Friday, September 5, 2014
Rafting the Hudson Gorge: 09/02/2014
Ever since our hike in – raft out trip to OK Slip Falls earlier this summer with Square Eddy Expeditions, we’ve wanted to return to the Hudson Gorge. Of course we wanted to see the parts of the gorge that we missed, but there’s also something compelling about the gorge that draws you back. Part of that draw is the natural beauty, the alternating stretches of calm water and rapids hemmed in by steep, wooded slopes. And part of the draw is the adventure of the paddling itself, with a new challenge around each bend of the river.
The whitewater fun began almost immediately after we launched our raft. The first three miles of the trip are on the Indian River with nearly continuous class II and III rapids all the way to its confluence with the Hudson. Class III rapids are considered “intermediate” by American Whitewater, but I found them plenty sporty, even intimidating at times. The photos by Square Eddy’s photographer, Melody Thomas, were taken part way down the Indian.
On the day of our trip, the river was running at just about 3 feet, a level that is considered to be a good flow in summer. The dam release brought the river up to about 4 feet. You can see the effect of the “bubble” by checking the river gauge here. By comparison, the river level when we did our hike in –raft out trip in late June was around four and a half feet. I couldn’t distinguish a difference between the two trips – it was all fun to me.
We caught a break in the excitement once we reached the Hudson. A nice stretch of calm water allowed me to pull my camera out of the dry bag and snap a few photos. But before long we reached the next set of rapids. This was a pattern that repeated itself over and over for the entire day: rapids, followed by quiet water, followed by more rapids.
After lunch came more Class III rapids, including The Narrows, Osprey Nest Rapids, Mile Long Rapids, Giveny’s Rift, Gunsight-In and Gunsight-Out, and the Bus Stop. It was a blast. Along the way we passed by OK Slip Brook, where we had put in on our hike in – raft out trip. If I have any regrets about the trip, it’s that I had to keep my camera stowed away after lunch. There’s no way my camera would have survived the big water, but at least we have the photos taken by the trip photographer on the Indian to capture some of the excitement of the whitewater.
Not long after lunch, we got a little more excitement than we had bargained for. Besides Beth, Daniel, Lori (guiding) and me, we had 4 of Lori’s relatives in our boat, including 3 kids all slightly younger than Daniel. As we entered The Narrows, one of the biggest rapids of the day, the youngest kid popped out of the raft. It’s not uncommon to end up with a “swimmer,” but we were caught off guard. Except for Lori, who somehow grabbed young Matt by the ankle and hauled him back into the raft. Matt’s swim lasted only three or four seconds, but without Lori controlling the raft we spun around and bounced off some rocks before Lori got us back under control. Kudos to Lori for showing us the stuff a guide’s made of, and to Matt who was (understandably) shaken up at first but recovered quickly. Now he’s got a great story to tell about being one of the youngest-ever rafters to swim The Narrows!
Eventually the railroad bridge at the confluence of the Boreas and the Hudson came into view, signaling the end to most of the whitewater. We floated the remaining 3 miles to the take-out in North River under blue skies and puffy clouds.
If you go: Warm water makes late summer a great time to raft the Hudson Gorge. Soon, the leaves will be changing, adding color to the already spectacular scenery. Dam releases continue through Columbus Day weekend, after which the commercial rafting operations close shop until early April.