Up The Creek ... with a paddle

By Sue Freeman

Rich and I headed out one summer morning for what we expected to be a short paddle – maybe two hours worth – nothing more. Everything we read about paddling Black Creek near where it merges into the Genesee River, said that we wouldn’t get far upstream before encountering logjams and blown down tree obstructions. So we didn’t expect much. Still, we were looking forward to a morning of paddling without having to drive far.

We heaved the kayaks to the top of the van, loaded in our PFDs, paddles, spray skirts, water bottles and emergency supplies, and headed to the launch point off Balantyne Road in Chili. We didn’t take lunch with us since we figured we’d be home in time to eat.

Launching into Black Creek was easy. DEC's Black Creek Fishing Access Site offered a big parking area and a nice ramp for sliding our kayaks into the water. Being summer, the current was slight and we easily paddled upstream. Keeping a leisurely pace, we rounded the many small islands and explored the side channels where blankets of duckweed covered the surface of the water. Our only challenge came when we approached the arched stone tunnel that carries the Genesee Valley Greenway trail over the creek. I could sit upright and paddle slowly through the tunnel. Rich, being taller, had to duck his head.

Jets rumbled overhead a few times, on their approach to the Rochester airport. Continuing upstream, we paddled under a high cement bridge that carries an active railway over the creek. Gradually we followed the winding channel upstream, passing splotches of red cardinal flower alternated with bands of yellow flowers. The wide, deep, sun-drenched channel morphed into a narrow ribbon meandering through shaded woods. The noises of suburbia disappeared; replaced by the gurgle of water, chatter of birds, and wind rustling through the tree leaves. Red tendrils reached out from the mud banks – tree roots exposed and washed bare.

A rumbling sound began emanating from my belly. I glanced at my watch to find we’d been paddling for two hours and had yet to reach any logjams or other obstructions. My stomach knew it was lunchtime and my arm muscles sang out for a rest. Fortunately, we had some dried fruit in the emergency supplies. So, we tied up the kayaks to trees along shore and sat in the peaceful forest to enjoy our fruit and water.

We never did find any blockages. Come to find out, workers from the Town of Chili had wielded their chainsaws and cleared the waterway the previous year. Eventually we ran out of water. Somewhere west of Archer Road the paddling became more difficult and at times we had to get out and drag the kayaks. So we turned around and headed back downstream. The day didn’t turn out as we expected – it was longer and much nicer than expected.

Black Creek and many other waterways to paddle can be found in “Take A Paddle – Western New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks,” available at www.footprintpress.com or by calling 1-800-431-1579.

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