Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

North Branch Raritan River, NJ
by Bob Rancan

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The first day of spring, 2010 turned out to be a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and the mercury peaking in the 70s. Better yet, the streams in northern New Jersey were full of water, most having hit or surpassed their respective flood stages the prior weekend. Thirteen paddlers in 12 boats (9 canoes, 3 kayaks) tried the scenic North Branch of the Raritan from Far Hills to the town of North Branch. We met off Rt. 287 in Bedminster with the thought that we could begin near the Township's ballfields. The storms of the prior week had knocked down so many large trees: if the river was still running on the high side, we would eliminate the upper, narrower portion of the stream from Far Hills to Bedminster and just do about a 6-7 mile stretch in the wider floodplain. By Saturday morning, the North Branch gauge at Raritan read 3.63 or 789cfs. The river had been up above 3000cfs and had remained over 1000 until Friday. We did it at the just right level and even hit one or two scratchy parts.

Figuring we weren't dealing with a raging small stream, we went up to the Far Hills Fairgrounds and weren't disappointed. Surprisingly, we did not encounter any blockages and in the one spot that most of us got out and carried around the bar, a talented paddler (ironically a guest of the Club) found his way into an eddy and made a nice move around the tree.

A good trip on a fine day...even though the evidence of flooding was everywhere in the form of debris on the undersides of bridges, scoured banks and sand piles on the islands, many spring wildflowers were starting to push their way through the sands and although we didn't spot many spring migrants there were wood ducks, belted kingfishers, yellow-shafted flickers, woodpeckers drumming, a sharp shin and red tailed hawks and in the rookery near the take-out, someone counted 26 nests and many had great blue herons standing next to them.

Thanks to Tom DeAngelis, Jim Lyon, Chris Meyers, Sue Fleisher, Kevin McCarthy, Tom Hart, Joe Havasy, Ken King, Michelle Paradiso, Ed Heinen, Karen Heinen and Paul Albert, who came all the way up from Cherry Hill.