Plattsburgh police rescue Northern Forest paddler from river

77-year-old kayaker was on 700-mile route from Adirondacks to Maine

Plattsburgh City Police Cpl. Darin Perrotte, right, poses with kayaker James Hart. Perrotte responded to a report Sunday of an overturned kayak in the Saranac River and was able to pull Hart to safety. (Provided photo — Plattsburgh City Police)

PLATTSBURGH — A potentially terrible situation turned out good as Plattsburgh City Police were able to help rescue a man struggling in the Saranac River Sunday morning.

“I’m glad it turned out that way. It could have been real bad,” City Police Cpl. Darin Perrotte, said.

Was holding on

Police received a call at 9:04 a.m. Sunday about an overturned kayak in the river just east of the Richard Perry Bridge on South Catherine Street.

They were told that a man had fallen out of the canoe and was holding on to the overturned vessel.

Perrotte and other officers responded quickly, knowing that at this time of year with high and rapidly flowing water, the river can be treacherous for those wishing to navigate it on kayaks, canoes or inner tubes.

“Caught a glimpse”

“I went down around the bend from our station (Pine Street) and I saw the kayak and no one was in it, and I thought, ‘Oh no,” Perrotte said.

“Then I caught a glimpse of his yellow life jacket, and I heard him say something about having trouble breathing.”

Perrotte scrambled down the steep embankment and was able to grab onto 77-year-old James Hart.

Perrotte was able to pull Hart up the embankment, where he sat to catch his breath.

“He told me that he thinks he hit a rock, and that knocked him out of the canoe,” Perrotte said.

“He tried to hold on, but he couldn’t get to shore.”

Northern Forest paddlers

Hart, as it turns out, was with a party of three other kayakers who are in the midst of navigating the more-than-700-mile water trail known as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

The trail stretches from Old Forge in the heart of the Adirondacks to Fort Kent, Maine, on the Canadian border.

The trail consists of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities, and 65 portages covering more than 70 miles.

About 147 miles of the trail, which is considered the Appalachian Trail of the waterways, travel through the Adirondacks.

Hart and his companions, all in their 50s, are all seasoned kayak travelers and were well prepared with supplies.

“In incredible shape”

City Fire Department Emergency Medical Technicians checked Hart out, but he seemed fine other than a few bumps and bruises, Perrotte said.

“He was in incredible shape for his age,” he said.

“He was shaken up a little bit, but I think anyone else would have really been shaken up.”

Police were able to snag Hart’s boat out of the river and retrieve his supplies, which included dry clothes in a dry bag.

He changed clothes and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee with his rescuers as he waited for his wife to arrive from Gouverneur to come pick him up.

“Glad he was OK”

His traveling partners eventually continued on their way across Lake Champlain, paddling toward Maine with their July 3 finish date in mind.

“He (Hart) told me that he was only going to do part of the trip,” Perrotte said.

A veteran officer, Perrotte has seen river rescues not go so well in the past.

“There was really nothing heroic on my part,” he said. “I just helped him out, and I’m glad he was OK. It turned out to be a nice story.”


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