Saturday, September 10, 2016

Rafting the Hudson Gorge: 09/03/2016

Paddling the Hudson Gorge with Square Eddy Expeditions, 09/03/2016.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

My friends Linc Marsac and Lori Phoebe Benton, chief guides and owners of Square Eddy Expeditions, like to say that they get double the fun out of every snowflake that falls: first skiing the woods and mountains around North Creek and Indian Lake, and then paddling the runoff when it all melts in the spring. We weren't paddling spring runoff on our trip down the Hudson Gorge with Square Eddy over Labor Day weekend, but the double-the-fun rule seemed to be in full effect anyway.

We've taken our son Daniel, 12 years old now, on two previous trips with Square Eddy (trip reports here and here), and decided it was time for Sylvie, 8 years old, to finally get in on the action. Both kids are strong swimmers and have a robust sense of adventure, so the trip was right up their alley.

Summer conditions on the river were ideal. Warm air temperatures and warm water meant the kids (and adults too) could swim and enjoy the 5-hour trip without freezing our butts off, and thanks to the Lake Abanakee dam release we rode a bubble of water that kept the numerous Class III rapids fun.

Busy put-in on Saturday morning

About to launch

Square Eddy is one of about a dozen rafting companies running the Hudson Gorge, centerpiece of the 23,500 acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. The put-in just below the Lake Abanakee dam feels like anything but wilderness, with literally hundreds of paddlers launching at the same time to take advantage of the dam release, but once on the water the other boats fade away. We spent long stretches on the river without another boat in sight. Within minutes of launching we saw our first osprey of the day.

Approaching Blue Ledges

Blue Ledges

Rapids below the Blue Ledges

A bit busy at Elephant Rock

Our lunch break at OK Slip Brook

The remoteness of the 14 mile paddle is punctuated by a handful of points that seem to collect all the boats on the river at once: Elephant Rock - a huge boulder in the middle of the river that begs to be jumped off, a few popular lunch break spots, and the railroad trestle that marks the end of the gorge. Between those few busy spots Class II and III whitewater alternates with stretches of calm. Steep, wooded hillsides line both banks of the river, lending a sense that you're in a place that's both hard to get to and hard to get out of.

From the Narrows rapids (courtesy of SEE photographer Melody Thomas):

With 3 trips down the Hudson Gorge under our belt now we're starting to feel like regular river rats, calling out the names of rapids and anticipating scenic highlights like the Blue Ledges and Kettle Mountain. It's easy to understand why people like Linc and Lori are so drawn to this beautiful stretch of the Hudson.

Railroad trestle near the end of the gorge

Chillin' with Lori on a quiet stretch just before the take-out

If you go: Square Eddy and the other rafting companies run the Hudson Gorge through Columbus Day weekend. Call or email to make reservations.

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