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IMG_3359_edited-1Brian from work informed Kathy and I of this group trip sponsored by the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative led by faculty and students at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. The initiative enlisted the cooperation of Raritan River Basin stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Its goal was to foster environmentally sound stewardship of this valuable resource. This initial public event was the Raritan River Collaborative’s inaugural Fall Float, a gentle, six-mile float from Piscataway to New Brunswick.  I have to say it was very well organized and run with tee-shirts, water bottles, food, rescue squads, cameraman and reporter and food and a bus ride back to the cars at the end of the trip.  All for $10.

The put-in was at Piscataway’s Riverside (Bakelite) Park which is just off of the River Road exit on Route 287.  Very convenient.  The take-out is 6 miles down river at the Rutgers Boathouse, Boyd Park at the Raritan River, New Brunswick.

DCC_2529_edited-1According to the sponsoring group, “The Raritan is a state treasure” therefore I assume it is soon to be called the PNC Raritan River. Rutgers and its partners are promoting a regional strategy to raise public awareness and conduct vital research leading to a better understanding of the threats to this resource and the development of strategies to protect it.  As far as I am concerned, I saw no pollution and it was phenomenally clean, so either their efforts have been very successful or we should move on to more dire situations; eh-hmmm, the Passaic River.  Nevertheless, I am not a chemical analyzer so who knows what the river is really like.  A big thanks to all for putting on this event, being a kayaker and all, I do truly appreciate it.  In the end, the event opened me up to the Raritan.

We arrived at 12:15 and everything for the day was perfect.  The weather couldn’t be better, 65 and sunny.  Actually the wind kicked up for the last 3 minutes of the float but that is really nit-picking.

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There were lots of participants, probably 40 boats and local river rescue squads using the occasion to practice their techniques.  Needless to say we were very safe and they weren’t needed.  DCC_2482_edited-1During the safety talk, the rep from the local save the Raritan River Coalition said the river was pretty low and we would likely have to portage a time or two, but due to the float’s excellent scouts, I never left the boat.  I probably would have had the same experience without all the help, but it was nice to have nevertheless.

There was no real excitement in the water, it was gentle with no rapids at all.  One or two rock ledges to avoid getting caught on, but that was it.  The water hardly moved but we did have a nice breeze at our backs.  You couldn’t have ask for any more help from the weatherman than what we got.

The water itself was super clean and shallow for the most part.  I can say I didn’t see one piece of pollution the entire trip.  That’s an astonishing fact.  It’s nothing like the Rockay where you see tires all over the bottom of the river and the Passaic where the ubiquitous water bottles get caught at every downed limb on the river.  DCC_2511_edited-1 Unlike those other two rivers, the Raritan was straight and boring and they don’t know what a low and difficult to manuever river is, when they were telling us about it during the safety talk.  In any case, the safety talk was in depth and informative.

The colors are a week or 2 away from peak in Morristown, but still they are present.  Down south of Route 22 in Piscataway, the leaves were disappointingly green.  Little color to speak of.  Too bad because the sky was blue with a few wispy clouds, a little more foliage coloration would have been beautiful with the weather.

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DCC_2494_edited-2We did see the largest quantities and varieties of birds that we have seen on any kayak trip yet.  To start with, while waiting at Bakelite Park to take off, Kathy spotted, believe it or not, bald eagles in flight just above us.  I luckily got a few shots off and almost got great shots, but they are pretty good nevertheless and the pictures confirmed our spotting of our American bird.  I almost didn’t take the pictures and didn’t try to get too many, but we never saw them again so I am happy with what I got.

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There were plenty of other birds including lots of migrating geese all day long in large formations above us.  In the water and in the sky we saw seagulls.  Then we also saw a really cool tree holding several cormorant soaking up the sun rays on some picturesque dead branches.

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Below is the timing of the day according the time stamps from my photos.

Speaking of photos, the pictures above are all available on my Picassa Google web ablum. Click here to view my Google web album from the trip.

