Wallkill River Excursion
by Martin W.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Drums Along The Mighty Wallkill
They (whomever they are) said it was supposed to be in the low 80s on Saturday... well, it thankfully wasn't! The water was at an almost ideal level... the current was moving along at a good clip... not too many blow-downs (except)... but it sure was windy - headwind of course! Six members (and Jim M. who had a sore arm but still came to help with the car shuttle) participated. Joan B., Lori B., Kevin M., Mike C. and Capt. Peter W. in 3 canoes and 3 kayaks. Put-in was at the Rt. 565 access and take-out was at Oil City Road entailing about 9 miles.
A little use of the saw was required here and there, but we made good time with no mishaps. Two Bald Eagles sitting in their huge nest were spotted along with quite a few early bird turtles sunning themselves on the tree limbs protruding from the water. Beaver lodges were present along the banks and some of their dams were being worked on. A few muskrats were seen and we think we spotted a mink by the big beaver dam. Pretty strong headwinds (what else) were encountered actually producing waves with small whitecaps in the open stretches resulting in a character-producing workout.
We stopped for a muddy lunch at the big beaver dam and then continued on downstream (north since the Wallkill is one of only two rivers in NJ to flow north. Quiz - What is the other one?) After we did a short stop at Bassett's Bridge (Lori B. wanted to sit on the bench) we headed downstream to "The Rapid". Well, when we got to it we were in for a big surprise... a "Big Strainer" . Seems a tree had fallen right into the middle of the rapid spanning almost the entire width of the river creating a dangerous strainer. Approaching this I could see that most of the current was directed right into the middle of the strainer and yes, a good strong paddler with a good strong draw stroke with a maneuverable boat could have made it through a narrow opening on river right at this water level, I chose not to take a chance with someone ending up pinned and had everyone portage around this.
Continuing on we came upon the infamous "Redneck Campground". Those of you who have done this trip in the past will know what I mean.... but this time it was like nothing I have ever seen in the 30+ years I have been paddling this river. Seems every yahoo with an ATV and dirt bike was there racing around making so much racket and dust we couldn't see the river anymore. Glad to get out of there!
Well, we finished up the trip at Oil City Road in NY at approximately 3:30pm, loaded up the boats and headed home (with a quick stop for me at Tractor Supply to pick up some great $15 cotton shirts).
Just beware of the strainer at "The Rapid"