South Branch Raritan River
by Bob Rancan
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The South Branch of the Raritan came through again. We were very exited and looking forward to a whole fall season of trips on the mighty Musconetcong as 2013 was the 5th year in the Lake Hopatcong annual drawdown cycle. Instead of the usual November drawdown of about a foot, every five years the Lake is brought down a full 60 inches. This takes time so an early to mid September start, coupled with a normal fall rainfall amount usually means that it can take until winter to get the Lake to the desired level. But it did not rain in October-well just a little bit. The Hopatcong release was halted on November 2nd. We had one good Club run in mid-October and ran the last several miles into the Delaware on November 2nd when the Tohickon Creek release got cancelled.
So, for November 16th I had lots of interested paddlers but no water. However, something always comes up and this year, Spruce Run reservoir releases into the South Branch had remained consistent. During the summer, I think the goal is to keep the river temperature steady to help the ever improving fishery. But now, with less water reaching the treatment plant downstream, Spruce Run water must be used to keep the New Brunswick area watered. So the river kept running, not high but enough to paddle. The rule of thumb I use was that at lower levels, the further downstream you go, the better off you are. We did the approximately nine miles from Three Bridges on the Hunterdon/Somerset border to the village of South Branch, less than a mile from the confluence with the North Branch.
A beautiful day, 17 paddlers in 16 boats with an even split between canoes and kayaks. As we started down the stream, I noticed a mature bald eagle in a tall oak downstream. As we approached it flew away but just a little while later someone noticed it had perched again on top of a high power line tower. As we got closer, there seemed to be another one on the opposite side of the tower but it turned out to be a red tail hawk, not happy that the eagle had horned in on it's spot. It made a racket and finally flew off. Throughout the afternoon there were more red tails to see and a fast moving Cooper's hawk and numerous Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers. A very nice day. Thanks to Martin, Al, Henry, Mark, John, Mary, Lori, Mike C., Mike K. and Ruth K., Cory, Bruce, Melody, Ben, Sumonnat and Monica. As usual, Monica Orso's photos are art.