  • 12:15 – Arrive in Parking lot at Bakelite Park, River Road (exit 9 of Rt. 287), Piscataway, NJ
  • 12:53 – Bald eagle siting while on shore waiting to take off.
  • 1:01 – Safety talk begins.
  • 1:20 – Safety talk ends with a welcome by the Mayor of Piscataway.
  • 1:30 – In the water.
  • 2:45 – We go under our first bridge at Landing Road since we went under the Route 287 at the start of the trip
  • 2:51 – We went under the beautifully sweeping Route 18 bridge.
  • 2:57 – We see the multitude of cormorant hanging out in the branches of a dead tree.
  • 3:14 – Go under the multi-arched concrete railroad bridge
  • 3:21 – Under the multi-arched stone bridge for Route 27 and we make our way to the final approach to the boathouse.
  • 3:35- With a burst of speed, I propel my kayak up the exit concrete ramp and step out of the boat without even getting wet.
  • 4:15 – I catch the first bus ride back to Bakelite Park and pick up the car and drive back to Boyd Park in New Brunswick.
  • 4:30 – Easy load and pack and up Route 18 we go.  A quick stop at Micky D’s
  • 5:15 – At home to feed the dogs.  Unloading into the basement was quick and easy and the Tivo of the Giant – Oakland game worked where I was able to enjoy the 44-7 trouncing of the Raiders. A great 5-0 start for the G-men.

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DCC_8039_edited-1A rainy past couple of days presented us with a grey cloudy morning in which to drive to our Delaware Water Gap (DWG or Gap) kayaking trip with the Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak Club (HRCKC).  John Franzetti in the red canoe was our organizer and kudos to him for executing a perfect trip.  The water was great, the weather was great and the people on the trip were all nice.  I think this is what the HRCKC is all about and I am glad I found it.

DCC_7751_edited-1Kathy and I so far in our recent  journey have only paddled the Passaic and Rockaway Rivers.  While we have both gone down the Delaware with work and friends in the not-so-recent past, this would be our first trip in our own kayaks.  This time we were putting in south of where either of us has paddled before going through Delaware Water Gap and taking out in Belvidere, NJ.  Seemed like a pretty long trip, 12 miles so I thought, but with the current of the Delaware pushing you along, it should be a joy to paddle.

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Right on time, at 9:00 we arrived at the National Park Visitor’s Center rendezvous located at the last exit in NJ off of Route 80.  Once there we found out we were going to caravan up 3-mile to the campgrounds at Worthington State Park. We spent 30 minutes schmoozing here using flush toilets, taking pictures before heading up to Worthington on Old Mill Road which parallels the Delaware.  Kathy and I have camped at Worthington before and are familiar with the location.

DCC_7683_edited-1At 9:40 we started to unload the boats at the Worthington boat ramp parking lot and then one person per car shuttled up to Belvidere.  In Belvidere it was garage sale day and the whole town was for sale.  There is no option to stop with a group like this especially considering the paddle was dominated by women who seemed to be especially ravenous at the thought of a town-wide garage sale.  We found the take out point at the end of Front Street, filled up the parking lot and squeezed into 3 cars and shuttled back to Worthington State Park.  We arrived back at Worthington at 11:15.  Here we had one last chance to use a composting toilet and in the river we went at 11:30.  The put in had a great concrete boat ramp and getting in for me was dry and smooth.  I immediately unpacked the camera and camcorder and started taking shots.

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One thing you notice when comparing the Delaware to the Rockaway and Passaic Rivers is the bigness of the Delaware.  There is a lot of water flowing and the mountains, especially in and around the gap are big and you can see distances.  The other rivers are dominated by personal woodlands on the banks and you are much closer to everything.  In the Delaware you look far and wide.  In addition, the Delaware is much deeper at points and the water seems much cleaner.  We saw virtually no litter or pollution and the water was not muddy or murky at all.

