It is a lovely day in the early summertime, 80o and sunny, with a gentle breeze. Outdoor educators Daniel Marshall and Ursula Svoboda from the Taconic Outdoor Education Center are preparing to guide weekend canoe tours on beautiful Canopus Lake located in sprawling Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in Putnam County.
“What a gorgeous day to be out on the water!” proclaims a very eager Marshall.
“I hope we see a bald eagle like last time!” replies Svoboda.
No matter the canoe tour guide, a visitor is in for a treat, as all of the educators (guides) from the nearby Taconic Outdoor Education Center. These guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and bring their own unique perspective on the natural history and ecology of the region. The hour and a half tour circles the shoreline of the 65-acre lower portion of the man-made lake, weaving in and out of numerous small islands.
The lake, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, is both a recreational and ecological jewel in the park. In summer, you can find people swimming and sunbathing, paddling in kayaks, and fishing for largemouth bass and yellow perch along the shoreline. Chain pickerel, brown bullhead catfish, and black crappie also lurk through the aquatic plants below the surface. A lake such as Canopus, although made by humans, provides a very rich ecosystem. Other critters that spend most of their time in the water include painted turtles and water snakes such as northern water snake and black rat snake. There are even predacious water beetles in the lake; beetles are large enough to eat small fish!
Canopus Lake also attracts animals from the forest ecosystem that may be looking for a drink of water or a place to hunt along the water’s edge. Beaver activity is evident with toppled trees along the shoreline and a large wood/mud dam near the CCC dam. Osprey (state special concern species), bald eagles (state threatened) and other birds of prey soar overhead. Osprey are excellent at fishing, plunging into the water and, more often than not, emerge with a fish in their talons. What makes this canoe trip so exciting is that one really never knows what they might be lucky enough to observe when out on the water!
Canoe tours cost $5 per person and leave from the park’s boat launch along Route 301 just south of the park office. Some of the boats can accommodate four people (two paddlers and two passengers.) Reservations are encouraged by calling (845) 265-3773. Come experience this fun summertime activity for yourself!
Post by Aaron Donato, State Parks