I paddled close to a thousand miles last summer across the Northeast and have done my fair share this summer. In all those travels, I have still yet to find a place like Glass Island (unofficial name).
For those who aren't familiar with Glass Island, it's a small island located on the Saranac River about 100 yards downstream from the Pine Street bridge in Saranac Lake.
Glass Island is probably only known to paddlers and anglers who visit the Saranac River. It's just far enough out of the way that most people wouldn't visit it.
Shards of glass cover the small island about 100 yards downstream of the Pine Street bridge in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
I first came across it during a river clean-up about five years ago. I remember people filling garbage bags with glass from the island while keeping some of the more unique bottles for themselves. I took home a few small bottles myself.
In recent years, I had forgotten about Glass Island. Last year when I paddled by the area a few times, the water was too high to pay much attention to the landmark.
It wasn't until about three weeks ago, when I went on a short paddling trip down the river that I noticed it again. This year, the low water has made Glass Island more prominent than usual.
Activity: Paddling, water walking
Distance: A couple hundred yards round trip.
Perks: Glass Island offers a view of one of the village's finest collections of litter. You may also want to continue downstream to get a view of the sunken boat. Look for collectors items. Maybe you'll find an old sock or submerged tire.
Obstacles: Be careful to wear shoes if you visit, there's lots of glass in the water and on the land. You probably don't want to bring your kids here.
Directions: From the intersection of state Route 3 and 86 in Saranac Lake, drive a short distance on Route 3 toward Bloomingdale. Turn right on the Pine Street bridge, where there is a small parking area. Glass Island is located about 100 yards downstream.
As my friend and I were paddling upstream toward Pine Street bridge, I started noticing litter in the water. Just downstream from Glass Island, I saw a sunken boat and about six to 10 submerged tires.
Soon after seeing this stuff at the bottom of the river, my friend and I had to get out of the boat to pull it upstream. The water was too low to paddle in this section.
When I saw the tires, glass and other garbage in the water, it didn't surprise me. During river clean-ups that I've either participated in or covered for the newspaper, I've seen all kinds of things come out of the water. Usually, there's a fair share of shopping carts, tires, orange construction cones, bottles and other junk that is found. I even saw a glass table pulled out of the river once. Amazingly enough, it was intact.
Somehow Glass Island and these tires I saw recently have survived years of river clean-ups. I'm not exactly sure how or why, but today the island still holds enough glass that you can see it glittering from the Pine Street bridge when the sun is at the right angle.
The glass appears to be decades old. One of the bottle shards I came across recently was marked with a Saranac Lake label. I didn't actually see any entire bottles. I think most of those have been salvaged already.
I can't imagine this is an appealing site for those visitors paddling the Saranac River this summer. I think most local residents paddle this stretch of the Saranac River when the water is higher, heading to lakes and other rivers when the levels drop to where they are now. Visitors to the region still use the river. It's an easy place to access because it's so close to town.
It's too bad that Glass Island has survived for so long. It's an unflattering part of Saranac Lake.
As it stands now, there are no river clean-ups that I know of scheduled for this summer to get rid of more of the glass there. In light of that, I ask people that are paddling or fishing in the vicinity of Glass Island to bring a garbage bag and some work gloves with them. Take home some of the glass and put it in your recycling bin. I plan to do that myself next time I go down the Saranac River. Maybe if enough people join me, Glass Island will lose it's name by the end of summer season.