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With respect to wildlife, there was little to see and enjoy.  Buzzards circling  high over the cliffs were everywhere, a few geese, one heron, no fish, mammals, reptiles.  There were some wild kids threatening life and limb jumping off a railroad trestle just before lunch.

Along the way it was mostly undeveloped, undevelopable land, but after leaving the Gap, more and more homes appeared along the shore.  More so on the PA side.  Many had developed their access to the river.  There were a few private swim clubs and motor boats and jet-skis made their minor presence known in the river.  It is amazing what the wake from a small boat does to the kayak.  Pretty cool.

Speaking of which, this trip down the Delaware presented Kathy and I with the most turbulent waters we have yet faced.  This also was pretty cool and exciting.  In addition, compared to my vague memories of trips I took decades ago, the strong riffles/rapids we faced in this trip happened often, Not just once or twice over the course of the day.  I would guess we had 12 or so episodes of rapids into riffles into waves which were something to deal with.  At times the crests of the waves dwarfed our kayaks and when you hit one right, splash!  It was more of a thrill than I expected and you got a lot of it.  It’s time for Kathy to get her own bilge pump and it’s time for me to keep my bilge pump at the ready.  In addition, we  both need to get big automobile sponges to sop up the mess after you get soaked.   To date all my camera protections and precautions have worked, but it maybe time to get a water-proof camcorder so I can relax a bit and enjoy the ride.  It wasn’t too bad where I was paranoid so it was still worth the effort and risk.  In closing with respect to the water and the movement of it, it was a lot of fun and I cannot wait to do it again.  Hopefully the video shows some of the excitement.

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DCC_7737_edited-1Back to the itinerary. We spotted the Route 80 overpass around 12:00 and Route 80 for the next hour or made it’s presence know with its constant din and occasional odd sound of a truck doing something that sounds like it is killing its engine.  At 12:09 I was under the Route 80 overpass making a left turn toward the Delaware Water Gap.  There were many nice turns and new vistas presented in this trip and this left furn from Route 80 to the Gap was one of the best.  Mount Tammany dominates the scene for a while but it is what the Gap is all about.

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There were lots of overpasses to go under in this trip,  Route 80 was one but there were several abandoned bridges and trestles along the way.  As previously mentioned, we saw two crazy teenagers jump off one of them.  One other was a cool stone multi-arch bridge.  Unlike the the other rivers we have been on, bridge abutments didn’t poses and navigational challenges in the currents of this river and didn’t impact the flow to any appreciable degree.

DCC_7782_edited-1At 12:30 we passed the launching area where we assembled at 9:00 in the morning.  A few people got out to use the bathrooms so we just hung for a while with Mount Tammany and the Gap looming in the foreground.  By 12:45 we were passing through the Gap directly under Mount Tammany as we say good bye to it and all its glory.

From this point on the river got deeper stronger and more exciting.  We encounter more recreational uses of the river, more riffles and less scenery.  It’s not that it was ugly, it just wasn’t as majestic as the gap.

We passed under the abandoned multi-arched bridge at 1:15.  It has trees growing on it. and then went under a new looking pedestrian bridge at 1:20.  There was another overpass, just past this pedestrian one and I think it is for rail, but I am  not sure.  Shortly thereafter at 1:35 we come upon a power plant in Pennsylvania, just about the only real industrial complex we found during the while trip.  It had 2 large stacks and an effluent release that cascades off of a large concrete block.

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At 1:50 we went under the abandoned railroad trestle where the kids were jumping of the bridge.  I barely got a shot of one of them jumping and I think I got a video of one of the jumping.  None of the footage is that good unfortunately.  It is difficult to turn your body in a kayak to take pictures with 2 hands of subjects behind you.  I’m glad I didn’t photograph anyone getting hurt as the two daredevils seemed to survive the encounter.

