Rondout Creek: Paddle Back in Time

One of the things I like about the Hudson Valley is that almost any place you go has hosted a semi-significant event or character from America’s history. On the 4th of July, I picked a body of water with a storied past to paddle: Rondout Creek.

kayak launch

We drove up the Thruway to exit 18, turned east to connect with route 9W and headed north into the town of Esopus. Getting off 9W, each turn leads to progressively narrower roads until you find the put-in, a narrow concrete boat ramp with an aluminum dock next to it.

I pulled up close to unload the kayaks, then tucked my truck between somebody’s boat trailer and the surrounding brush. Once our boats were situated, I pushed Junior out into the water, then launched myself.

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Croton Point Kayaking

I had an epiphany on the way to the Echo Canoe Launch last Saturday. We have two touring kayaks, a red, white and blue Dagger Charleston we call “The Bomb Pop” and a 17-foot red Wilderness Systems Sealution sometimes known as the “Cherry Bomb.”

In the past, I would let Junior choose which one he wanted to paddle. My usual approach was to say “The Bomb Pop is lighter and more stable but the Cherry Bomb is also very stable and even though it’s heavier, it’s also faster so once it’s in the water, it won’t feel heavier. Which one do you want to paddle?” He would always choose the Bomb Pop, I think because it’s somehow less intimidating.

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Iona Island Hudson River Paddle

Iona Island is one of those spots that keeps paddling on the Hudson interesting. In spite of its unimposing look, it’s 556 acres ooze history. Before European colonization it was called Wa-na-ka-wagh-kin and was a favored fishing spot for the locals.

In colonial days it was bought by the Van Cortland family along with what seems like half the rest of the Hudson valley. In the 1800s it was used to grow produce for the Union Army, became a resort including a carrousel and hotel. Later it was used as a depot for military ordinance.

It remained an arsenal through both World Wars, hosted a small fleet of mothballed ships in the postwar period and eventually, mostly, returned to nature. The ghost ships and arsenal are gone except for a few old buildings.

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