A surprisingly beautiful flyway in New Jersey Date Paddled: June 2, 2017 Nearest City: Sussex Put-In: Glenwood Road Take-Out: Bassett’s Bridge Duration: 3.5 River Miles: ~7 Shuttle: ~7 on country roads Weather: 65 sunny becoming partly cloudy, breezy Difficulty: flatwater, quickwater, minor riffles Cfs: not available, medium-high water
The Walkill is one of few National Wildlife Refuges in the northeast. It’s importance is to migratory birds as well as more stationary threatened species like the bog turtle. We were treated to the always welcome sight of a duckling skedaddling across the water – a sure sign of the transition from spring to summer:Along with the ducklings, three bald eagles as well as hawks and kingfishers were trolling for a tasty lunch. Finches, cardinals, tree swallows, warblers, and red-winged blackbirds among others, were part of the aural and visual choir.
The Walkill River reveals a number of faces based on different color schemes. The variety of vegetation, depth of the water, and stream-bed composition play a roll.
I’ve paddled the Walkill perhaps ten or twelve times as it’s not too far from home. Most of the year, it’s filled with birds but especially in the early spring when huge flocks of geese and ducks use this area to rest and replenish. Always present are the great blue herons who have a rookery of 25-30 active nests. I’ve never encountered any other paddlers and seen only the occasional fisherman at the take out. When one thinks of New Jersey, it tends to be in derogatory terms, but the Walkill easily dispenses the images of smelly oil refineries and congested toll-filled roads.
Most of the river corridor is lined with mature silver maples. A lovely site any time, but especially as the wind reveals the leaves silvery side:It’s fascinating to watching the wind combing through the fresh leaves on it’s way upstream – perhaps heading all the way up the Hudson to the Adirondacks…..
Dam release paddle with good friends on gray day Date Paddled: 10/1/16 Nearest City: Charlemont Put-In: Zoar Gap picnic area Take-Out: The Great Outdoors Outfitter, Charlemont Duration: 4 hours River Miles: 6 Shuttle: two cars, easy hitchhiking if needed Weather: overcast Difficulty: quickwater, class I and II Cfs: 820
In a case of frustration with time and place, Peter and I, and our good friends Christian and Jen, ended up on the Deerfield River later than we had hoped. We had our sights set on the upper Deerfield from Fife Dam to the Zoar Gap picnic area, but, for reasons unknown, the “gods of the water” i.e. Brookfield Hydro, decided to curtail their commitment to 800 cfs for 5 hours on Saturday to a mere 3 hours. This effectively left us high and dry on the upper portion, but still in the game for the lower. The upper portion has more and jazzier rapids and somewhat nicer views, but the lower is commendable. This river is a favorite with paddlers who come from far and wide, as flows here are regulated making water flows reliable when other rivers are low and desolate. Upper parts of the Deerfield are generally more challenging, with the class III – V Zoar Gap being the biggest rapid. Here the river narrows down to a chute through a boulder-strewn area.
The Deerfield, and the nearby Mohawk Trail State Park, are both very special places. Being born a gypsy at heart, I find it very strange that I’m always sad to leave this beautiful place. It seems like home in a way that I still don’t understand, even after 10 years of making pilgrimages. I suspect that hiking on The Mohawk Trail, used by Native peoples for eons, may have something to do with it. The Trail along the ridge line has been compressed over time, so that it is inches below the surrounding forest. During a bear tracking class, we learned of something quite similar with bear. In their case, it’s a ceremonial trail that involves placing their feet in the same spots as their ancestors. Scientists don’t understand the reasons for this behavior, but perhaps like us, the connections that are made over time and place work themselves into the very soil and soul.
Surprisingly fun river, Diana learns a lesson Date Paddled: 9/24/16 Nearest City: Oglesby Put-In: Vermilion Outfitter Take-Out: Bridge in Oglesby Route 23 Duration: 3.75 River Miles: 7.7 Shuttle: Dave from Cozy Corner Campground Bike shuttle would be 5.5 miles Weather: 73 overcast until mid-afternoon then partly sunny Difficulty: flat and quickwater with class I and II, one class IV Cfs: 1020
There are times when even the most experienced kayaker, hiker, climber, etc. make some pretty elementary mistakes. The Vermilion River paddle reminded me that scouting rapids is a pretty good idea, especially when someone has died in that spot.
Paddling in Illinois wasn’t exactly high on my list of “I can’t wait!” The Illinois Vermilion was juxtaposed in my mind to the Kootenay National Park, Canadian Vermilion – an unfortunate comparison.
That being said, the Illinois Vermilion surprised us with its feeling of remoteness, interesting cliff and rock formations, and excitement (especially for my unexpected swim). Sometimes having low expectations really works out well.
The day was overcast and quiet in the low 70’s and the water was about the same temperature. In short order we spotted tall block banded cliffs, raising our spirits as I mused on the almost palatable way that eons are represented on rocky cliff faces.
After this banded cliff area, we were swept into a tight meander and surprised by an eroded cliff formation of newer rock very different in character. It dwarfed Peter as he ventured in for a closer look.We saw a variety of plant life with many of the common eastern plants making us feel like we were really on our home turf again. Asters were blooming everywhere in whites and purples. Three bald eagles, four great blue herons, a kingfisher, and a variety of sparrows made there presence known. We saw no other people on the river although we understand it’s very popular in the summer with few outfitters providing services.