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DCC_7949_edited-1At 1:55 we were pulling over to the pebbly shore of New Jersey to eat lunch.  In and out of the kayaks here was easy and eating and standing felt good.  I had 2 PB&J sandwiches, Kathy had one, some honey-dew and back we went.  At 2:30 we were getting back into the water.  Now most of the fun would happen with several stretches of large riffles that randomly soaked a paddler that dared hit the crest of the wave wrong.

As we lagged toward the back of the pack we encountered a few forks in the river starting around 3:00pm that we took. The forks in the river were created by the presence of several large islands in the middle of the water.  This provided some smaller channels to go through, which was a nice change of pace, but where the channels came together it usually resulted in some adventurous currents.

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With respect to lagging behind, in our 12′ recreational kayaks, it seemed difficult to keep up with the rest of the pack as the day wore on.  We paddled hard but it was tough to catch up to everyone else.  The day was certainly characterized by a lot of paddling, non-stop for the most part, and there was a lot of arm and shoulder toning going on.  It was amazing how effortless it seemed the canoes were  in moving swiftly through the waters.  By 4:15 I finally worked my way to the front of the armada so I could turn around and get some frontal photographs of the paddlers in the club.  Most of these kayaker photos I posted in my Google Picasa Web Album which I shared with the club.  You can get to it by using the link below or just enjoy the embedded slideshow.

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2009-06-06 Delaware Water Gap HRCKC Paddle

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DCC_8067_edited-1At 4:25 we staged for landing at the Belvidere overpass into Pennsylvania. I spotted a few swans resting in a patch of vegetation but nothing too exciting. There was a boy scout troop at the take out point that crowded the area but they did help several of us get out of the boats and carry them up to the parking lot. John, help with mine.

At 4:30 I has out of the water and by 4:40 I already had one kayak on the car. We took Route 46 home, all the way, for a change of pace. We got home at 6:00 to feed and walk the dogs. Made a quick turn around unpacked, showered and off to visit Kathy’s brother Joe in Montclair for dinner. We got home after dinner and crashed good. We are now looking forward to having a little more fun on the Delaware River now that we know a little more about what is is all about.

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Just a little more “diary of the mouth” from your humble narrator Larry.

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DCC_5855_edited-1This was our first adventure with the Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak Club (HRCKC) and with the trip being the Rockaway River, it made it a nice close journey for Kathy and I.  The club cost $25 for the two of us for the year and today’s trip made the annual dues pay for themselves. It gave us an opportunity to meet a whole bunch of nice people who are into the same thing we are into.  For instance, while Kathy was hanging out with some of the women at the put-in point while the men were shuttling the cars at the beginning of the day, she realized that  most of the couples on the trip were long-term couples but yet,  not married just like Kathy and I.  Maybe we did find our little niche.  Finally, this trip showed us two new launching sites for the Rockaway which we had not experienced or specifically knew about.

The put in point at Jakson Ave. park in Rockaway Borough

The put in point at Jakson Ave. park in Rockaway Borough

DCC_5853_edited-1We arrived at the Jackson Avenue park in Rockaway Borough about 9:20 and there was no problem figuring out where to go.  The lineup of a dozen cars with kayaks, canoes and boat racks gave us a strong indication we were in the right spot.  We quickly parked, unloaded and staged our kayks for launching.  It probably took another 30-45 minutes for everyone else to arrive and for Phil, our trip leader, to organize the shuttle to Tourne Park where we would park most of the cars, eventually shuttling on 3 cars to the Giffith Park take-out point.  There is limited parking at Griffith Park and when our convoy rolled into the Tourne parking lot, it showed how this idea was a good one.  We almost filled up the Tourne with our12-13 car convoy, which impressively fell into place as we automatically loaded the parking lot. On the way back to Rockaway, I was in the shuttle with Frank, Judy, Mark, Walter, Bob and the name of our driver who I forget.  He had a canoe on his roof and seemed very experienced but he wasn’t going on the trip with us just shuttling members back and forth.  This was very nice of him.  We eventually saw him peering over the armada floating down the Rockaway at the start of the trip as he grabbed a view from the wrong side of a fence on the first bridge we went under.

