Rockaway, New Jersey, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||140 fpm|
|Max Gradient||140 fpm|
|Rockaway River at Main Street at Boonton NJ|
|usgs-01380450||150 - 4000 cfs||IV-V||01h25m||299 cfs (running)|
Lately there have been some "issues" relating to access on the upper section of the river (from the falls to the gauge). Go to http//www.njwhitewater.info and click on the Boonton link for lots more information about the situation.
Here's a summary.
In the winter of 2006-07, seemingly in response to a rescue incident which occurred in July of 2006, the town council of Boonton made it clear that they didn't feel Boonton Gorge was an appropriate place for paddling and that they would be working to create legislation which would prevent paddling on the Rockaway River through Boonton Gorge. Since then, little has changed. The town has not proposed, nor accepted any ordinances which would prevent paddling, but the police have continued to ask people to leave sometimes.
If you run into police or other officials who tell you that you can't paddle and/or warn you of fines for paddling,
Please email Stephen Strange with any info you gather.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.1||Upper Bridge Rapid||IV|
|0.1||Lower Bridge Rapid||III+|
|0.3||Below the Big Pool||IV|
|0.4||Boulder Garden Finish||IV|
|0.5||RR Bridge to Weir||II+|
|0.7||Gauging Station Weir||II+|
|0.8||Below Rt. 287||IV|
It's about 25-30 feet including the bouncy lead-in ledges. It has been run, so I guess it is "runnable", but it is in the Class 5.3-5.4 range. The falls fall into a bowl about 30 feet in diameter and the entire river left side of the curtain lands on a ledge about 1-3 foot below the surface.
Considering the local attitude about paddling the class IV section below the falls, attempts at the falls would be frowned upon by the local authorities. A run which was witnessed by locals would likely result in some sort of visit to the police station.
The slot/drop known as "Graffiti Rock" is the toughest (other than the falls). Graffiti Rock itself forms a natural dam which extends out from river left about 2/3 of the way across the river. It's down stream face is sloped at about 35-40 deg. Its upstream face is vertical (not undercut). The bedrock ends in a ledge with a vertical downstream face. The two vertical faces of the ledges are about 1 foot apart (parallel to each other) (see cross-section illustration) and the "slot" between them empties into the main flow "chute" to river right. (see attached image of rapid from above). The slot between Graffiti Rock and the upstream ledge fills in completely at levels higher than about 2.9' and you'd never even know it was there. Between Graffiti Rock and the right bank there is a rock/rockpile. A small amount of water goes over there (more at higher flows) and it would not be a good place to be (slightly undercut, manky). However, it's at the end of right turn the river is making. It also has a number of rocks above the drop preventing someone from getting there. At higher flows (> 4') a paddler _might_ be able to get over there, but at higher flows the water is pushing even harder to the left leading up to the drop. All in all, it looks unpleasant, but the right side of the river at Graffiti Rock isn't really "in play".
The rapid which follows Graffiti Rock and ends at the base of the bridge is fairly straight forward. Some have questioned whether "Hotdog Rock" on river left at the end of the rapid is a sieve or under cut. It is not. It does form a pretty good hole however at medium to high levels (3.0-3.8'?). At even higher levels it washes out. At very low levels (2.3-2.6') you can get low angle cartwheels (to surfer's left) at the edge of the hole. Scouting is perfect from the bridge.
The rapid which directly follows the stone bridge and ends in the "Big Pool" consists of four ledges, each about 1-2 feet tall. The river narrows at each ledge until it is about 8 feet wide between two rocks at the last chute into the pool. At lower levels (2.6-3.5?) a paddler can eddy above the rapid to boat scout. (Above 3.5' or so this rapid and the previous one merge). At levels below 3.0' one can also eddy below the first and second ledge in the rapid. All four ledges are run easiest straight down the center. Reaction waves come off of either side as you go and have to be dealt with. At high levels this is a big wave train. Scouting is easiest from above or river level on river left.
Immediately below "The Big Pool" there is another well defined rapid which begins a stretch of continuous boulder garden rapids (Class II-III at 2.6-3.0', Class III-IV at 3.0-3.6', Class IV until you get to 4.5' then Class 5-ish) that keeps up until just above the railroad bridge.
The initial drop consists of a 10-15 yd lead-in (class II) which leads you to a 2-3' ledge. The main flow is on river right (though a left line develops at about 4'?) and consists of a vertical drop into a fairly deep and fluffy hole. The ledge is curved with the center upstream and the left and right sides downstream. Generally I have boofed off of the rock on the right side of the main chute. Running straight down the center or left side of the main chute will give you a good meltdown. This Hole is at it's worst from about 3.0-4.5'. If I remember correctly, that's when it begins to become less "steep". About 15 feet downstream of the first drop there is a very small ledge (6"?) which creates a stickier than you'd think hole at 2.6-3.5' or so. Scouting this drop is easy from river left.
The next 50 yds consist of the continuous Class II-III boulder garden rapids mentioned before. These lead to a more defined "finish" rapid.
The 50 yds? of continuous boulder garden rapids leads into a more defined drop which ends above the firing range take-out. (about 30yds above the railroad bridge).
This drop begins with a midstream boulder about 6 feet in diameter. Either side can be run. This boulder sits at the top of a 10 yd? long drop in which the river constricts to about 1/3 of its width and drops about 5 feet. The river bed here is large rounded rocks not solid ledges.
Either side of the start rock can be run. The left side sends you straight down the main chute in one shot. Coming from above, it's easier to head for the right side of the rock. Passing on this side, one can head back left to run straight through, or head towards the right bank where there is a good eddy which allows a good boat scout. From the eddy you have to ferry out into the main current and head towards river left into the main flow.
10-15 feet below the finish of this drop is another midstream boulder about 10-12 feet in diameter. Left side is easiest (it's where the river pushes you) but either side is clear. I've never encountered wood here, but I would imagine it's a possibility.
After this drop class II boulder garden rapids continue to the railroad bridge.
From the railroad bridge to the gauging station weir the river widens and consists of class II rock garden rapids.
There is an eddy with a gravel beach above the gauging station weir on river right and this is the side to take out on to carry or scout. At lower levels (<3.0') there is a small last ditch eddy behind a midstream rock about 10 feet above the weir. There is also a small eddy on river left, but at higher levels the ferry back across to river right could be an issue. Of course at high levels, you can actually run down the extreme left to avoid the hole.
The gauging station weir is a low head dam situation, but not a terribly bad one. At low levels it is at it's most vertical, but is less powerful due to the lower volume. From about 2.7-3.5' it is probably most hazardous. I have run it at these levels, but running it without enough speed, or with the wrong boat alignment would probably put you into the hole. The main outwash is in the center of the dam due to rocks below it on either side. That is also the spot where the boil line is furthest from the face. As the water level rises, the weir eventually becomes a breaking wave at around 5'/2200cfs'?
The section from Rt. 287 to the Reservoir is fairly continuous and consists mostly of rapids formed by the large rocks dumped into the riverbed during the building of Rt. 287.
The gauge really needs to be above 3' to run this section cleanly. Above 4' is a better level.
When it's high (> 4.5') it's a fun flush with continuous class IV+ water and lots of waves/holes. Just don't flip.
When you're done, DON'T paddle onto the Reservoir or climb up the bank to the neighborhood above. Hike back up the path on river left, ferry across and hike back to you r car under 287 on river right. Popping up into that neighborhood with your boat will only cause more problems for you and the rest of us. Paddling onto the Res will likely get you a ticket (if you're lucky).