Monday, May 1, 2017

Black River

I'm a little behind in blogging. Here are some details on a trip Mr. Cowgirl and I took with our mutual friend, EY the "canoe girl" a couple of weeks ago, in mid-April.

Mr. Cowgirl knows EY from whitewater paddling, where she's more likely to be paddling a C1 instead of a kayak. Anyone who can do with one blade what the Cowgirl has learned to do with two is pretty impressive.

On this day, however, we took it easy and explored a stretch of water one might normally overlook - and drive past without a second thought: the Black River, in New Jersey.

Putting in.

We'd been fuzzy about our weekend paddling plans. The weather was predicted to be amazing, and while I checked the tide tables and wind for sea ideas, the mister kept on top of reported river levels for whitewater opportunities. Everything was coming up dry, and we were considering some lake or interior waters, just to be out, when EY called and suggested the Black River.

The Black River.

The River is pretty far out in New Jersey, nearly as far as the Cowgirl's current day job. We drove out on I-80, continuing past Parsippany and I-287, to take route 206 south a ways, eventually coordinating with EY a couple of potential ideas: one to put in at one spot and shuttle from another, the second to put in and take out at the same place - a dirt parking lot at the end of a trail, maybe 150 yards portage to a low bridge with a small mud pile we could put in at.

And we're off!

We observed there was some non-trivial current: not enough to be a problem, but enough that we'd be moving noticeably if we didn't paddle. We opted to go against the current, figuring we could come back with it. This mean leaning low to pass under the bridge, and later, we encountered a second bridge (which was route 206) that we couldn't pass under. So, we went back, with the current, floating as much as paddling.

We'd brought the Grumman canoe along instead of kayaks. Someone has posted online about hosting a trip later, and had said short boats only. We're happy to say our Grumman 17 worked out quite well!

Dare we go there?

Yes we dare! Actually the return.


EY took plenty of pictures and posted them. Also kept track of mileage and our route.

Paddling is full of 'grammable opportunties!

Looking ahead.

Mr. Cowgirl.

As we made our way down the winding river, we crossed first one and then another beaver dam, getting speed to beach halfway over it, then taking turns getting back in to complete our madness.

We saw a lot of birds - mostly red-chested blackbirds, I forget their exact nomenclature. EY spotted an egret.

Where's EY?

Clouds have rolled in.

At a couple of points we decided to see what the panorama mode on the cameraphone would do if used while the canoe was moving.


Like a visual Theremin.

The weather was the most interesting part of this trip. Being mid-April, we were still concerned with water temperature. I even brought my drysuit. However, the air temperature was over 80 F and sunny, so I just wore base layers - rolled up for comfort.

I'm glad I wore them though, and that I had a jacket. Later in our trip, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in, and we even got a spattering of rain. I put on the jacket just to block the wind. Yet, by the end of our journey, the sky had cleared and it was warm again. We'd come full circle, weather-wise.

Consider the lilies.

Dam it! Beavers.

Eventually, we came to a beaver home. We couldn't spot beavers, though we did watch for them. We swept gently by and proceeded just a little ways further, before turning around.

Anybody home?

In revisiting some of these pictures, I keep expecting the Blair Witch to pop up. Aye the moors. . .

There's EY!

A fallen tree.

On our way back.

As we came to the end, we all remarked on what a fun find this little river was. None of us had been especially ambitious in paddling plans - we were all in a mood for something chill, and that was exactly what we got. A remote area, a little wildlife, endless and changing vistas: all of this was in just a couple of hours paddling, less than a 90 minute drive away. 

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