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When we got back to the launch site, most of the boats were carried to the shoreline by the people hanging out.  Getting in the water at this site would not be totally dry. It was shallow and along the shore was too shallow to just jump in a paddle.  I pushed Kathy into clear water with great difficulty but I had to step into the river and launch from it.  Not a big deal.  It was clean water and not mud, so it didn’t impact the cleanliness of my interior too much.  We hung out for 15 minutes while we waited for everyone to get into their boats and down the river we went.

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While waiting to get going I took the cameras out of their water-proof bags and started snapping a few shots, so according to this record we were in the water at around 10:50 and started going down stream by 11:05.

It was a beautiful day, the clouds from yesterdays storms were blowing by us and it was slated to be very nice, warm, but not too hot , with only a chance of pop-up thunderstorms later in the afternoon.  The day started of cloudy and comfortable, it turned to sunny and comfortable to warm and ended with a spitting of a few minor, isolated showers just as we were getting off the river in Boonton.  It felt good.  The weather for the day was really nice and we made it just in time.  By dinner time a few strong thunderstorms materialized over Morristown which had strong rains for a few minutes at a time.  That would have been nerve-racking to paddle through.

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DCC_5894_edited-1Back to the beginning, so we started going down the river 11:10 and the group spread out quickly.  Kathy and I were more toward the rear with a group of 10-12 for most of the first leg.  I tend to lag as I take lots of photos and unfortunately, most of my pictures of the group are from behind.  It’s usually the best side of most people anyway.  Juts kidding.  So I started snapping at 10:53 in the water, we took off downstream at 11:05 and started taking out for lunch at McCarter Park in Denville, at the Stewarts, at 12:02.  Not a long first leg, but it is a great place to stop.  Easy in-out, picnic benches, a Stewarts with a bathroom across the street.  Almost like a drive through.  Stewarts should serve people at the banks of the river in their boats like they serve people in their cars.

The first leg  was a bit tricky at times because it was so shallow.  We scraped along the bottom rocks and several occasions along the first 10 minutes, it was something to deal with but nothing where we had to get out at any point.  It eventually got deep enough after the first 10 minutes where this was no longer an issue.  The water was clear, much clearer than the Passaic and you could easily see to the bottom with the ubiqitous abandoned tire stuck to the bottom of the river.  The look of the ugly mess in the water wasn’t as unsightly and upsetting as the ubiqitous discarded plastic water bottles that form at every strainer in the Passaic.  There was little on-shore littering on the Rockaway, which was nice.

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DCC_5915_edited-1Going with the group meant most of any wildlife has fled by the time you reach where they were before the might armada upset their peaceful habitat.  Geese and ducks were about all I saw.There is nothing thrilling about geese except they do stand still long enough to give you a nice photo-op.  Kathy said we saw and I got a few shots of a cormorant, but I thought it was a goose.  Maybe if someone knows, they can confirm it in as a comment.

As far as the folliage goes it was fully green but there were few other colors to see but  the green of the trees, the hazy blue of the skies and the scummy blackish blue hue of the water.  Kathy, as usual, was the most colorful item out on the water.  Her kayak, PFD and paddles psychodelicate an otherwise overly bland natural environment.

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Take out for lunch at McCarter Park in Denville.  There is Stewarts across the street.

Take out for lunch at McCarter Park in Denville. There is Stewarts across the street.

Kathy and I went to Stewarts for a bathroom break and an order of fries and a Coke.  We hung with Joe there and eventually joined the rest of the group at the McCarter riverside park where we ate our BJ&J sandwiches.  We listened to stories of other riversides from other HRCKC members during this break.  It’s good to hear about where you can go and what is around and what others have done.  It was a long lunch, probably as long as the initial leg but very satisfying.

