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Canoeing & Kayaking in Rochester, NY

and vicinity

Your comments, suggestions, and additions are welcome. Let me know if you find the directory useful. Max Lent Max Lent .

Online discussion about canoeing and kayaking

Places to Paddle

  • Black Creek, Rochester, NY. This flat water creek empties into the Genesee River just north of Jefferson Road off of Scottsville Road. Traveling west and upstream, the creek has side channels into swampy areas. Further west, the creek passes under a railroad bridge that may require a carry during high water. During low water, there is often barely enough space for canoes or kayaks to float through. It's a little scary, but fun. The creek is often blocked by deadfall beyond this point.

    Although the Rochester "International" Airport is nearby and although planes fly overhead frequently, this is a pretty area to canoe. The swampy areas have partially preserved tree stumps with beautiful mosses and ferns growing on the. Since Black Creek is flatwater and close to the city it is a great place for beginning canoers to explore and practice their paddling techniques.

    If you have made it further west, send me a report of your trip and I may incorporate it into this description. Black Creek can also be canoed near Spencerport. See the description of that section in the Canoeing and kayaking in upstate New York Web page.
  • Ellison Park, Rochester, NY. "Another easy paddle is along Irondequoit Creek from Ellison Park to Irondequoit Bay. The current is not strong, so a round trip starting at either end is fine. There is a parking lot in Ellison Park beside the creek and there is a parking area beside the bay on the north side of Empire Blvd. The entrance to the creek is west of the parking area, which requires paddling a ways into the bay around a very shallow area. There are numerous waterfowl as well as turtles and beaver along the route." From R. Nuttall.
    I've heard about this route from friends and everyone seems to like it.

    Comment: 4/97. "Thank you for your listings with annotations for the various canoe routes. I have searched for four years for this type of compilation and was about to attempt one myself. In regards to the Ellison Park/Irondequoit Creek route: It is often blocked by fallen branches and four-inch diameter limbs. Last summer (1996) I spent a considerable time clearing a path to allow my Winonah Spirit II and a Swift rented from Bay Creek to barely pass. There is a large amount of man made garbage along the creek. This trip could be hairy in the Spring or after a large rain storm. / Malcolm Musiker, Pittsford, NY." Malcom, thank you for cutting a path through the fallen branches. I've often wondered who the unsung heroes were who have made my canoeing days more enjoyable.

    Comment: 9/2/98 "
    An update for the Rochester area. Did Irondequoit Creek from the bay, Sunday. There are two rental liveries on the bay now. Most interesting innovation is the barrier towards the end of the marsh that limits passage to boats with less than 5' beam. That is what the sign said, but it was fairly tight in a 36" canoe.   Julian Yudelson
  • Erie Canal, Rochester, NY. The Erie or New York State Barge Canal is navigable by canoe for its entire 300 mile length. However, it is the section of the canal that travels through Rochester that is important to this section. Canoeists may find the canal boring because there isn't much to see from the water. The banks are high, so it is impossible to see the city, suburbs, or country that it passes through. That is not to say that there is nothing to see along the canal. It is rich with wildlife and plants. It also passes through some scenic towns and villages. The trade off is that the canal is pure flatwater. There is no swift current or rocks to watch out for. There are no canoe eating swells to content with. And, the banks partially protect the canal from winds, most of the time.

    Looking at a map of Rochester you will see the canal crossed my numerous streets. Nearly all of the streets have nearby parking and suitable areas for putting a canoe on the water. Using car shuttles, it is possible to select routes of varying lengths and canoe from point to point.

    A fun evening canoe is to put in at Pittsford, NY and paddle east or west as far as you like. Then return to Pittsford and have dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.

    Reader Comment:  "Came across your website detailing canoeing in the Rochester area. Very interesting and informative -- thanks for providing this.

    One trip listed was the Erie canal. I would agree with your description, but would like to add a caution:

    Especially along the Great Embankment section of the canal (between Pittsford and Bushnell's Basin), the canal is lined with concrete walls. These are sometimes vertical and of considerable height. Beware that should a powerboat pass through these areas and generate a wake, the resulting waves will simply rebound off the walls and take a long time to dissipate. Consequently, some large standing waves can be generated that could capsize the unwary. In addition, should you turn your canoe into a wake to avoid broadsided, be aware of the rebound of the wave off the canal wall; my wife and I (pretty experienced) didn't anticipate this and were nearly flipped when the return wake caught us unprepared! Should you capsize in this part of the canal, the walls are too high to climb, and the ladders are spaced a long swim apart -- wear your PFD should you canoe these sections!

    Interestingly, where the canal is lined with rocks and boulders, wakes and waves are rapidly dissipated. Where there are walls, I have seen wakes and waves persist for 10-15 minutes!
    "  Thomas Dannhauser, Pittsford, NY.
  • Genesee River, Rochester, NY. The Genesee River flows north through Rochester, but is not navigable through the center of the city because of two waterfalls (a point not mentioned in one canoeing guidebook description). It is possible to start at the mouth of the river at Lake Ontario and canoe upstream to one of the falls. It is possible to carry a canoe into Seneca Park and down wooden stairs to the river and then canoe to Lake Ontario. However, carrying a canoe down the long steep stairs would be no easy task. This trip can be done in reverse during the mid to late summer when river current is lowest. However, the stairs are still a major obstacle.

