South Branch Raritan River, NJ
by Bob Rancan
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I moved our proposed Delaware River trip away from the Foul Rift section all the way to the South Branch of the Raritan. The mean August levels for the Belvidere, NJ gauge on the Delaware are between 3,400 and 3,800 cubic feet per second of water flow. A nice springtime level for the rapids at Foul Rift is between 6,000 and 7,000 cfs. As I indicated when I listed the trip the preceding Monday, the gauge was showing nearly 24,000 cfs and I figured it would drop throughout the week. It did, but this is an unusual summer and by Friday morning it still showed 10,000. I thought to just start in Phillipsburg, our planned take out and paddle on down to Rieglesville. However, Spruce Run Reservoir was over 100 percent full and on Tuesday the NJ Water Authority decided to start letting 128 million gallons a day out into the South Branch above Clinton. That's the trip I like so we made the switch.
There were five of us on a beautiful day and the level was very good (3.26, 325 cfs at the Stanton gauge). Green herons, great blue herons, two family groups of common mergansers together (22 ducks in all), belted kingfishers, phoebes and lots of cedar waxwings were seen. The Water Authority does not give out its release information prospectively, however in the last few years I've noticed that when temperatures stay hot and the Raritan doesn't receive additional rainfall, Spruce Run water is let into the river and the flows range from minimal for paddling to good, not even scratchy. I believe one of the goals is to keep the fishery in good shape by providing a constant flow of cool water but it works for paddlers too. I'm hoping for a good month now and I will add another trip or two to the calendar. Better yet, Round Valley Reservoir is also near capacity so if they put some water into the North Branch system, you'll be hearing from me. Thanks to Gail Neffinger, Christine Zinno, Tom Babos and Henry Degenhardt for a great day.