Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Dack Duck

Now that winter is here and the lakes and rivers are frozen or getting there day-by-day in Canada, it's time to pull out some of those short-n-sweet paddle stories I parked in my mind but were never told. They are pleasant memories. The ones that make me kick myself for not kayaking more this year. These memories will make me plan more kayaking trips in the new year. My awesome kayaks deserve it.

This is the story of The Dack Duck.

That's what I named her anyway. Perhaps I should have named her Grace.

A couple of years ago, I was on a kayaking trip with a small group in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York (U.S.A.). We were paddling a series of lakes from one day to the next.

One drizzly, foggy day, that I thought was far better for visiting the awesome Adirondack Museum, we paddled Big Moose Lake. I lost the vote. And luckily so. Along the remote, wild, east end of the lake, a cute little female duck broke away from the flock and swam over to my kayak and led the way out of the creek. She stayed very close to my kayak. We weren't offering any food. Just paddling along. Her wilder counterparts kept their distance.

Big Moose Lake is about three miles long and one mile wide, with an average depth of about 23 feet. I consider Big Moose Lake a "cottage country" lake, but it does have some wild bays and marshes, and is at the head of Big Moose River.

Big Moose Lake is somewhat famous and notorious as the location of the murder of Grace Brown in 1906. Some claim ghost sightings, and media attention adds to the mystique.

From Wikipedia: Grace Mae Brown (March 20, 1886 – July 11, 1906) was an American skirt factory worker whose murder caused a nationwide sensation, and whose life inspired the fictional character Roberta Alden in the Theodore Dreiser novel, An American Tragedy, as well as the Jennifer Donnelly novel, A Northern Light. The facts of the real murder are laid out in the two non-fiction books: Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906, written by Joseph W. Brownell and Patricia A. Wawrzaszek, and Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited, by Craig Brandon.

The famous novel is based on the true story which peaks when Chester Gillette rows his pregnant lover, Grace Brown, out to a remote part of Big Moose Lake in 1906 and sends her overboard to drown. He wishes to marry a high-society lady instead, and pregnant Grace is in the way. Chester's excuse to authorities is that she just jumped overboard.

Did we paddle past the scene of the crime? 
Most likely. We paddled and explored the entire lake, not knowing its infamous history.

It is an intriguing and truly tragic story. Grace was only 20 years old. Now that I've paddled the lake, time to read the famed novel, An American Tragedy.

Is that you Grace stopping by to say hello? Or, are you just a cute little duck who fell in love with my kayak.
When our group paddled out of the marshy creek on the north east end of Big Moose Lake, off East Bay, the oddly friendly little duck rejoined her wild flock and we parted company.
I so enjoyed having her paddle alongside me. What a great little paddle buddy. She cheered me up and made my day. And . . . I visited the Adirondack Museum on another drizzly, foggy day! There were plenty of good days for that in the fall!

I guess Big Moose Lake is truly a magical and mystical spot.

Big Moose Lake is also the location where, just before the paddle, we came across a roadside snapping turtle nest budding with 50 baby snappers emerging from the nest one-by-one. 
This trip inspired me to write one of my most popular posts:


You may also enjoy another one of my "Dack" stories:

Portaging adventures in the Adirondacks, NY with the awesome Maelstrom Vital 166

Happy paddle memories.
The BaffinPaddler


  1. This story has it all! Love, betrayal, ducks, turtles, water and of course, kayaks! I hope to see many more of these tales.

  2. Thanks. I thought you might like this one. I've got another one stirring around in my head that wants to come out. A visit to the Adirondack Museum how 'bout that?! I'll have to dig out the pics. We'll have to meet up again some time in the Dacks or in Florida to paddle. Cheers from Canada! We are in a BIG DEEP FREEZE! on