Hackensack River Canoe &
Rancocas Creek and Festival
by Monica Orso
September 14, 2014
Total distance 9.92 miles
Average moving speed: 2.14 mph
On a slightly chilly Sunday morning, 10 HRCKC paddlers met at the Vincentown Diner, a few arriving early for breakfast. The shuttle to the put-in at Smithville Park started on schedule despite this trip leader's sizable shortcomings in the shuttle-figuring-out department. Paddling were Gail S., Jim G., Rich H., Martin W., Marina L., Joe M., Christine C., Teri R., Skip H., and yours truly. There were 7 Sierra Club paddlers doing the Creek that day too, and they took off from the diner with a handy dandy boat trailer to their take out in Mt. Holly, 4 miles past our final destination.
A fairly straightforward shuttle put us back with our boats and on the water a bit after 10 just as the last of the Sierra Club folks launched. The water level was low, but I was assured that there was no cause for concern.
It was still a bit cool out, Martin was loving it...me, with goosebumps. The creek is mostly shaded, and wherever there was an exposed sunny log there were turtles to be found sunning themselves. I apparently missed a turtle the size of Staten Island whilst gabbing away with Gail, whom I hadn't seen in a while. The paddling was mellow and leisurely, with various chirping and quacking critters making themselves known along the way.
This was a special day for one of our paddlers. 50 years ago, in September of 1964, a lifelong addiction began on the very same Rancocas Creek. Our own Martin sat in a canoe for the very first time on a scout troop outing (see pics). He had not been on the creek since.
About 3 miles in, we approached the spot where it all began, by a canoe livery in Pemberton. I managed to get one of the guys who worked there to take a pic and try to re-create the moment 50 years later. Martin came prepared with his original PFD (oh wait, they were life preservers back then) and the moment was recorded. The rental place guy was tickled when he saw the 1964 picture, Martin got his email address to send it to him.
Shortly after the photo shoot, we had a short portage around a dam where we stopped for snacks. Martin was presented with a festive brownie cake to commemorate half a century of paddling. We ate cake. Some sang songs. We rejoiced at the wonders of the universe and a candle was blown out (by the wind before Martin could get to it). We continued down the creek with the aid of a sugar rush.
We encountered numerous blow downs, but all were navigable. The low water actually helped in a few instances, going under instead of over. There were some lovely arches made by fallen trees. Being in front, I was able to get some neat reflection photos on the mirror-like undisturbed water.
As we continued towards Smithville Park, we passed numerous structures on the river, some lovely large homes and some rows of tiny bungalows perched on the waters edge. Sandy damage was quite visible in many places. Some of the locals were out enjoying the day, just hanging out and waving a greeting to us, one fellow playing guitar.
About 1/2 mile before the takeout, we could hear the festival in the park going on, most notably the Japanese taiko drums. We ended our paddling at around 3pm, loaded boats, played another episode of "How Not to Figure Out a Shuttle", and then broke off into smaller groups to wander about the festival, eat lunch etc. Those with cars there left at their leisure, the day wrapped up for the last of us at around 4:30.
Thanks to all who contributed pics. My old Canon camera is begging me to let it RIP, some of the pics that I know I shot were just not on the disk.
Zoom-able link to actual paddle trak with satellite view option: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8uDp8wPkHhdVkJEanB5Zmd6cTQ/edit?usp=sharing
I am including a link to Sierra Club's photos, which has some
pics of the festival at Smithville Park: