Adirondack Adventure Swimming: Lake Harris/Hudson River

It was a regular adventure swim!

None of us had swum Lake Harris before, let alone swum out of Lake Harris up the Hudson River! Four miles round trip.  How exciting would that be?  We almost canceled before we began: the weather was a bit sketchy with heavy rain in the forecast and thunderstorms in the afternoon.  We decided to get up early and head out first thing to get our swim in before/with the heavy rain and avoid the thunderstorms.

The Route from Lake Harris up the Hudson.

Part 1: The Drop

Deb had planned the swim down to the tiniest details. A map with waypoints, a GPS, and a pre-determined water bottle drop point at the halfway mark of the 4-mile swim, a bridge over the Hudson.

Newcomb, NY was only about an hour and 15 minutes from Glens Falls.  A turn off Route 28N led us to the bridge drop point. We studied the bridge abutments and slopes for several skeptical minutes, looking for a good way down to the water to leave our water bottles… before we noticed the well marked trail from the road right down to the water.

View of the Hudson River from the bridge at the halfway point, 2 miles.
The entirely too obvious trail, (even marked with a trail marker) down to the river where we hid our water bottles.

Part 2: The Lake Harris Swim

Arriving at Lake Harris, we found the beach and boat launch deserted. That was a little surprising;, we had anticipated crowds and crowds of boaters, recreational swimmers, and open water adventurers. After all, what else is there to do before 8 am on a Saturday? We’d even worn our matching team suits in case we got lost amongst the masses.

Ghost Beach

We left from the lonely beach and swam across to a small island. From there, we followed the buoys that marked the deeper water across the lake. The shallow areas were very rocky and made it tricky for swimming.

The water was very warm (estimated in the 80s) and a ruddy, orange color which made me think it must have rained sometime in the night. It made us all look like Oompa Loompas from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.

“I’ve got a golden ticket…”

As we came to the outlet of Lake Harris, the water got shallower and marshy. I was so excited when I realized I was swimming through lily pads! I thought myself a graceful, beautiful swan. But then I realized that swans float on top of the water and I was more set down in the water… like a frog. And that wasn’t as romantic as being a swan.  I compromised by deciding I could be the frog princess.

The marshy shallow area was mostly swim-through-able, but sometimes you had to pull yourself along through bright green grasses and skirt over the top of muck bottoms. Following the pull of the current tended to guide you to deeper water and as long as you stayed in that channel, it was great swimming fun!

Part 3: The Hudson River Swim

We got to the outlet of the lake and the river was several degrees cooler and a welcome change. We laughed at the sign nailed to a tree across the way pointing us left to Mt. Marcy or right to NY City.

The signs above us on the tree indicate Mt. Marcy to the left and NY City to the right. I wanted to go to NYC, but Bob won.

After a picture, we swam up the river toward the bridge and the water bottle drop point. The water was plenty deep enough and the current wasn’t too strong. It was hard enough that you felt like you were working, but not so hard that you felt like it was impossible to go anywhere.

There were lots of downed trees and high rocks and you had to really be aware of your surroundings, but it kind of reminded me of a video game or an amusement park ride. The water was still that dark, orange color, but that just made it all that much more interesting.

It was about a mile from where we joined the river to the bridge and we were all so excited to see the plan come together as we rounded the last bend and saw the rapids with the bridge over it. The cloudy morning gave way to some sunshine as we paused to re-hydrate with gatorade and water. We were all looking forward to flying back down the river with the current!

Part 4: The Return

And what a ride it was! You could feel the push of the current rushing you back down the river. I can’t help but grin just thinking about it. Knowing the course through the downed trees helped to avoid snags, too – which seems to be a good reason to go upstream first if ever you want to swim in a river setting.

We got back to the lake outlet and had some trouble, this time, navigating through the marshy area. We got to a point where we couldn’t swim… or walk without sinking… and so we had to crawl/lunge/float. I scouted around and realized that we had simply missed our deeper channel that had directed us out the lake the first time and, with a minor course correction, we’d be back in deeper water and grasses and lilypads.

We managed to navigate the quicksand of the murky marsh without loss of life or contributing to scientific studies of fossils of open water swimmers thousands of years from now and continued on across the lake.

As we got to deep water, past the marshy area, we paused to check in with each other.

“It’s starting to rain,” Bob observed.

“Yay!” Deb and I both cheered simultaneously. After all, the forecast had promised heavy rain for us and we didn’t want to be let down.

When we got to the first buoy and rounded the corner to head back across the lake, we met our heavy rain and wind and quite a bit of chop! We paused at one of the buoys and marveled at how the weather had changed as we gazed across the angry water toward the distant beach that we couldn’t quite see.

“… I think we’re going to get wet,” Bob said.

Goodness! How I laughed!


We made our way back just fine and it even stopped raining just before we finished!  The three of us adventurers were quite proud and  feeling very accomplished… AND HUNGRY!  It probably took us 2 1/2 hours or so, all said and done.  We retrieved our water bottles from the well-marked path down to the river and headed into Newcomb to get some breakfast at the diner at the entrance to town.

We all agreed it was one of the best swims we’ve done – a perfect blend of all the adventures of open water swimming.  We met currents and torrents and wind and murk and dark water and lurking snags and dangers; it was awesome!  The tagline for this Adirondack Adventure Swim, as Deb so aptly packaged it:

“A Dark Thrill Ride… and you might get wet.”

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