Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Ramapo River
Tuxedo to Suffern
by Bob Rancan

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It warmed up - overnight - and temperatures in the 50s came in handy. We had a nice group of 9 (6 canoes, 3 kayaks) members happy to get out after a winter of snow shoveling. The mighty Ramapo was actually pretty mighty this time. It was running at 4.09 feet at the Suffern gauge or at 410cfs (Mahwah gauge read 4.57, 430cfs at the same time). To do the New York section, we are usually hoping for about 275cfs and this is often hard to come by. When this river is run many rocks are usually hit, even by the most astute river readers. We easily glided through the rockiest spots and enjoyed lots of wave trains and fast water.

Fat Elmo was on the trip. He remarked that he had only paddled the New York section once, about 30 years ago and realized that this stream would be a great place for swiftwater instruction. His educational bent soon got the better of him as he kept developing the idea of holding a tutorial there. I pointed out that the river's flow usually coincides with lousy weather and lousy weather equals no students. He decided to shoot some video instead. His director's fertile mind soon decided that some stupid canoe tricks were what we needed. So I performed one.

There is a lake with one narrow outlet and a small drop. The river makes a right angle turn to the left after clearing the drop. The strong current will take a piece of driftwood or unwary paddler into the far bank quickly. All were advised to eddy out to the right and regroup. Only one boat didn't make the move but wound up OK. While waiting for the last kayak to come through, I edged up the eddyline to observe and came up with the idea to play the wave after he passed. It would make a great shot for the video. I did everything wrong, from the approach to the angle to the lean. Thankfully, my overturned boat blocked the view of my ungainly exit and there was no camera on my thwarts or IMAX blimp shot. I recovered well and can report that the water in Rockland County, NY is cold in early March.

The video was a success and so was the trip. There was one unexpected carry around a downed tree, another swimmer when a kayaker took the right line next to a quick drop but lost balance in the downstream pool. Finally, at the last bend Al Greenly, getting used to his new canoe in fast water made a great save, dipping both gunwales but remaining upright, bringing his boat into the take out almost full of water. There was some nature as well: a hooded merganser hen, common mergansers and mallards; an early migrant thrush (hermit?), some very artistic beaver chews and one raccoon.

Thanks to Martin, Al, Henry Degenhart, Jim Lyon, Mark Grossman, Rico Pagli, Martin Courtney and Bob Cohn. Good trip.