Hackensack River Canoe &
Split Rock Reservoir
by Valerie Josephson
October 17, 2004 - 10 am
12 paddlers, 11 boats
weather: cool, clear and W I N D Y
Split Rock Reservoir gets a little windy on the best of days.
On this day, we had regular wind plus extra special wind. As this was the first
trip I had organized, I sent Aesculus a brief message to kindly comply with club
rules and keep the wind below gale force. He achieved moderate compliance. We
had the choice of put-ins, the west shore (before the dam) provides a little
sandy beach, the official put-in by the parking lot is deep water. We ran a
shuttle back to the parking lot, however, the distance is quite walkable and
Charlie did just that.
The first section of the reservoir revealed a gorgeous view of fall colors (see photos on this website) and it was flat water all the way. However, ahead we could see whitecaps. Once rounding “the bend” we were treated to a vigorous tailwind and we all were surfing along at a exhilarating pace, however, knowing full well that the return trip might be a challenge.
Ken Witkowski, our naturalist in residence, began pointing out birds...
An osprey flew over, bearing a fish in its talons; they do this – parade the catch around for a while to impress the ladies. However, this is not without cost as two sharp shinned hawks were trying to share the bounty and made a few dives toward dinner. The sky was perfect for hawk watching as there were numerous jet trails and fat puffy clouds.
We were popping into the coves hoping to see the cougar. A fellow paddler had come up to me at the September meeting and said that he and his son were fishing at Split Rock and saw a large cream-colored cat with a long tail retreating from the water’s edge. We didn’t get lucky this time. Ken says this was quite possible as the big cats are being seen up around High Point. A little further on, still in shelter of the cove and small islands, a bald eagle flew over. Not many of us saw it as it went down behind the tree line, but they are here and if you hang out around reservoirs this autumn you will get one on the wing.
We started back by making a quick dash across the water to the far shore where there was some protection from the frisky wind. Ahead was a sizeable island which offered a peaceful sheltered passage; we stopped here for a brief rest. Jim McGee was disappointed that this was not going to be a full tilt boogie lunch stop, but I had handed out food assignments and invited everyone to a barbeque at my house in Stockholm.
The last part of the return trip was hard work. We had full wind, 1.5’ high waves and a fair distance to go. Jeff Heilbrun and Phil kept their canoe moving right along and the kayaks took the waves with vigor. Again, most of us hugged the shore which did afford some protection. In the distance the dam “house” was our beacon and within about an hour we were there.
While off-loading at the beach, Ken picked out a pileated woodpecker banging away at a tree in very close range. It was a stunning view of a bird I had to go to Florida to see years ago. Many got to see this one!
We all packed up and caravanned back to my house and had a very enjoyable indoor picnic with a blazing fire and some very tasty food.
Paul’s grilled tilapia and wild salmon were superb. Bluecheese burgers, beans, brie, red wine and fruit salad kept everyone happy.
It was a gorgeous day, we got some real exercise battling the wind, and NO ONE DUNKED. If you go to Split Rock, remember that the earlier you start out, the better. There is always wind.