Paddlin' the Passaic
by Betty Wiest
Sunday, May 31, 2020
What a lovely day! Our group of nineteen paddlers (all kayaks and one canoe) and one dog took a leisure paddle with the wind at our backs down the Passaic River, launching from Memorial Park in Fair Lawn. This launch is part of the official Passaic River Water Trail. The river had a nice slow current.
It was a little strange to have a pre-paddle group meeting in a circle, each wearing a face mask, standing six feet apart, introducing ourselves. Well, okay, individually we shed our mask for a moment as each introduced themselves.
This was a no shuttle event, as in the Covid-19 era, shuttles are not permitted (yet!)
The interesting thing about paddling this section of the river is that it is tree lined on both sides and one would not imagine that Paterson was on one side and Fair Lawn and Elmwood Park on the other. Except for the fast-moving traffic on McLean Blvd. (Route 20), you could be almost anywhere.
At one point, the river divided with a substantial island in the middle shortly before the Route 46 bridge. Some of us went river left, and some river right. For those of us who chose river right, we passed an uncommon sight—folding chairs and a makeshift camp. There was a sign: Welcome to Rick’s (?) Island”. It was a place we could have stopped for lunch, even with many boats. I saw one turtle.
Our objective was to paddle to the Dundee Dam; and we got pretty close. With the advice from one of several fishermen in motorized boats, we turned around shy of our destination because of windy conditions. But still we had to contend with it going back upriver. Our group spread out due to both conditions but we all made it back safely. Our canoe duo followed a red tailed hawk, who, for a brief moment, stalked a small bird in the air swooping in and creating a stir.
Once everyone had put their equipment back on their vehicles, a number of us who brought our lunches sat at nearby picnic tables. It was a pleasant time shared at the end of the paddle.