Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Passaic River at West Side Park, Totowa
by Betty Wiest

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The trip was billed as a last minute “Lazy as Sunday morning” kind of trip.….and it was. The stretch of the Passaic River at West Side Park in the Totowa section of Paterson that we paddled, had a slow current. At this point in the river the water is still flowing north which, of course, flows over the Great Falls, curves north till it gets to Hawthorne and then starts flowing south. Weird…as it has its beginnings in Mendam.

Participating in this trip were: Peter W., Naiomi G., Skip H., Manfred J., Bill M., Joann R., Robert M., Michael R. and me. This group made up eight kayaks and one canoe.

West Side Park, unlike East Side Park, is flat and runs north as it runs along the Passaic River whereas East Side Park also borders the Passaic River on its southerly route to Newark Bay. I don’t know of any other city or municipality that spans the river in its north and south direction….not including Hawthorne which is at the apex

I believe West Side Park, in its heyday, was a well -designed park with outstanding features. The “bones” of it still exist but like most parks, it could use an infusion of money, improvements and personnel. One unique feature is that it has several units of steps that go down to the river. I can imagine how, in its prime, the park would entertain well-dressed ladies making their way to boats that would take them up the river on a mini-holiday.

It took a bit of welcome assistance for each of us to enter our boat. While we could position our boats parallel to the stairs, it took a bit of maneuvering to get in. One group member had a flag in honor of Flag Day which he proudly positioned on his boat. I had made a note for myself to get one out of the attic but failed to do so that morning. It was very patriotic.

We initially paddled downstream to a safe spot just before the concrete dam which separates the rock face leading up to the Falls. We turned around at the Wayne Street Bridge (and McBride Avenue) and made our way south. The current was quite manageable. During our paddle we saw a beautiful Great blue Heron and a Snowy Egret who was enjoying himself catching numerous fish for his breakfast.

The conversation drifted to famous people and things that had a connection to the river---like John Holland who invented the submarine and tested it at the base of the falls. Skip commented on the fact that Paterson had five different locomotive plants and two locomotives that were involved in the Great Chase during the Civil War came from Paterson. So much history!

The water level was lower than the last time we were on it. With Route 80 just behind us, we rounded a curve and ran into a lot of rocks. It was clearly too shallow for several boats. We headed back. One very prominent observation was all the debris under one bridge from some (or several) floods. Nestled in the steel rafters were all sorts of garbage—twigs, bottles, balls, Styrofoam and so much more.

It would not have been another successful trip without Manfred’s hospitality. We sat under a large pavilion enjoying rum cake, coffee and other beverages. As always, thank you, Manfred and Marianne.