by Fred Cohane
March 6, 2005
Who says you need to wait until springtime to get out there and enjoy the water?
On March 6th, six hearty paddlers met for breakfast at the Sussex Queen Diner for what was to become a glorious day paddling on the Wallkill River. The paddlers were Martin (our Fearless Trip Leader), Lee & Fred in solo canoes, Hal & Laurie in their tandem canoe and Mike in his recreational kayak. Lately, the ratio of canoes to kayaks has been in favor of the kayaks, but on this day, it was five canoes to one kayak. Might this be signaling a trend that we’ll be returning to the days when we were known as the Hackensack River Canoe Club? Probably not.
The Wallkill is a lovely stream and is unusual in that if flows north instead of south, where it eventually empties into the Hudson. As most rivers flow south, some claim it is actually a tributary of the mighty Hudson, which does flow south. Perhaps some of the “experts” can help answer that question for us on the next trip?
As to water conditions, the Wallkill is typically slow running and easy to paddle. As recently as two years ago there were several blowdowns, usually covered with poison ivy. There was also a breed of little spiders that loved to drop down into your boat and hide under the gunnels. You could never find them but you knew they were there. And lastly, the beaver dams, which seemed to pop up almost overnight.
However, this area is now known as the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, it is very well maintained and there were no obstructions at all to contend with. Except for an occasional headwind, it was smooth sailing all the way.
And as part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, we got to see many of its inhabitants. In the course of a five-hour trip we saw 4 muskrats and 4 beaver, including a few little ones that sat on the bank and watched us paddle by. We also spotted over 36 wild turkey, and dozens of blue birds along the banks. Lee also discovered a new Great Blue Heron rookery off to river right. We counted over 30 empty nests - but not for long!
Put-ins and takeout were uneventful (no one got wet!) and everyone returned to their vehicles safely. However, a paddler’s day is a strenuous one, and once again there was the need for hot soup and more fuel at the Sussex Queen Diner. This was followed by a quick stop at Neal’s Sports Emporium for a look at the latest paddling gear, and we were all safely on our way.
Special thanks to Martin, our trip leader, for a great time. Hope to see you all next time for some “winter paddling.”