North Branch Raritan River
by Bob Rancan
Saturday, March 22, 2014
It was the first Saturday of this year’s long awaited Spring. After some wet and cold midweek weather there was a short, one-day window of warmer temperature plus, the river carried the benefit from the earlier rainfall. Even early in the season at best, the North Branch usually runs shallow except for its rapid rise and fall after a heavy rain. Timing is everything. The level had been falling for a day or two but at 3.34, 481cfs (North Branch at Raritan gauge) there was enough for us to go from the Far Hills Fairgrounds to the town of North Branch.
We were 15 solo paddlers (10 canoes, 5 kayaks) and everything went off without a hitch: except the shuttle. We had met at the Bedminster ball fields off 202/206 and decided to drive up to Far Hills and pick up the extra mile and three quarters of river. At the Fairgrounds we unloaded and started the 13 cars on the simple shuttle to North Branch. At Pluckemin we discovered that Burnt Mills Road was closed due to construction so we continued down 202/206 to pick up 22 West to 28 to our take-out. Putting it mildly, it was a long detour. Almost an hour later we did get back to Far Hills and began the paddle. Once on the water however, the troubles were forgotten.
It was a beautiful trip; a little bit of sunshine and lots of birds. There were many wood ducks, great blue herons, a couple of belted kingfishers, my first phoebe of the spring, red bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, a red- shouldered hawk, several pairs of red-tailed hawks, a mature bald eagle and an osprey just above the take-out. As we approached North Branch, the large great blue heron rookery came into view. It seems to have grown even larger this year: Kevin McCarthy counted over 30 nests. Thanks to everyone for coming out: Al G., Mark G., Jan K., John P., Mary D., Mark D., Elliot K., Kevin Mc., Lori B., Martin W., Michael P., Ben H., Tom H., and Richard Hobbs (for the photos).