Hackensack River Canoe &
Black River, NJ
by Cathy Boje
Saturday, May 22, 2010
We met at 8:45 am at the Flanders’s Dunkin Donuts. There were 19 of us. The morning started out slightly overcast and the rain promised to hold out until midnight. After the shuttle we all got ready for our great adventure. As we were putting in, a couple living near the edge of the river was telling us that they were only able to go around ¼ mile down river before having to turn back…..that should have been our first clue of things to come. By 10:15 we were on our way.
The trip moved along at times as John F. and Walter sought out the best route for us to take. Our goal was to hook up with the main tributary of the Black River. It was to be a 4 or 5 hour trip. We “meandered” through the marsh lands; the path was wide enough for just one boat to pass through. When we came upon downed trees, John, Walter and others would get out their trusty saws and machetes and blaze a path through. (I think they missed their calling and belonged back in the days of Lewis and Clarke.)
Around 12:30 we stopped for lunch mainly because we had hit an impasse. After lunch (and a quick bathroom break), John and Walter found the path through to the main river. Unfortunately, it involved portaging our boats through the mud and reeds. We passed the word back to everyone to tighten their shoes for the trek through the black mud. I still lost my water shoes several times and finally just went barefoot. (Isn’t mud supposed to have some kind of medicinal value to the skin? Yuck). There was one point where we had to cross a pool of water that was of unknown depth. We hopped in our boats for a quick ride across and then continued our journey. It was a tough crossing, but we made it to the river at last.
The river was really quite beautiful with wild irises and other flowers and vegetation creating a path through which our boats passed. Continuing on our way, we had to make a few stops so that the river could be cleared of downed trees. Apparently the Boy Scouts usually come through and take care of the downed trees, but they hadn’t done so yet. We also got to play tree limbo a few times with no casualties. A few beaver dams blocked our way, but they were easy enough to go over. When we arrived at the Great Blue Heron Rookery there were several of these prehistoric looking birds flying overhead..…really cool.
I think the last part of the trip was the hardest. The sun was going down and everyone was anxious to make it to our destination before dark. The river snaked back and forth for what seemed like an eternity and then we came to a straight run with our take out location in site. We arrived at the take out around 7:30. John patted us all on the back; we had made it, we were survivors of the Black River.
Looking back, even though the trip was longer than planned, it was a great day spent with a great group of people.