The Musconetcong in the Fall
by Bob Rancan
This is about a Club trip and three other paddles on the Musconetcong River in the middle of autumn. It is a time of year when this good fishing stream consistently has enough flow to make easy the job of planning a paddle. It can be a time of more rain but more importantly, November is when the authorities move to protect Lake Hopatcong’s structures from the winter’s ice by letting water flow into the Musconetcong.
Before the 2007 releases began, lots of rain fell across New Jersey on Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27. The gauges rose fast on many north Jersey streams throughout the morning and afternoon of the 27th so Henry Degenhardt, Jim Lyon and I decided to try for the hard to catch stretch of river between Saxton’s Falls and Hackettstown on Sunday, October 28th. I checked the Bloomsbury gauge of the Musconetcong at the NJ Current Streamflows page of the USGS website. During the early part of Saturday, the river rose from a 1.7 foot reading to 4.05 (1240 cubic feet per second…cfs) by 2:45 PM, and then started dropping as quickly as it had come up. By Sunday morning it had fallen below 3 feet (660cfs) and around our start time after 10 AM, the Bloomsbury gauge (about 26 miles downstream of the put in) read 2.81 feet (570cfs). It was a decent level and a good technical run on a cool day. We knew about the 2 dams to carry and had decided to not try to get under the low bridge at East Avenue in Hackettstown. On a stream like that you figure on another detour or two…we encountered four in all. Two trees were across the river after the East Avenue carry, just after I said, “well, it’s clear sailing from here to the Fishing Access.” Isn't that always the case? All in all, it was a good start to the Musconetcong season.
In November, a second gauge comes into play: Musconetcong River at the Outlet of Lake Hopatcong. For three weeks in a row it’s level remained steady in the range of 2.87 (133cfs) to 3.0 (145cfs), giving the sections south of Hackettstown more than enough flow. Henry, Jim, Ed Heinen and I enjoyed a nice trip from Mansfield Twp to Hampton Park on the 10th (Bloomsbury gauge = 2.02 (250cfs). Since I don't always pay 100% attention I found out the water was cold and said so, in capital letters, when I listed the trip for the 18th on the Club calendar. It must have been even colder that day as we had snow squalls all day long. Eight of us including Jim, Ed, Martin Wellhoefer, Scott Hagaman, Rico Pagliei, Martin Courtney and Terry Foster paddled from Hampton Park to Bloomsbury (Bloomsbury gauge = 2.01 (247cfs) and except for the snow/sleet, no one got wet and we enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the woods.
On the 24th, Henry and I reprised Mansfield to Hampton with a little more water (2.08, 272cfs) and a lot colder temperature. We had sun, but that late in the year it was right in our eyes all day, making river reading a real adventure. Of course, I was still looking for birds. It was pretty evident winter was on its way as titmice, chickadees, cardinals and blue jays were about all I saw.
But on the earlier trips…osprey, pileated woodpeckers (twice) wood ducks, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, red tailed and sharp shin hawks, flocks of robins and blackbirds and Eastern bluebirds. Next fall, releases should start earlier…don't miss the Musconetcong.