Impromptu Trip on Lake Memphremagog’s South Bay and the Black River

We stood on the board walk in downtown Newport, and watched the whitecaps dance in the wind under a bright blue fall sky on Lake Memphremagog’s South Bay.

blackriver-newport-vtNorthern Forest Canoe Trail staff and board members were hoping to paddle to an NFCT campsite on Eagle Point on Lake Memphremagog. But we knew it would be a battle getting out and around the point, and a wild ride coming back in the chilly wind.

A stop at Beans by the Border Coffee Shop on Main Street provided delicious coffee and great advice about an alternative trip from co-owner Paul Dreher.

South Bay of Lake Memphremagog was protected from the day’s driving wind. We put-in at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife South Arm Access Area launch at 619 Coventry Street in Newport. The shores here are a mix of light industrial buildings and residential houses interspersed with forested banks. The late September sun warmed us as we rounded a point in search of the opening to the Black River.

Lake Memphremagog's South BayWhat drew my attention were the mountains rolling to the west, the colors of the turning trees and the estuary leading to the Black River. We paddled the flatwater leading up the river, which enters the lake on the northwest side south of the access. The entrance to the Black River is tucked in tall grasses and tricky to see. We nearly gave up, but once we found the opening, we were glad to be there.

Cattails, silver maples and evidence of otter and beaver were everywhere. Our morning barista assured us this is exceptional birding territory, and he was right as we watched several herons and a kingfisher.

I look forward to returning there another time to explore the bay and river more. As NFCT section-paddler Alan Flint said, “One thing I love about section paddling – you can try to plan to avoid the gusts! And the droughts, and the floods, and the tropical storm remnants.”

And when your plans go awry, you can just take a side trip.

If you decide, too, to paddle Lake Memphremagog’s South Bay, I recommend the fish and chips at the Newport Ciderhouse Bar & Grill afterwards.