Run of the Ramapo River
by Betty Wiest
March 30, 2008
Eridanus, Achelous, Acis, Hebrus, and Jutuma (all Greek river gods and a Roman river goddess) paddled their way down the Ramapo River on Sunday. In real life, Harris, Jim, Tom, Kevin, and Betty paddled down this ribbon of water, a tributary of the Pompton River, which runs approximately 30 miles in Southern New York and New Jersey. It starts in Tuxedo, NY and ends at Pompton Lake in Pompton Lakes—where else
The morning started out with the temperature below freezing—a balmy 29 degrees F. We met at 9 a.m., at the parking lot of the NJ/NY Trail Conference, just above the Mason Jar Restaurant on Rt. 202, got our boats ready, then shuttled cars to our take-out in Oakland. Dressed to kill in fashionable dry suits, wet suits and everything in between, the group was ready by ten o’clock for the traditional annual run of the Ramapo.
As it turned out, the river gods challenged us at many turns and even a seasoned paddler of this river like myself ran into trouble water. A downed paddler, a curve in the river, a downed tree, and another beached paddler all contributed to a combination of elements of disaster. Did three of us really wind up in the river at that bend?
The day was warming up as we made our way south with the current, and we passed an area that is said to be the “encampment” of the native Lenape tribes. This land is now home to Ramapo College. Using my imagination, I momentarily closed my eyes and could see Indians in native dress standing at river’s edge…adding to the excitement of the journey.
We portaged at the first dam at a point where the river widens to a nice sized pond with posted warning of the upcoming dam. We stopped for a bite to eat before continuing on. It’s always a point of interest to see what gourmet meals people have prepared.
Lions and tigers and bears….oh, my! Well, there were none of the former and only one of the latter. It’s a good thing this bear stood incredibly tall, solid and wooden as a monument on someone’s property near our second dam portage. We took our picture with the bear as is the tradition. Ducks, geese, horses, and a variety of birds were viewed in the distance along the way from our boats, but the graceful flight of the great blue herons, always one step ahead of us, were the special pleasure within our line of sight.
I’ve always considered the Ramapo River to be a tricky, little river and the more written descriptions I read it is clearly one not for novices. Even today, the clutches of a Roman goddess did not look kindly, a ten-year kayak veteran and frequent Ramapo River paddler. There’s always next year.
We took out our boats about 2:30 p.m. in Oakland feeling we had accomplished another great Run of the Ramapo.