Monday, July 24th 2023 07:00 am
By Karen Carr Keef
Senior Contributing Writer
The 17th Annual Paddles Up Niagara is gearing up for another great run on the Niagara River on Saturday, July 29th.
When the event kicks off at Beaver Island State Park, you’ll be sure to see plenty of kayakers, canoers and paddleboarders.
The 10:30 Fun Paddle is probably New York State’s biggest big event, with hundreds of participants leaving at the same time.
“Last year we had exactly 300, and we hope to do the same this year,” said Michelle Roquette, Niagara River Greenway Community Engagement Director.
Paddlers meet at Shelter 2B, depart Beaver Island Beach, pass the marina, circle Little Beaver Island, and return to the launch site.
Noting that about 95% of the participants are kayakers, he said, “Anyone with a manual paddle boat can participate.”
“It’s a very safe event. Not only are the New York State Parks Police out on the water in motorboats and jet skis, but the Grand Island Fire Department is out in boats to keep other recreational boaters out of everyone’s reach.”
She said there are a number of safety paddlers to help guide the group along the course.
Paddles Up File Photo Courtesy Niagara River Greenway
Vendors will be present at the event to satisfy attendees’ concerns about the environment, water safety equipment, and the natural world around them.
“We have more vendors than last year,” Rocket said. “We are primarily inviting environmental groups to spread awareness about the great green planet we live on, but we will also focus specifically on Grand Island.”
“Of course, Erie County Climate Change Action Group, Western New York Land Conservation Group, and Buffalo Niagara Water Management Group will also be on board. We have the Black Rock Riverside Alliance to discuss habitat projects,” Rocket said.
The Citizens Coalition for Wildlife and the Environment will also present information at the event. This is an organization co-founded by Grand Islander Nicole Gerber and Dave Riley.
The WNY Raptor and Wildlife Care organization, as well as other groups dedicated to the environment and nature, are on site to make presentations.
There are eco-hikes led by members of the Niagara Frontier Plants Association, three guided kayak eco-tours, and early sign-ups get the chance to learn from experts while paddling and hiking through the habitat. Eco-hike participants are limited to his 16 people, and kayak his eco-tour participants are limited to his 15 people, so early booking is recommended by the organizers.
“Ecotour Lights,” a new event this year led by Paul Leuchner, Rocket said, teaches participants about the habitat restoration that took place on the East River several years ago.
“It’s probably for people who aren’t as strong paddling, maybe beginners, and we’re going from East River Marsh,” she said.
The tour begins at 7:00 AM at the kayak departure point and follows the wetland coastline to see the variety of wildlife and plants that inhabit the surrounding area. Maximum duration is 1 hour.
Eco Tours 2 and 3 are led by Grand Island Recreation Supervisor Joe Mentor and Tour Guide Erin Redding at 7:00 and 7:30 AM respectively.
Also new this year is the opportunity to take a 15-minute kayaking experience session on a first-come, first-served basis. These sessions are provided by the New York State Parks interpreting staff. Certified trainers Kelly Seaman and Tina Spencer also offer sessions to learn to kayak during the summer months. A kayak and personal flotation device are provided per session of 10 people and participants must be 12 years of age or older.
If you decide to go Fun Paddle, kayaks are available for rent from Paddles Up’s partner, Blue Water Marina. High quality kayaks will be delivered to the beach on the day of the event. He is located at 330 E. River Road. Please contact us at 716-773-7884 or visit https://www.bluewatermarinagi.com/.
To register for a paddle or eco tour and see a full list of vendors, visit https://www.niagararivergreenway.com/paddles-up.
Other features include:
•Food including sandwiches, wraps and beverages at Bogey’s will be available for purchase from 6am to 10:30am for the early eco tour, then resumes at 11:30am for lunch.
• The Grand Island Historical Society offers free one-day admission to the River Lee, a restored 1849 farmhouse that belonged to Lewis Allen, the uncle of President Grover Cleveland. You can see memorabilia from that time.
• Perks like themed baskets, paddles, life preservers and more.