Memories of Paddling Irondequoit Creek

by Sue Freeman

One day, in the silliness of our youth, my husband Rich and I decided to be adventurous and rent a boat to paddle down Irondequoit Creek. We knew little in those days about paddling and we didn’t own a boat so, we headed to the nearest rental store to procure one. This rental store was not a kayak store such as Bay Creek Paddling Center or Oak Orchard Canoe and Kayak Experts where you can rent or buy an official boat today. This was a rental store where you’d go to rent a paint sprayer or a jackhammer. Only, we wanted a boat. What we came away with were 2 paddles and an inflatable 2-person craft that, when inflated, resembled an open-pit kayak with pointed ends.

We strapped it, fully inflated, to the top of our car and drove off. Leaving one car at the lowlands where Irondequoit Creek meets Irondequoit Bay, we piled into the boat-carrying car and shuttled up to Ellison Park. We untied the beast, lowered it to the creek bank, and climbed in. At least an inflatable watercraft was light and easy to handle.

Immediately, the gentle current carried us downstream. Using the paddles, we guided the boat as we glided around the graceful bends and passed under bridges, traversing through Ellison Park under a canopy of shade trees. When we reached a sea of cattails, we knew we’d exited the park and were now in the extended marsh area that stretches from Browncroft Boulevard to Irondequoit Bay. Now, as the water slowed, we had to paddle to make progress.

I was seated in front, with Rich in the rear. I heard the rhythmic plunge of his paddle and dripping of water with each stroke and tried to maintain the same pace to keep us going straight. After a while of winding through the marsh, always staying in the main channel, I looked back over my shoulder. There sat Rich, cocked at a jaunty angle, paddling away. Below him sat a pool of water. We both stopped paddling and heard a hissing sound as air escaped from a chamber in the rear of the boat. Not a good sign. Would our inflate-a-boat stay afloat long enough to make it out of the marsh? We resumed paddling with a bit more urgency.

Three hours after launching, we emerged into Irondequoit Bay and pulled over to the shore. By now Rich’s side of the boat was barely above water level and listed severely to one side. Propelling the craft forward had become quite a challenge with the drag he and his water load provided. We were glad to see the end point.

Years later we paddled Irondequoit Creek in real kayaks. This time, we glided easily (and stayed dry) all the way to Irondequoit Bay. Although it was a fun paddle the second time, it lacked the special quality of our trip down the creek 20 years previously that inspired fond memories of adventure.

To explore Irondequoit Creek on your own, pick up a copy of the guidebook “Take A Paddle – Western New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks” at or by calling 1-800-431-1579.

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