Stair Step to Matamoras
by Jim McLoone
Sunday, September 26, 2010
We met at the PA Fish Commission access in front of the Westfall Township Hall in Matamoras, PA. The weather was mostly clear throughout the day with a high around 65. The level at the Barryville gage was 3.1 feet and the water temperature was in the high 60s. This was a joint trip with Hackensack River and Wanda Canoe Club members participating. Some belonged to both clubs.
Jim, Joan, Helen, Andrea and Joe arrived at the meeting place at 8:50, almost a half hour early, only to find Bela already there. As 9:15 approached I began to receive a series of calls from others who had been stopped by a Port Jervis Police car (vacant) blocking traffic for a run. I went to the PA side of the bridge where the PA Fire Police on duty said that the bridge was open, and pointed to Eastbound traffic. We saw no Westbound traffic. Meanwhile Ted bypassed the blockage and had gotten past us and was wondering where everyone was while we were returning to the take out.
By the time I had taken care of the launch and parking fees the rest of the group had been released from their “Road Detention” and were ready to “go”. I popped a couple of folks into the Suburban and we made our way back to Kittatinny’s office for a bio break.
After that delay things went pretty much as planned. We ran the shuttle with all the drivers returning in the Suburban and everyone chipped in $3 to cover the launch and parking fees.
Jim, Barbara, Bela, Debbie, Melody and Ted paddled kayaks while Helen, Joe, Joan and Andrea paddled tandem canoes.
We finally got on the river at about 11:40 having been delayed about an hour by the race fiasco.
As advertised the group ferried out from the put in to get a clear line downstream. We found that Stair Step had a good channel near river left.
At the end of Knight’s Eddy we had decided to try the left side of the island, but a woman in the camp grounds was very adamant that we would get stuck at this level, so we passed to the right of the island. We knew there was an eel weir just below the island and river right has tended to be scratchy: So Jim decided to try the river left side of the weir and paddled around the bottom of the island. The other kayaks took river left and one of the canoes worked all the way to the bottom of the weir without finding a good drop to run through. Joan and Andrea got their feet wet.
A short time later we reached the top of Mongaup Rapids. After we stopped to discuss the drop for the newer paddlers I went ahead and pulled into the upper eddy so I could get some photos. We used the radios to signal when it was ok for the rest to start down. As frequently happens, some kayakers were playing the wave in what appeared to be a class.
At the bottom of the drop we pulled over to the beach on river left, emptied a little water, had lunch and explored the Delaware and Hudson Canal ruins. The canal operated commercially from 1828 to 1898. This link has more information on the canal http://www.canalmuseum.org or this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware_and_Hudson_Canal
After our exploration of the old lock we continued through Butler’s Rift a stretch of river with sharp crags on the left and a boulder strewn shoal on the right. The river appears to run down a quarter mile hill with sometimes significant standing waves in the center. Several eddies are on river left, but I decided the light was better for photos if I set up on river left. I got a few shots of folks running down, but had a terrible time getting back into the channel and nearly had to exit the boat when I ran up on a rock.
The excitement of Butler’s Rift ended in the magnificent Hawk’s Nest canyon where the paddler can view the 250 foot high cliffs on the left.
We soon passed the small settlement of summer homes on river right just above the railroad bridge at Cherry Island and passed through Mill Rift without incident. I did notice that either at this level or because of ice action the action seemed to be a bit further downstream than usual.
After we passed number two railroad bridge we exited the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Beginning just below the bridge we kept to river right past the elephant’s feet rock formations and paddled past several sets of wave trains that make this level a pleasure.
We finished our eight mile trip at the takeout on river right where we had met. A second shuttle had us all loaded by around five pm and heading back home. A few of us enjoyed dinner in the Port Jervis Diner before heading back to Bergen County.
A good time was had by all.