That Was Some Shuttle
South Branch Raritan River, NJ
by Bob Rancan
Saturday, August 13, 2011
SIMPLE PLAN: NJ Water Authority releases from Spruce Run Reservoir were happening but the volume of water coming downstream varied each day through the week. If I added a trip to the calendar around mid-week, I'd only get limited interest and I could be flexible about which section of river to run. By meeting at Three Bridges we could either put in there and paddle to the Confluence through Neshanic or, if the flow was higher, we could drive about 8 miles upstream and paddle back down.
By Friday night, it was clear that more than a hundred million gallons per day were being released and the upper part of the run would be the right choice. Also, it was obvious I'd have too many vehicles to shuttle and park. There were two dozen paddlers interested and most of them were solo boaters and/or driving alone so I stopped accepting reservations and had a couple of cancellations. Still, on Saturday morning 20 people, 19 boats and 17 cars showed up at the Three Bridges take-out. Only one of us (me) really knew where we'd be going so I transferred my boat and jumped in Henry's lead vehicle, leaving my Hunterdon map and cell phone locked in my car. we took off, with a mile of boxcars trailing behind (sorry, I love railroad analogies). I did not pay close enough attention when John and Mary had told me the construction site at dory Dilts Road was OPEN, nor did I notice the fine print on the Road Closed sign: Closed, 8-5 Mon-Fri. So, I had Henry follow the detour signs. Ben and I kept our eyes on the rear view mirrors to ensure we had everyone. After several turns, we got back to Rt. 202, where they had apparently run out of Detour signs. I told Henry to take 202 South which everyone knows is the wrong direction. A deft U-turn at the next light's left turn only signal solved the problem. However, we had to wait for about 4 light changes to get everyone through. At the put-in, the limited number of parking spaces were mostly taken up by a large group of tubers but we managed and I didn't even have to get out the saw to make more spaces, although one of the tubers lent Henry a big pair of trimmers to make overhead clearance for the van.
Oh, the paddle was nice...7.9 miles with a decent flow, everyone seemed to enjoy the runnable dams and there was some swimming at lunch. No one got hurt, or as Martin likes to say, nobody died. I hope a good time was had by all. And I didn't notice much in the way of wildlife - the shuttle did in my powers of observation.