Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Wallkill River
Sussex County, NJ
by Martin W.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

So... with the complete lack of any useful rain for quite a while it worried me that there may not be enough water to do the Wallkill River trip on Saturday, so I decided to check out water levels a few days in advance of the trip. Looking at the put-in on Rt. 565 and the two potential take-outs at Bassett's Bridge and Oil City Road water levels were very low but I've seen worse - so the trip was a go. But the unknown factor was what water levels we would encounter in between....

Meeting up at Sussex Queen Diner parking lot seven of us started our journey into a potentially scrappy and draggy trip. After the usual long shuttle to the planned takeout at Oil City Road (leaving one car at Bassett's Bridge - just in case we'd have time and/or endurance problems due to water levels) we proceeded downstream... and downstream on the Wallkill means north - being that it is only one of two rivers (the other is the Millstone) in New Jersey to flow north!

The hardy paddlers were James L., Mary D., Mike K., John P., Melody W., Al G. and Martin W. - in 6 canoes and one kayak. The weather was perfect with very little wind and bright sunshine - so we were really surprised at the low turnout!

The first mile or two involved a bit of going over and under some blow-downs - three or four major ones if I recall, but nothing too bad. A little aquatic acrobatics and alluvial limbo dancing were impressively performed and everyone came through fine and generally intact. At times water levels were only a few inches deep but float-able, but I had expected worse. We even had a nice little surprise.... a black bear was sighted on the river bank. As the river widened out and became less clogged up we made better time but still a wee bit more leisurely compared to the January 1st trip when we had high water and faster current, we still managed to make the 8.5 miles in about 5 hours (including the lunch stop) - not bad. Not bad at all!

The "Rapid" north of Bassett's Bridge was running nicely - more than the barely perceptible bump at high water levels but not quite as challenging as it is at very, very low water levels. The spring budding of the locals at the 'Redneck' campground was just starting with a couple of dirt-bikers making the usual annoying racket but we were past all this nonsense in a few minutes. In short time we arrived at our destination at Oil City Road. And again... no one died!