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We put back into the water at 1:05 and headed down the stretch of the Rockaway that Kathy and I have yet to explore.  This is going north through from Denville into Mountain Lakes and ending up in Boonton.  The cool thing is you go through all these towns without actually going into these towns.  There are some beautiful backyards that have riverside property in this area.  A few mansions but most were just very nice homes.  We went past the hospital, St. Clares I believe, and wound our way through a golf course.  I had to scream “four” at one point as a golfer hooked a ball into the middle of the river.

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Four!!!!!

Four!!!!!

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As we approached Boonton, the river widened and we found other paddlers on the river enjoying its inherent fun.  Families with kids were having water fights amongst their boats and a father with a gaggle of kids was using someone’s dock and rope swing that pendulated over the Rockaway presenting a whole lot of fun.

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A flag on an island in the middle of the river indicated the Boonton dam and the take out was near.  It just began to rain at this point.  It was just a few sparse drops but it served as a reminder of how good the weather was to us.  If we did this trip and hour and a half later we may have been packing up in a deluge, but fortunately, this was not the case.

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At about 2:40 we started to stage for final approach and landing.  It took 10 to 15 minutes to get all of us out of the water.  It is great how everyone helps to get the boats and the people out.  By about 2:50 I was out of the water taking a few photos of the dam that marked the end of the trip.  I picked up one of the shuttles back to the nearby Tourne Park paking lot and quickly drove back to and parked at Griffth Park.  We got the boats up on the roof and away we went.  The boats were not muddy at all and required little cleanup.

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When we got home we decided to keep the car packed for another trip tomorrow on Memorial Day Monday.  This time with the dogs who were home all day.  When we got home at 3:40 I immediately took the spare ribs out of the fridge, created a dry rub and got them on the grill for dinner to be eaten 4 hours later after they slowly cooked with a bottle of Keesha 2006 Pinot Noir.  A well deserved break after  a great day of paddling.  Time to day it again tomorrow but this time with the pooches.

Your humble poster, Larry.

Your humble poster, Larry. Please pardon all mistakes.

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This was our first group ride and it’s funny how it was along the Passaic in a stretch we haven’t done yet.  This one left from the Essex County Environmental Center on Eagle Rock Avenue and headed north to the Horsneck Road intersection with the river in Fairfield. The Environmental Center is a great place to disembark from with great parking and a nice launch area.  The is so little current paddling up stream from here will be no problem so using one car will be a nice option.  A nice part about today’s trip was there was no portaging.

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Interstate 280

Interstate 280

Se we met up there and Amy DeBartollo did a real nice job organizing it with the help of John Madden, Bio teacher at Morristown High, and his wife.  In addition, Douglas from the Park Commission was nice enough to lend the group 8 canoes to use.  In total there were 39 of us on the river that gets few paddlers.  It weather was picture perfect in the 80s, downright sunny and hot, but being in April, no one is going to complain about that.

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Rt. 46 Bridge

Rt. 46 leading to Bloomfield Ave. Bridge

Route 46 Bridge after the Home Depot leading into Fairfield

Route 46 Bridge after the Home Depot leading into Fairfield

Interstate Route 80

Interstate Route 80

The shuttling back and forth went well but unfortunately, there really isn’t a good parking place close to the Horseneck Road Bridge for future use.  The walk to the parked cat is substantial and you have to hoiste the kayaks up and hill and over a guard rail, then load the car in the shoulder.  Actually the shoulder is wide enough at this location.  With all this stated, this location may be a bit of an issue for future use. The next exit off the river after Horseneck Road is 6 miles down the river at Two Bridges Road.  We got shuttled back to the Environmental Center and had a nice lunch of sandwiches and cookies.  A really nice event and paddle.  Once again very peaceful.  One bad thing about the group ride expereience is that the group scares off all the wildlife, if there was any.

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Take out point at Horseneck Road

Take out point at Horseneck Road

No it’s time to go see The Dead at the Garden.  What a wonderful day!

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