Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Musconetcong River, Part 1
Hackettstown to Point Mountain Road, Mansfield Twp.
by Bob Rancan

September 30, 2023

2023 marks the 5th year drawdown of Lake Hopatcong: The level of the Lake is dropped 5 feet to enable commercial and residential property owners to make repairs to docks and other facilities. Since the Lake was over the desired capacity, the drawdown began on September 20th, a bit earlier than planned. Coupled with the water release, the week prior to our first trip brought a couple of rainy days to the region, the back end of a tropical storm that moved up the coast. After a couple of wet, cold days, the temperature began to warm up and some early morning drizzle gave way to a pretty nice day.

Thirteen members met behind the Lowe's in Hackettstown where there is a little-known river access. It is very handy because it is just below the East Avenue bridge, which at higher water levels is impossible to get under and necessitates a portage over a very busy county road. The water was indeed high. The Bloomsbury gauge was registering between 2.52 and 2.50, about 510cfs. The upper part of our run isn't done too often so of course, within a football field of our start a large tree blocked the river, with a second on just behind it. Some were able to jump over a low spot, make a frantic hard left and get into the eddy behind both obstacles. Others opted for a lousy portage on river left and still others followed a rushing flood channel around the right of the stump and since the water kept flowing, they kept exploring the new braid. We all came back together quite a way down the road...voices heard and whistles blown let everyone know that all were progressing downstream. Only time was lost, and my whistle. The dam above Newburgh Road, which sometimes can be paddled around on the left via a new watercourse caused by a breach, had to be carried because of the high water and concern that some dead trees blocked the exit. Since the high water came right up to the dam's face and there were more than a dozen boats to lift over and down, more time was lost. However, the rest of the day was rather uneventful plus the sun came out during lunchtime.

Of course, no report would be complete without mentioning the wildlife: We were chasing an adult Bald Eagle downriver and possibly at late sighting may have been a second bird. Also, we moved many wood ducks ahead of us in small groups. There were at least two dozen altogether and one, probably a young duck, got separated from its group and hugged the bank as we passed. Hopefully, it reunited with its family downstream. There were Great Blue Herons, a Green Heron, a Belted Kingfisher and an immature Red Tail Hawk.

Thanks, Chris M., Alex T., Al G., Sumonnat K., Bob Z., Jim M., Rocco and Pat L., John and Linda Y., Phil M. and F. Chu. It was a fine day.