The Perfect Paulinskill
Paulinskill, Blairstown to Hainesburg, NJ
by Bob Rancan
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Lots of rain fell on Warren and Sussex Counties in New Jersey between August 8 and 9. The Paulinskill came up quickly and there were good spring like levels coursing down the river on the weekend of the 10th and into the early part of the following week. But, some opportunities get missed. I was hoping for enough water to carry us on a trip down from Stillwater. I started to pay attention to the USGS Blairstown gauge as of very early Thursday morning, the 15th. It seemed promising, with a reading of 2.28 (323 cfs).
There was no more rain however, and by Thursday evening, it was at 2.16 (254cfs) and dropping, albeit slowly. Friday the 16th was the same story, as I watched it sink from 2.08 to 2.04 (194cfs) by 8PM. By then, I had posted a trip and had 11 other eager participants. When I woke up Saturday morning, the level read 2.00 (177cfs) and I figured we had a perfect level to start in Blairstown and go down towards Columbia. There was one last thing to check: as I came down the long hill towards the Columbia, Portland, PA exit I glanced at the big Columbia Lake. I saw lots and lots of lily pads in full bloom and knowing that the Lake is fully of silt and other plants even in the spring, I met everyone and quickly announced we would take out a mile short at the Hainesburg Viaduct of the Lackawanna Cutoff.
We shifted two boats onto other cars and left 2 vehicles at the Cutoff.
It was the perfect day: some sunshine, not too hot, water in the stream and remarkably, no nasty strainers blocking the river. I had last run this last Columbus Day and there were a couple of spots with some woodpiles. There was one usual carry over an weir where its free channel has been blocked for a while but the only other time we exited the boats was for lunch. There were 12 members in 11 boats, with 7 canoes and 4 kayaks. As I said, the perfect conditions for moving through the woods at nature's pace. Lots of Cardinal Flowers and Joe-Pie weed were in bloom and we observed several common merganser families of 5-6 ducks each, 4-5 Great Blue Herons, lots of Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches. As we entered the final (and only) set of rapids below the Hainesburg bridge, an Osprey left its perch, scolded our lead paddlers, circled over us and disappeared. We ruined the fishing spot.