Lake Champlain is full of areas to explore. Last week on a paddle around Valcour Island, my paddling partner and I discussed our next journey. It was decided that a paddle around a smaller and yet still historically significant Island was due for a visit. South of Valcour Island lies Schuyler Island. Schuyler Island is a shorter paddle from the shore from either the Port Kent ferry landing or the Port Douglas Beach in Keeseville. Schuyler Island served as a safe haven for Benedict Arnold’s remaining fleet after suffering great loss during the battle of Valcour to the British fleet during the Battle of Valcour in 1776. Today it serves as a great day use site on Lake Champlain as well as over night camping sites on a first come first serve basis.
We chose to take the longer route from the Port Kent ferry landing in Port Kent for our 5.8 mile round trip. The sandy beach at Port Kent serves for a great place to put in our kayaks. The beach was buzzing with early season sun worshipers and a few brave bathers. The water temperature is still in the 40’s, but the temperatures are hovering in the 70’s. Memorial Day is our unofficial start to summer along the coast. Campers were pouring into the campsites, the sun worshipers were taking advantage of the forecasted zero percent chance of rain, and the boaters were taking advantage of yet another glassy Lake Champlain.
The water conditions were perfect once again! aside from an occasional ripple, we found ourselves once again paddling the calmest waters Lake Champlain can offer. We always check with the NOAA radio for future lake conditions knowing of Lake Champlain’s ability to go from glassy to dangerous quickly. We took off from the Port Kent beach and left the laughter of beach goers behind as we paddled through the pilings of the ferry landing. The ferry is set to open this year on June 16th to carry people and their cars across to Burlington Vermont.
It’s not long into the paddle that you can see Schuyler Island in the distance. The Island sits only about a half mile from the shore. The camps along the shore were showing signs of their inhabitants returning for the season. With hazy blue views of the Adirondack Mountains to the southwest, Green mountains to the east, and perfectly blue skies, we paddled in silence to the island. Our plan is to always paddle all the way around the island we choose. We ventured around the east side of Schuyler. The terrain of Schuyler Island is very different than that of Valcour. Valcour Island has many steep and inaccessible cliffs. Schuyler Island is fairly flat with a welcoming rocky shoreline that ends along the tree line. There are only a few designated camping sites, but they have easy access to the shore. One on the eastern side, and one on the western side were all that I counted.
Schuyler Island was home to many birds. We looked upon nesting Canada Geese, a distant eagle, many ducks, cormorants, and what we believe to be a pair of loons (they never made the distinctive loon call or got close enough). Our resting place was along the northern shore in a nice cove with views of the northern Adirondack Mountains. We drank our refreshments, walked along the rocky shore, and discussed the beauty of our day trip around Schuyler Island.
Paddling back along the cliffs of main land New York, we again fell on silence taking it all in. The sounds of sailboat sails flapping in the wind, Jet ski engines racing by in the distance, songs of birds high in the trees, and the gentle waters against the shore can make the time fly by. We were back between the pilings of Port Kent in what felt like no time. The beach had barely cleared as people soaked up the last moments of daylight before returning home. We loaded our boats and discussed our adventure with one of the local campers who seemed very interested in visiting Schuyler Island herself.