Skimming the shore

Posted on July 8th, 2019

Out See Go
By Chris Engle, contributor

July’s been hot and dry so far, making it easy to forget the soaking-wet spring we had.

That memory is still fresh for homeowners on our smaller inland lakes here, where the water still hasn’t recovered from what’s on track to be the wettest year on record. For some, high water has tragically led to them abandoning their waterfront cabins — which would normally be bustling with paddleboards, lawn chairs and wet beach towels — for the season. One even gave up running their sump pump 24/7 when continued rains made it obvious there was no stopping the water.

Chels and Paige float past a flooded picnic table and bench. Photo by Chris Engle

Once the lake drops, they’ll return and survey the damage to their lawns, foundations and crawl spaces. For now it’s a waiting game.

Their struggle has been a boon for wildlife. High water has opened up new coves and pockets for newborn critters, from loon chicks to tadpoles, to thrive. Even plants and wildflowers are taking root in areas that, any other year, would be high and dry.

Forest flowers reach over floodwaters. Photo by Chris Engle

If you’ve got a kayak or canoe, seeing all of this is as easy as skimming the shoreline.

A 3- or 4-inch draft is the obvious advantage a paddlecraft has over a motorboat or even a rowboat. Cruising along just inches from dry land almost seems like trespassing, but state law makes it legal as long as your boat stays wet. Any lake with a public access is public in its entirety, so long as you’re in the water.

Have your camera ready, because there’s certainly some cool things to see.

This frog still had a tail left over from its tadpole stage. Photo by Chris Engle

There are, of course, some ethics involved. Just because someone’s firepit is submerged doesn’t mean you should go stealing their bricks. It’s not nice to go trudging around someone’s flooded front lawn. Again, this year has been no fun at all for some lake residents and you don’t want to be part of the problem.

Obviously, fish lurk along the shoreline too. Photo by Chris Engle

You can, however, help out. If you see someone’s canoe or swim raft floating away, give it a shove back to shore. Pick up any trash you find, especially glass bottles or dock boards with nails. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that public waters, which are held in public trust, are just that.

Happy paddling, and happy Alpenfest!

Chris Engle lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at

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