Running The Rivers

A Paddling Potpourri

Canoe Delaware

Quick and tricky or quiet and easy; canoe, kayak, raft or tube; the floating experience in Northwest New Jersey comes in many flavors. On one extreme, quiet paddling can be found on the Delaware, the D&R Canal, Raritan South Branch, Millstone, Walkill and the Passaic rivers. More excitement can be found in the spring, and after rainy spells, on the Paulinskill, Pequest, upper South Branch, and selected portions of the Delaware. For folks interested in something in between, there are the North Branch (Raritan), Musconetcong and Lamington rivers. But, with or without the added excitement of whitewater, each river offers its own special brand of melodrama.

Many paddlers will prefer the wide-open space of a lake or reservoir, where it’s easy to get back to where you started. There is park access at Spruce Run, Round Valley, Merrill Creek, Swartswood Lake and Lake Hopatcong. Smaller water bodies, like White Lake near Blairstown or Crater Lake above Millbrook, are equally inviting.

For wildlife watchers any choice will be exciting. Escorts of wood ducks, great blue herons, kingfishers and common mergansers show up often on many of the Skyland’s rivers. Owls being mobbed by crows, bluejays and their unlikely confederates, the chickadees and nuthatches, are often seen along the South Branch, Passaic, and Millstone rivers. And the Delaware River islands–Tocks, Poxono, Depew, Sambo–follow along a gentle, easy ride spiced with beaver, bear, wild turkey, egrets, heron, and eagles.

For historians and railroad fans, there is a rich history of mills, canals, and relics of the golden age of railroads. Passing under or traveling along the routes of the Lackawanna's Phoebe Snow or the Lehigh's Black Diamond offers a perspective not generally seen by land-based observers. Phillipsburg, Changewater, Neshanic Station, High Bridge and Hainesburg are among the many towns and villages that offer interesting skeletons of the heyday of steam. Rivers and rail-beds parallel and criss-cross each other throughout the region, and artifacts can be seen everywhere by those with an eagle eye, an inquiring mind, and a canoe or kayak.

It is always best to paddle with others. A good way to start is with a canoe club or your county park system. They will usually help you obtain the necessary equipment and provide helpful hints on what to bring. They also will generally provide a car shuttle, as it is not very appealing for most people to paddle upstream. Spring and winter paddling can be dangerous for the inexperienced and unprepared, so it is best to tag along with more experienced paddlers, especially at that time of year and if the water is unusually high.

Because water is usually low in the summer, liveries are not too abundant along Skylands rivers other than the Delaware. Some outfitters will rent canoes to "carry”, along with the necessary roof-top carriers. Those that do not provide that service can sometimes be convinced with a big enough deposit. On the Delaware, liveries run by seasoned professionals along both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania banks can assure you of a safe trip with consistently up-dated equipment, the convenience of shuttles from end to end, and words of advice that will make your trip the best it can be.

Favorite canoeing stretches for year-round placid paddling are the Delaware above Lambertville (with the exception of Foul Rift, just below Belvidere), the D&R Canal and the South Branch (below Clinton). Ordinarily, these will have sufficient water all year but, during dry spells, it is sometimes necessary, on the South Branch, to go down below Neshanic Station to minimize the out-of-canoe experience.

The best Skylands white-water paddling is generally in early spring on the Paulinskill or Pequest or on the South Branch at the Lockwood Gorge (above High Bridge). Conditions will depend on water level and, while Class III  and even IV rapids can be found on occasion, these rivers can usually be relied on to offer, at minimum, a few interesting stretches of Class II+ water. The Delaware too will offer some Class II water at Foul Rift (below Belvidere) and at the wing-dam (just below Lambertville). But once again, the degree of difficulty (or danger) will depend on water levels and temperatures.

A typical day trip ranges from 6-12 miles and sometimes as much as 15 miles for more hearty souls. Bring a camp stove or bag lunch, and the outing becomes a picnic too. Afterward, a well engineered stop at a local restaurant or pub can offer opportunities to share the day's events and cement relationships.

Cruising the rivers, lakes and ponds of the Skylands has a way of erasing the more hectic aspects of life and, for people of all ages, a day in a canoe or kayak with good friends is hard to beat. Knowing the rivers- their beauty, history, and hazards- can provide you and your family with many days of enjoyment this summer. If possible, plan your trip for a weekday, and you’ll feel like your have the water all to yourself.

Canoe Classes of Difficulty

Class I: Moving water with a few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions.

Class II: Easy rapids with waves up to 3 feet and wide, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering is required.

Class III: Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping an open canoe. Narrow passages that often require complex maneuvering.

Class IV-VI: Generally not done in open canoes.


Liveries and Suppliers

  • Chamberlain Canoes
  • This family operated full service recreational livery for canoe, kayak, raft and tube provides one or multi-day trips for groups of all sizes on the scenic Delaware River. With over thirty years of experience, customer service is our strength.

    103 Five Star Ln. , East Stroudsburg, PA, 1-800-422-6631

  • Adventure Sports
  • Licensed by the National Park Service, Adventure Sports has been running trips on the Delaware River since 1969. We specialize in trips through the spectacular Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area that vary in distance, and can last from two hours to overnight multi-day camping trips. Two miles off I-80, exit 309.

    US Route 209 & County Bridge Rd, Marshalls Creek, PA, 1-800-487-2628

  • Bucks County River Country
  • Fifty years of family fun for all ages! Tubing, calm water rafting, canoeing & kayaking trips on the Delaware River in historic Bucks County (near New Hope, PA). "We love to see you wet!"

    2 Walters Lane, Point Pleasant 18950, 215/297-5000

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Comments

eltavo
18 Jun 2015, 19:17
i am from new jersey and I bought a canoe, I want to know if I can use the canoe on the beach. thanks and rowing
Wendy
21 May 2013, 16:08
We have never canoed before. Can you tell me what is a great place to start out?\r\n\r\nThanks
Robin Henderson
28 Apr 2013, 09:40
Where do I get a boat permit to kayak on NJ Reservoirs in Sussex, Morris, Passaic County? I can't find any info about where to go on this site.
john
16 Jul 2011, 03:27
You need a lauch permit for round valley. It's $15. You cant buy it at the park. try the bait shop on rt 22 in lebanon
S. Campbell
26 Jul 2010, 06:36
We just bought a 14'7" canoe. Need to know if we need a launch permit or anything to put it into the water on the Delaware or at Spruce RUn.
chicano
22 Sep 2009, 23:41
The wife and i have s.o.t. kayaks. We launch at belvidere and stop at the riverside grill for apps and refreshments. What a great day on Foul Rift.
Elizabeth
18 Jun 2009, 12:03
Karen - depending on where in south jersey - a great place to begin might be cedar creek - Cedar Creek Campground - GSP exit 80 from north - exit 74 from the south - off of Rt 9 - you can vary your trip anywhere from 1 - 4 hours - pretty calm waters. Triple T Canoes also rents for Cedar Creek - both have a website with rates if you search. Further south for Wading and Oswego Rivers in the pine Barrons - Micks Pine Barron Canoes - same deal - you can vary your trip and calmer waters. Hope that helps some
Karen
12 Jun 2009, 11:49
I am a beginner at canoieing and was interested in where to go in South Jersey area that have rentals. I heard of a Victory Lake in Williamstown, NJ, but I am not finding any info for it. Can you make some suggestions. \r\n\r\nThank you
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