Back in 1928, Herbert Hoover wanted a “car in every garage.” If he were alive today, with that goal realized, his new slogan might be a “kayak in every garage.” Kayaks are everywhere. It seems like everyone has one.
The watersports craze really seems to have picked up its pace in the Covid pandemic. People who are sick of confinement and boredom, or intent on staying away from others, have been looking for adventure outdoors and new places to explore.
Once you’ve tackled all the usual suspects — the Great Lakes, Oak Orchard Creek, the Genesee River — you might want someplace different, a little off the beaten path, a destination.
One of those diamonds in the rough that welcomes kayakers is Alma Pond. Located in southern Allegany County, near the Pennsylvania line, this 86-acre gem offers one of the most beautiful paddling excursions in Western New York.
This is especially the case in late September and early October when the hills are ablaze with color. During the fall peak, there is something surreal about being on Alma Pond; you might think that you’re on some lake nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, the way that the colors are over and around you.
That’s because Alma Pond is situated at the bottom of a deep valley. The elevation of the lake is 1,570 feet above sea level. But the peaks of the hilltops standing over the lake reach 1,900 to 2,100 feet and they do so in a hurry, creating a veritable wall of reds, yellows and oranges. It can give your senses an overload. You will find yourself just floating and staring, mystified by the incredible beauty.
Although Route 38 parallels the lake, it’s not a heavily traveled road and you will be treated to relative solitude. The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s launch site is for car-top boats only, so in most cases you will encounter kayakers and canoeists. You might see the rare, small powerboat that is put in at the Alma Rod and Gun Club but they are few and far between and quite considerate. No one is revving their motor and there are no silence-killing jet skis.
That solitude and the miles of forest around the lake allow for some great sightseeing and some truly awesome bird watching. The lake is frequented by fish-catching ospreys, which are always fun to watch as they dive-bomb the water. But, the real avian attention-grabbers are the family of bald eagles that call Alma Pond “home.” This year, the pair lost their nest to a storm but they still frequent the lake.
The mammals that frequent this pond can also make for great viewing. Beavers, mink, deer and bears frequent the southern shore. Who knows, sometime in the coming years, stragglers from Pennsylvania’s growing elk population might even make it here.
Plan to bring a camera to snap photos of all those critters — and bring a fishing pole, too. Despite occasional winter kills that can really set back the fish populations a few years, the lake sports excellent panfish numbers, a few pike, lots of carp (there are even carp tournaments here) and a good population of largemouth bass, some of which exceed 20 inches in length — a real trophy in Western New York. There is plenty of structure to fish, because lily pads are plentiful and so are the stumps left over from the flooding of the valley. Even now, 80 years after the creation of this manmade lake, they still stand.
Alma Pond is located on County Route 38 in Allegany County in the town of Alma, which is southwest of Wellsville. It is 20 minutes away from the village of Wellsville and just 10 minutes away, by back roads, from Trout Run Campground, a popular destination for out-of-town campers. The DEC owns 3,000 feet of shoreline along the lake, so you could put your boat in most anywhere along the roadside, or you could use the designated hand launch, which has parking for 10 cars and a nice built-up and braced dike from which to picnic, sightsee or fish.
When launching your kayak at the DEC site, you can head west, which goes to the wide open valley and can show a good sunset, or you can head east, with its narrower valley and unsettled wilderness-like setting. Any way you put it, you won’t be disappointed. Alma Pond offers a real treat for kayakers, anglers, and nature lovers.
Get out on the water this fall. Western New York autumns are beautiful, yet too brief; don’t let them pass you by.
Bob Confer of Gasport is the president of Confer Plastics Inc. Email him at [email protected].