My Mistress Oswegatchie: A Poem for an Adirondack River

The winding course of the Oswegatchie River, as seen from High rock.
The winding course of the Oswegatchie River, as seen from High rock. | Source
In my canoe, an old portage cart left behind by a careless user.  Please remember to leave the wilderness a better place than you found it.
In my canoe, an old portage cart left behind by a careless user. Please remember to leave the wilderness a better place than you found it. | Source

My Mistress Oswegatchie


I call to you mistress Oswegatchie

with pebbles at your window,

return to waters long neglected

drifted apart from obligation.

impatiently waiting to

live in ecstatic harmony.

Overhanging boughs welcome

back to your embrace

back to the mystery.

I paddle deep into your source

The yellow blade sinks

into your ebony waters

as I slide the shaft beneath

your beautiful riffles

and glide around the ample curves

of your course.

A journey ends without farewell

like lovers reluctant to part,

feeling echoes

of your tempting waters.


High Falls on the Oswegatchie River
High Falls on the Oswegatchie River | Source

On the Oswegatchie


The Oswegatchie River stretches 137-miles through the Adirondack Park to the St Lawrence River. The river is famous for its serpentine winding, cool black waters, and numerous but beautiful obstacles. Though people like famed guide book author Paul Jamieson have mused heavily on the etymology in the naming of the river, it is difficult to establish a meaning. I personally like the supposed Onondaga translation as "black river."

I first canoed on the Oswegatchie River fifteen-years ago and have done my best to explore its waters as often as I can: perhaps too often. Between my paddling and hiking trips it's been joked that I was having an affair with the Adirondacks. I guess that the love affair with this river is the inspiration for this poem. This poem explores a canoeists relationship to the river using the language of sensuality to express the longings of romantic obsession.

By far, my favorite experience on the river was my 2010 paddle to the Oswegatchie headwaters from the Bog River Flow. It was a memorable three day 37-mile journey from Lows Lower Dam to the take out at Inlet. Sure, to the unenamored the bugs, the beaver dams and the three-mile canoe carry would seem like hell, but to me it was an adventure of the heart.

As with all great loves, sometimes obstacles get in the way.
As with all great loves, sometimes obstacles get in the way. | Source
Reflection on the Oswegatchie from my campsite.
Reflection on the Oswegatchie from my campsite. | Source

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Comments 4 comments

MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 5 years ago from Burlington VT

Dan, beautiful poem, beautiful river, especially the reflection photo. Warm and fuzzy images from NH (the Squamscott's headwaters, FL (the Myakka) float across my mind. You have caught the spirit and passed it along. For this, I thank you. (An old girl scout since the 30s and 40s) - still a woods and water lover.


Jamie 5 years ago

Dan, your love affair with the Oswegatchie parallels the author's poem; about a river?


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

Voted up, awesome, beautiful and interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling the Oswegotchie River through your words. I too know this river well, having made a lifetime of trips to the North Country and Ogdensburg, along the Saint Lawrence. We are certainly fortunate to have such great and powerful rivers in New York. I live near both the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers and although both are magnificent, they also require a healthy respect.


Outbound Dan profile image

Outbound Dan 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY Author

Many people don't think of New York as the home of great rivers, but as someone who lives less than a mile from the banks of the mighty Niagara River - we have some of the mightiest.

Though it has been a few years since I paddled on the Susquehanna, it is one of those rivers imbued with beauty and history.

Thanks for reading and commenting pagesvoice!

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