While Duck Hole pond will no longer support brook trout, the river will continue to offer fine, backcountry fishing.
Back in 2003, after the Open Space Institute acquired the historic Tahawus Tract; I couldn’t wait to visit the former private lands, which encompassed over 10,000 acres of wild lands and waters.
The purchase included the 450-acre, Henderson Lake, as well as the Preston Ponds. The new parcel offered the potential of a brand new, water route, which would permit paddlers to access Duck Hole, located at the very core of the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
Surrounded by the High Peaks of MacNaughton, Santanoni, Sawteeth, and Seymour Mountains, Duck Hole also serves as the intersection of four trails, the Bradley Pond Trail, the Lake Placid-Northville Trail, the Henderson Lake Trail and the Ward Brook Fire Truck Trail. It is located over 7 miles from the nearest trailhead or road. Solitude is the most outstanding feature.
Prior to October 2006, the route had been closed to the public for well over a century. But when it was finally opened, I was there waiting, with pole, and paddle ready. My first venture over the new route into Duck Hole, took place over the weekend of Halloween, in October 2006. It was a cold, wet, windy and white affair from what I could see at the time. Peering through blowing leaves, driving snow and pouring rain, it appeared to be a very scenic site.
Duck Hole Pond is considered to be the source of the Cold River, and several small brooks and streams feed the pond, including Roaring Brook and the outlet of the Preston Ponds.
After the initial visit, I returned to Duck Hole for a week-long trip in the spring of 2007, to fish, hike and explore. Once again, I was greeted by high water conditions, with water levels that were approximately 3 feet above normal.
It was during this visit, that I first became aware of the fragile nature of the Duck Hole Dams. The main outlet dam, which at one time also served as a bridge to the Bradley Pond trail, was seriously deteriorating.
Further beyond the outlet dam, another dam stretched for over 300 yards along the south shore of the pond. This long, coffer dam, which was only five or six feet high, was also leaking.
Although several volunteer groups had been lobbying the DEC to restore the dams in recent years, Mother Nature ultimately made the decision when Tropical Storm Irene unleashed a torrent that washed out the dam.
As a result, Duck Hole was reduced to a smaller and shallower impoundment. Although it is still accessible via paddle and portage, the pond can no longer support the once thriving brook trout fishery, as the waters are simply too shallow.
However, I do expect the Cold River will continue to support a viable, brook trout fishery.
Despite a host of continued appeals, DEC spokesperson Lisa King explained in a recent email, “The agency does not intend to restore the dam at Duck Hole, in the High Peaks Wilderness area which was breached as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. By leaving it as is, the affected backcountry in this area can return to a more natural state.”
Currently, there are several dams in similarly deteriorating conditions, including the Cedar Lakes dam, and Marcy Dam. Without immediate attention to address these problems, there is a strong probability these other dams will suffer a similar fate.
According to a recent report authored by scientists at Cornell University, Columbia University and the City University of New York and funded, New Yorkers should begin preparing for hotter summers, snowier winters, severe floods and a range of other effects on the environment, communities and human health.
Released by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the report warns that climate change will drastically affect how we conduct our outdoor activities, warning that native brook trout and Atlantic salmon will decline, but bass will flourish in warmer waters.
Great Lakes water levels will fall. Coastal wetlands will be inundated, and saltwater will extend further up the Hudson River. Adirondack and Catskill spruce-fir forests will disappear, as invasive insects, weeds and other pests increase, and winters will tend to get wetter and summers drier.
“The flooding from Irene and Lee brought the classic types of impacts we project to occur in the report,” explained Art DeGaetano, a climate expert from Cornell.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org