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Kathy Kempson’s Seasons

Random thoughts and photographs about our not so random seasons.

If you are reading this, chances are you have visited the Thousand Islands, will in the future or you know some one who has. The islands are near and dear to the hearts of many visitors, seasonal and year round residents. Having been a long time seasonal visitor I have come to know the changes in the water levels, different birds that are present, the life stages of the local vegetation, and of course the weather. In the past few years I have been visiting the region during the “off season” more often. The vast beauty in the area does not fade during other times of the year, the unique geography comes alive in many different ways.

Spring (Click all photographs to enlarge)

Spring May Apple Spring lichens

Blood Root Flower and Bud, Sanguinaria Canadensis.  An early blooming wild flower, bloodroot gets it’s name  form the orange-red sap found in the rhizomes of the plant.

Lichens on Milky Quartz.   This image shows off a rather large specimen of Milky Quartz along with some nicely contrasting lichens growing on it. If you look closely, you may be able to see some “cup shaped” portions growing in the lichens. These are the fruiting body of this unique plant like organism. 

Spring has begun Spring leaves

Emerging Maple. The simple new tender leaves of spring offer photographic opportunities that I find hard to walk past.

Red Oak Catkins


There is much to look at in the spring when one looks close. In spring wildflowers abound. They bloom for such a short time. Some perhaps less than a week. The Bloodroot loves the moist rich soil found under a heavy canopy, it’s flowers appear in late April to early May, often before many seasonal visitor can witness it. Orange lichens growing on milky quartz are highlighted by the setting spring sun. The common maple and oak leave change daily while emerging from a winter sleep.


Summer Chairs Great Blue Heron

Invitation to relax.   I can imagine the view from the chairs is as fine as this view of these chairs.

Enjoying the Sunset
The end of the ride Island friends

Ah. ..  summer     --   When the river is flat, it makes for easy paddling and even easier relaxing.



Summer is, for me a time to swim, boat and generally relax. Spring clean/fix up fades in to the dog days. The river warms, feet up on the dock with a good book, or gazing at the water during sunset are classic summer relaxation techniques. 


Islands in the Fall Morning mist in the Fall

Distant Fog Bank – I awoke this morning to ice crystals on the dock and a fog so thick I could not see 20 feet. The fog did not “lift” but drifted away.

In a Fog Bank  --  A heavy fog can create a false sense of solitude.  Islands that are very close disappear into thin air.

Fall Sunset

Fowl Morning Rituals --  These geese are catching a moment of sunshine between bouts of heavy fog.

A view before an autumn morning commute.  I will often leave the islands on a Monday morning for a commute to my work in Syracuse. The hues of the sunrise this day stuck with me for some time.


When I think of Fall, sweeping views of forests covered in hues of red, orange and yellow come to mind. Over 40 plus years of visiting the island I would have to say that mass color like that in the islands is elusive. But that does not mean the season is void of the season’s charm. Color comes in mostly “spots”. It also comes later than a few miles off river as the river creates a micro climate tempered by the water temperature. Now, it just may be that I have not hit the river on the “right day” so I have not seen it in full color.  . .which brings me back to the elusive Peak Fall Day. Dawn in the fall is much easier to be a part of, as it is later in the day than let’s say. . oh early July.  Foggy mornings are easier to find as the cooler air will pull the “steam” from the river and make magical views. Waterfowl can be found gathering, making preparations for winter.


Winter Calumet Island Winter docks

Calumet Tower on the Rocks.  

Dismal?   -- -    or not.   This marina sits waiting for warmer weather activities.

Winter Ice Winter Buoy

A late winter sunset.  The sheet ice had given way during a warm spell, breaking into pieces only to become trapped and frozen again in a rugged mass of ice.  The low sun’s red-orange glow plays nice with the colors of the ice.

1’s Winter Home.   The Seaway Buoys are pulled out of harm’s way and safely stored for the winter season.

Winter.  A cold and lonely word -- Sometimes -- In the middle of a winter’s snow, when the marina docks are cordoned off by several feet of ice and snow and the Seaway buoys take a break from bobbing on the river surface the river is still alive. The far-reaching expanses of softer watery surface that is no doubt more familiar to most of us becomes a white pallet for the islands to show off on. Late winter/early spring the water become visible again, breaking up and pushing away the ice. When the ice starts to move, it can play wonders with light and sound.  It is truly worth a few days on the river at least once in a life time.

Our not so random seasons do come to us in order. Although a guarantee of “fall like” temperatures over Columbus day weekend can never be a sure bet. Nor can five consistent 85°F/30°C degree days in August. Ice on the river is mostly a sure thing, but a solid freeze over certainly depends on what part of the river you have in mind. The daily variety is what helps to keep the river and her surroundings so dynamic. It is in no small part what keeps my camera clicking. Look close, look far, just look.

Some of the locations for some of the pictures, in no particular order:
A great perching rock near Smugglers Island
A great fishing rock on Sugar Island
Frink Park, Clayton
Calumet Island
Slightly up river from the large Canadian span of the TI Bridge
Wellesley Island Marina
A view of the Canadian Span of the TI Bridge
Looking towards Chamout Bay from The Robert G. Wehle State Park

Somewhere near Axeman Island

By Kathy Kempson

Kathy Kempson can be found during the summer on her kayak on or near Sugar Island in the Lake Fleet.  Sugar Island welcomes all members of the American Canoe Association. It is the perfect base camp for canoe / kayak paddlers and sailors to explore and enjoy the 1000 islands. (Yes! The ACA does have a Canadian Division too) Kathy combines kayaking and photography which as she says, "makes perfect sense".  [See January 2008, "Recent Photography by Kathy Kempson"  written by Paul Malo or “Keep Grindstone on your left” April 2009, written by Kathy Kempson and Peggy Hart].

Posted in: Photography
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