    South of the Ford Street bridge, the Genesee river is safe to paddle. There are signs warning boaters not to go past the bridge.

    South of the Elmwood Avenue bridge the river is relatively safe to paddle. Just south of the bridge is a recreation center that rents canoes during the summer. From that put in, canoers can paddle south on the river all the way to Letchworth State Park where a dam and falls require a long portage.

    Canoers can also paddle south less than a mile to the Erie Canal. Going East on the canal Red Creek turns off to the south in a few hundred yards. Canoers can paddle all the way to the Atlantic Ocean by continuing east. Heading west, canoers can paddle all the way to Buffalo and on to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie through the Welland Canal.
  • Mendon Ponds Park, Honeoye Falls, NY. 10 miles southeast of Rochester, south of I90 between Route 65 which is Clover St. and Mendon Center Rd., The Mendon Ponds are perfect for launching your new canoe for the first time. They are safe to paddle and scenery is pretty. You can put in almost anywhere along the shores of the ponds. The boat launch area for the large ponds is on the east side of Hundred Acre Pond. The names of the ponds open to canoeing are Hundred Acre Pond, Deep Pond, Round Pond, and Lost Pond. Hundred Acre Pond and Deep Pond are joined through a aqueduct that is just large enough and just deep enough to permit a canoe through during most of the canoe season. Round Pond and Lost Pond are south and east of Hundred Acre Pond and Deep Pond on the other side of the park road. Round Pond and Lost Pond are very small, but are still worth exploring.

    Bring your binoculars. The variety of birds visiting the ponds changes with the seasons, but you should see geese, herons, ducks, and many other kinds of birds during the canoe season. To learn more about the birds and wildlife of the ponds visit the Nature Center on Pond Rd. Our favorite times to visit the ponds are late afternoon and evening and on weekdays. You may want to consider bringing a book, putting your paddle under your seat and just floating around the ponds all day. Let the breezes push your canoe to unexplored areas.
    Red Creek, Rochester, NY. The best starting point for Red Creek is from the south side of the Erie Canal in Genesee Valley Park east of the Genesee River. The road that runs between Elmwood Ave. and East River Rd. has a turn off just south of the overpass of the 390 expressway. That side road passes over Red Creek and then goes down a hill to beneath the expressway. There is a parking lot under the expressway overpass. From this put in, you can go west on the Erie canal to the Genesee River and beyond, east toward Pittsford, NY., or turn south through Genesee Valley Park.

    Heading south on Red Creek, you will have the Genesee Valley Golf Course on your right and the baseball fields on your left. Within a few hundred yards you will pass under an pretty arched bridge and then a highway bridge for East River Rd. From this point on you will see residential houses on both sides of the creek. If you can reach the second bridge you will be at Crittendon Rd. The creek may be impassable further south. However, if you can get further, you will eventually reach Jefferson Rd.

    This is another flatwater creek that is very pretty, especially in the fall when the trees are in color. It is a good choice for beginners. The water is so shallow that it is possible to walk to shore should a mishap occur.

    Watch for pond turtles, snakes, and birds. Along the shore, you may see wild Irises in late spring.

    Comment: 8/8/04

    You may want to clarify your Red Creek section. There IS a parking lot under the expressway, but it is closed off. The closest parking is about 200 feet east of Red Creek, with the canoe launch being on the west bank. T.K.

    redcrk1.jpg (20232 bytes)

    Red Creek looking north from Crittenden Rd. bridge. Mid-May 1998

    redcrk2.jpg (9690 bytes)

    Red Creek looking north from East River Rd. bridge.  Mid-May 1998.

  • Webster Park, Webster, NY. There is small creek that drains from Webster Park in to Lake Ontario at the north end of the park. Adjacent to the creek is a small beach. Either the creek or the beach is suitable for canoe launching.

    During the summer, when the city is hot and muggy, the air still, and the days long, we like to paddle out from shore at Webster Park and watch the sunset. We don't go out if there are waves strong winds, it isn't worth the risk. The best time to go is early evening when the lake winds become calm and the water flat. Even then, it is a good idea to go out with another boat. Gentle swells are OK, but can lead to seasickness. Picnicking in the park before or after venturing out on the lake is also enjoyable. If you plan to picnic, bring insect repellent. If you go to the park on a weekend you may not enjoy some of the loud parties picnicking in the park. The often bring professional portable stereos that blast throughout the park. On the other hand, if you are gregarious, try crashing a party or two. Showing up wearing a canoe on your shoulders is always a conversation starter.

    Paddling the along the shoreline, both east and west, is also enjoyable. We enjoy looking at the mansions along the shore and watching birds.

Suggested reading

Order these books right now.

Canoe Guide to Western & Central New York State. Mark Freeman, Series Editor. Alice Broberg and Dan Zwicke, Regional Coordinators. Published by the Adirondack Mountain Club, Inc., Lake George, NY. ISBN 0-935272-59-3.

Quiet Water Canoe Guide, New York. John Hayes and Alex Wilson. 1996. Published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston. MA. ISBN1-878239-51-1.


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