The water was mostly quick with some class I and II rapids. We had been forewarned about a possible carry around a class IV rapid where part of the cliff had fallen into the river making it boulder-y and dangerous. After scouting, we decided to line the boats meaning
that we secured and guided them through the rapid from shore. This is traditionally done with a rope, but we find bungee cords to be more successful. It was a rather lengthy process, but happily both kayaks made it through with no mishaps except for taking on a bit of water.
The next section of the river was filled with larger boulders making the paddling more interesting. When the sun came out we were really appreciative and happy that we had overcome our initial prejudices against this lesser Vermilion.
As we neared the end of our paddle, an old cement dam came into view by a large factory. It was a rather abrupt reintroduction into society as we had seen no other signs of civilization. Someone had perished on this old dam, after which the company made it safer and added signage. We had also spoken to a local who assured us that the line was to stay way over to the right and then we’d be met with a wave train once we were over the dam, a class II rapid, but nothing difficult. I foolishly decided that it would be fine to run without scouting. After all, I got it – stay to the right.
As I neared the rapid, I immediately realized that I wasn’t right enough! In front of me was a huge boulder that was mostly submerged and lodged up against the dam. I also immediately realized that I would hit the boulder and soon be swimming – too late to do anything but “go with the flow”!
And swim I did! Actually it was more like being in a butter churn as I hit my head and got turned around. I was momentarily caught in the hydraulic spinning at the bottom of the dam…long enough to think, “Oh, this is how people get stuck and die.” Then I was spit out and on my way downstream clutching my paddle and kayak with its flotation loose and various pieces of gear that were thankfully coming along for the ride.
Sorry to say I don’t have any pictures, I was too busy to take any. I do have this one of my kayak after I righted it and swam it to shore.
A nine mile paddle is always a wee bit tiring, but add some hefty dashes of wind and current and it makes for a collapse-into-bed experience! Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Fall stream was recommended to me years ago when I contacted the local ranger to ask about a different river. He quickly understood the type of paddle I adore – small, meandering, and quiet. “How about Fall Stream? Have you done that one yet?”
It was time to revisit this paradise and even though the leaves of summer weren’t to be seen, it was even more beautiful than I remembered! The gentle meandering made for glimpses of far mountains interspersed with closer views of sentinel pines and spruces.
The evidence of beaver engineering were everywhere with lodges in abundance and a couple of big projects going on! Interestingly, the lodges were much higher than those near home and many were still clothed in their winter mud more than their summer, peeled bark look. My guess is that the much colder weather in the Adirondacks means more insulation!
I was growing a bit tired by lunch time as I hadn’t felt very fit in the morning with a nagging throat issue. We floated in the crook of a meander and shared some cheese and crackers and cashews. I knew it was important to Peter to get to Vly Lake and I was trying to be a sport about it, but my resolve began to melt when we headed into a pretty stiff wind for the upper section.
The view at Vly was worth the effort though with diamonds dancing on the water’s surface. We spent a few minutes enjoying our accomplishment and then headed back with appreciated assist! Our lunch spot came up in what seemed like minutes and then the wind died and we were back to paddling.
I had that familiar moment when the sun changes angle and I think, “Huh? Already?” or some such profound thought! The day was passing and now heading toward evening. How long had we been on the water?
When I’m paddling, I don’t often think about time until the sun’s angle nudges me and somehow I’m always surprised. Can it be that I’m still on this earth and tied to the kind of destiny that contains sunrises and sunsets? Part of me must be convinced I’m already in heaven in an endless day of joyful beauty that stretches into eternity. It’s always a bit of a shock to realize that there is mundane things to think about like is there enough daylight to get to the take out and what will we do for dinner.
Thankfully, we have plenty of daylight at this time of year and dinner was at a restaurant we had enjoyed on a previous trip. Then it was time to fall into bed: stiff-muscled, exhausted and happy with the kinds of visions that didn’t include sugarplums and fairies, but did have the gentle sounds of water dripping off the end of my paddle.
It was a fine Saturday in Pawling, NY. The river had been recently augmented with .86 inches of rain creating spring- like water levels on February 28th. Peter, Christian, and I were excited to paddle a reach of the Swamp River that is inaccessible during most of the year. As an added bonus, the temperature was hovering around 60 -time to go!
We put in on Corbin Road in Pawling – a first for us and what a beauty! Once through the difficult phramites section with some quick and fun water, we enter a section with long meanders housing mallards. They fly in an explosion of strength, straight up from the water, in the same way that’s captured people’s affections for millennia. Their quacks are augmented with the clicks and chatter of blackbirds and pileated woodpecker drums.
As we pass under the bridge at River Road, our usual put in, we are faced with one of the most lively runs in the Great Swamp. With banks barely wider than our blades, the swift water moves us along at a decent clip, while we spy emerging skunk cabbage on the banks.
We also have our most difficult area to get around at the end of this section with the phramites root sections clogging the channel. We portage over a fallen tree and rock our kayaks over a couple of other obstructions.
Multiple channels mostly created by the beaver with snags providing cavities for nesting birds, The bluebirds and red-tailed hawks love this section of the swamp and we see both. The ridge to the west always makes me think of bob-cat since it looks like a prime area for them with its long views and rocky crags.