above Avoca. Our canoes were flatwater marathon style, 18.5' long, quite narrow, with no rocker from end to end. So you had to know how to turn a tight corner into more of a straight line! But for more forgiving canoes, it is quite nice. The water doesn't last you really have to make the trip most likely by mid-Mayish, or head downstream to begin, and give up some of the twisty fun. (speaking of which, if you manage to catch the spring runoff early enuf, you can literally paddle thru farmfields above Cohocton, up near Atlanta....) The mile long stretch that goes along Bath has been widened to the point of being about 3" deep during late Spring -- down along the Mossy Bank area. (big hill with nice overlook just behind Bath). This widening thing was done to eliminate flooding -- which flooded everywhere in the Southern tier back in 1972 flood, and which totally inundated Corning. You can take the Cohocton from around Avoca to down around Erwin, West of Corning, where it dumps into the Chemung, which then meets up with the Canisteo River, coming up from down around Addison, south of Corning. Further down, it becomes the Tioga River, in Pa. I would regard anywhere beyond Savona ( on Cohocton) to be fairly boring, and perhaps quite shallow much beyond Spring. (also, doing this from memories of mostly 30 years and beyond!! there may be some alterations!) But regardless, dredging to prevent flooding has altered the river in the flood plains...flatter, without depth = yucky canoeing.

The obvious downside to canoeing on rivers like the Cohocton, or any river that is somewhat shallow and has visible current, is that you need a shuttle, or a pickup person. You just can't canoe downstream on these rivers for 10 miles, then turn around and go back up to your start point, like you can on the canal, or the lower half of the Genesee river. This is one obvious benefit to the Barge canal!!

Some other thoughts on the Cohocton: it eventually meets up with the Tioga, which has joined up with the Canisteo, and they all turn into the Chemung, which eventually turns into the East Branch of the Susquehanna...whew! ....................................................

A lot of the creeks or rivers that I have canoed on are around here, in the Southern tier (Bath, Corning, Canisteo), and in the Cortland area -- which seems to have great early Spring creeks all over the place. Christ, it seems like all we did was go to races around there during the last years of college and beyond. We froze to death on most of them, with icecubes hanging from our noses and our fingers losing all feeling....and the feet...too horrible to think about. Like I said, most of these were over in the Cortland area and south and beyond. I think there was a race every weekend over that way, and they were well attended! A lot of them did interval starts, since you really couldn't line up more than 2 canoes at once at the start, plus staying still in a fast moving current, waiting for the start signal, just doesn't work. I'm sure the racing scene has diminished considerably, but the water is still the same....

......I want to address what actually prompted my sudden interest in writing about some of the rivers that are somewhat local. A local paddler called me recently asking about Howland Island. Wow -- what a great place to ask about. It's over above Port Byron just west of where rt. 89 crosses the Seneca river. There's access to the river south of the bridge on a pretty obscure road as I recall -- that would be worth some investigation.

I have paddled around the island 3 x, but not within the past 3 years. I read that a lot of growth makes a trip around the island very difficult at this time (sept. 2020).- but I don't have any clear knowledge...I do the trip counter clock wise, so you are in the wilds pretty quick, and eventually wonder if you might ever see civilization again. (I did, all 3 trips!!) The trip in an old Sawyer Shockwave (the last version of the rounded C-1 racing canoes prior to the V bottom w/ wings) took me around 2:15 to 2:30 hours, at a pretty steady not racing, but not goofing around either. If you are more casual, non-racing background, in a fuller canoe, you might figure more like 5 hours....or more. So pack stuff to eat and drink! I think this is a great experience...and by the time you meet up with the Seneca river, you will feel some relief (if you do the counter clockwise thing). When you are on the 'inside' of the island, the water narrows as you head West, and even gets to be a bit of a squeeze as I recall.

Howland Island is obviously fairly large, and has a lot of hiking trails on it. Now, if my imagination serves me right, on the smaller island to the East of Howland island, there is a fairly large Victorian (mansion?)....well, it's big, and kinda spooky looking. There's a bridge connecting that to the opposite shore -- as I recall, (which right now isn't bullet proof, but it might be close enuf. )

The Seneca River is part of the Barge Canal, but is nicer because it actually has the aspect of a more lively and natural river. It begins as an outflow from Seneca Lake.

