New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), under an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), plans to open New York's Ausable Chasm to paddlers on Friday, June 18th, 2010. The river will then be open to public enjoyment every day until October 31 when NYSEG will again block public access for the next seven months. Each year thereafter, the river will be open to public enjoyment from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend until October 31, and NYSEG will block access the rest of each year. June 18th will mark the first public access to the river in several decades.
American Whitewater opposed the unrelenting efforts of NYSEG to continue locking the public out of New York's Ausable River Chasm for the past decade. We filed countless technical comments and appeals, assisted with two flow studies, attended multiple meetings, and encouraged paddlers to express their interests in paddling the river to the FERC. The process was fraught with missed deadlines, delays in analyses, flawed studies, and all the while the river remained off limits. In the end, FERC split the baby and rather than providing for reasonable year round public access to the river, they allowed a private corporation to block public access to the river for over half the year. While the outcome was unreasonable, the fact remains that June 18th, 2010 will be a day to celebrate the return of a spectacular river to the paddling community.
The Ausable Chasm is a committing Class IV/IV+ river in a vertical walled canyon. Paddling high quality rapids through an east coast slot canyon provides an extraordinary and unique experience for advanced whitewater paddlers. Suitable natural flows are common throughout the year, including summer and fall, which is a regional rarity. The river can be run quite low. The Ausable Chasm Company provides hiking, viewing, and scouting opportunities on numerous decks and walkways in the gorge (for a fee). Please be aware that this river reach has seldom been paddled so all paddlers are advised to be very careful. Wood and metal debris are potentially present in the Chasm, and metal debris has specifically been noted above and immediately below Mike's Hole. Once on the river, scout and portage only below the high water mark to avoid trespassing on Ausable Chasm Company lands. Do not park in the bar's parking lot at the put in - stick to the provided spaces or park legally elsewhere. There is a public lot near the bridge that you can park in after dropping off your gear. Please recognize that we are new visitors to the area, so respectful behavior is critical.
American Whitewater would like to thank our volunteer Jared Hogle for all his assistance on this project. In addition, it is likely that more paddlers sent FERC comments on this issue than on any other FERC project in the Country. Congratulations to all of you, and we wish you many great runs on the Ausable!
6/17/2010 Update. NYSEG is ready to open access to the river at 9 am the morning of 6.18.2010 as planned.