Hinckley Reservoir Paddle

Growing up in the Finger Lakes, I was unaware of the many other bodies of water that populate NY. Since moving to Utica I’ve made it my mission to find new water.

There are plenty of gems to discover in Central NY. One of my favorites is Hinckley Reservoir. At first we hung out at the aptly named “Beer Can Beach” where locals shore their boats and party.

Hinckley Reservoir

These days my approach is a little more relaxed, trading out the motorboats for paddles. On a recent weekend with the weather approaching 90F, getting out on the water was a necessity. Farah and I packed a cooler and headed north before the sun started cooking Saturday morning.

The Hinckley Reservoir was built in the valley formed by the West Canada Creek which flows south from the Adirondacks to the Mohawk River. The NY State Canal Corporation finished its construction in 1915 to control the level of the Erie Canal. These days the reservoir provides drinking water for the city of Utica.

paddling on Hinckley Reservoir

The lake isn’t very large with a total area of 4.46 square miles. Due its size and somewhat remote location, the lake is only busy on hotter weekends and holidays. Hinckley has a beautiful little state park with sandy beach for swimming and various picnic locations. We used to come up just to relax and swim.

Unfortunately the park has not been able to find lifeguards the last 2 years and the swimming area is closed. This a real shame and I imagine its deterring people from using the area. I really think NYS should consider swim at your risk for areas like this.


Farah and I launched our kayaks from a private campground and headed for Hinckley’s lone island. We were on the hunt for a sandy beach to relax and enjoy the day. Most of shoreline is a mix of rock and sand from the river sediment, but the best spots on the island are all sand. We knew there would be competition, from our launch point we could already see some of the better spots occupied.

We made the half mile paddle to the island, and started circling its shore for open real estate. On the North side we found a rocky beach that was open, and pulled in.

kayak landing

We spent the next couple of hours lounging in the sun and water while demolishing the food and snacks in the cooler. Boat traffic started to wane so we thought we might paddle for a bit and then find a softer beach. We headed to the northern most shore of the lake and followed the beach east for a bit. I was surprised to spot a loon in a marshy cove, especially with all the boat traffic.

We watched it dive and surface a few times before crossing back over to the island. On the south side, a few sandy spots had opened up so we happily pulled in needing another swim after the workout.

We spent another hour or so swimming before calling it day and paddling back to our launch point. It may not sound like much of a thrill, but relaxing in almost total isolation on your own private beach is really nice. It was also a great primer for paddling trip we want to take deeper in the Adirondacks this summer.

In total we only paddled a little over 3 miles. With waves from traffic and it being our first time out, I was definitely feeling it the next day. That and the sunburn.

4 comments on “Hinckley Reservoir Paddle

  1. We do LOVE NY.
    I hope to kayak the Adirondacks real soon. We usually go the LP to ski in the winter, but it would be great to kayak the wonderful waterways.

  2. Unfortunately my wife sold our Green 17 Foot Fiberglass canoe. I really felt it was great exercise during the summer months.
    Oh well maybe someday we will get a new one.

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