I don't recall thinking about it too much when I was racing canoes, and training around the upper portions of the Cohocton River, but it was a great area to live in and paddle in. There are numerous places to paddle, no matter what time of year it is. The interesting thing about rivers like the cohocton is that they begin as almost nothing, and grow wider with every yard you paddle. On the Cohocton, in early Spring, you could train ( because we practiced for races) in areas where no more than a month later it would be impossible. So you continually shifted your training somewhat downstream; less twisty, less challenging, less interesting, more like labor....The water that fed into the Cohocton started somewhere above the actual town of Cohocton, up around Atlanta perhaps.....a narrow creek winding it's way South through fields walled in by impressive foothills. I regretfully never paddled up that far, but I bet that you can if you get out early enuf, and embrace you inner explorer. You would be alone, guaranteed. The only issue we ever had was early Spring guys fishing -- because that's when and where they fished! When the 'river' is only 12 feet wide, and mostly sharp turns, it's impossible to miss a fishing line hanging out in the river; so you raced by dragging the line, lure...and yelling apologies as you disappeared around the next bend. The guy fishing was probably swearing. We didn't hear it. .....

...Ok, a bit off the subject, but we used to paddle a lot on Keuka Lake in the early spring also. There was an inlet at the Hammondsport end, but not much to paddle anytime of year. The outlet at the Penn yan end is barely any better; the other leg of the lake, on the Branchport end, is more interesting, and you can actually paddle there. There is even a put in! But these outlets don't really accommodate canoes too the Seneca or Cayuga Lake outlets do -- because they are feeders into the barge canal.


On the Eastern edge of Bath, there's a small Lake called Salubria. There's some cottages and small homes around it's edges. On the East side, there used to be a nice restaurant called the 'Moonlight' -- because of the reflection of the moon on the lake, I assume. When we were short on time to practice, we'd often train there. It's a bit of gem, and in a more populated prosperous area, it would be home to several lakeside mansions. But not so. I even rented a very small apartment there for a few months during 'college' was my own Thoreau episode.....realizing of course that he had no cars going by on old rt. 15.....I still wonder if that old apt. eventually fell into the lake. It hung out over the lake, which was a reason to be attracted to it. But it was precarious. I think at the time it cost me $80 per mo.

That's not all.....Up on top of the hills that frame the Eastern side of Keuka lake are other, smaller lakes -- that aren't finger lakes . They are much smaller and provide an opportunity for those who don't own wineries in Northern Ca. to live lakeside in a small, humble cottage. And yes, we used to train for races there as well. Two of our favorites were Lamoka and Waneta, which were connected by a weedy channel; at the midpoint of this channel was a parking lot/boat launch, that served both lakes. Lamoka is the more interesting of the two, as it has more shape and an interesting (southern?) end, that if you are somewhat adventurous, you can follow to Bradford..... -- O, Bradford is a very small town near Sonora.........? Ok. near itself then. But small, very rural...and I don't know what else. To me, these small, lakey tendrils that drift off to the backwaters of lakes like Lamoka, that few people outside the area even know about, and end up in the outskirts of Bradford and Sonora, are just precious knowledge. Hidden secrets. I savor having discovered it. So, is it worth driving all the way down there, and trying to find these backwater goodies? Absolutely yes.

As somewhat of an aside, I grew up (8th grade thru most of college, halfway between Bath and Savona)-- on a mile and a half long road that was comprised mostly of two dairy farms. The Cohocton River ran a 1/4 mile behind our house. Sonora was beyond Savona a few miles or so, and was even less populated. I'm not sure other than about 15 old houses, just exactly what it was -- but to some extent, it was a community. Savona was large by comparison, but still wasn't much, other than a school and a gas station and a mainstreet w/ a hardware store and some other stores that sold essentials -- as there wasn't much demand for anything else. But these were the main street areas, that gave you the basic idea of where you were.

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