Genesee - Letchworth Gorge


Genesee, New York, US

Disclaimer

Letchworth Gorge (Lee's Landing to St. Helena)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 4.5 Miles

Letchworth Gorge


Letchworth Gorge
Photo by Harry A. , Marinakis, M.D.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
GENESEE RIVER AT PORTAGEVILLE NY
usgs-04223000 9.00 - 14.00 ft II-III 01h54m 9.11 ft (running)


River Description

Letchworth State Park boasts a spectacular, meandering 550-foot deep river gorge lined with slate cliffs. It is called the "Grand Canyon of the East."

Within the gorge, the Genesee River is class II run at low levels (9.0 feet) but becomes a respectable class III river with great surfing opportunities at higher water (stage 10.5 feet). The Genesee River is consistently at its highest during March and April. The river periodically floods between October and June. The highest recorded flood peak was 90,000 cfs on June 23, 1979. The river is closed to kayakers at stage 14.0 feet and higher. Every October, the draining of Rushford Lake augments river flow through Letchworth Gorge by about 1.0 foot.

Logistics (adapted from Hoppy's post on the FLOW Massage Board):
Sign the release and get a Waiver # at the Admin center near the South end of park.
Get a map at the gate when you pay your $6 park Entry Fee so you can find everything.
Put in is at Lee's Landing, a 1/2-mile carry downhill from the parking lot east of the swimming pool/Letchworth Outfitters (Raft Co.) Look for a gate across the grassy area north of parking lot near the CCC statue. Follow the dirt road to the bottom of the hill. Right to Lee's Landing, Left at the bottom, then Right in 300 yards to Red Ball.
If you run the Loop, no shuttle is necessary. The carry back uphill is about 1/2 mile from either Red Ball (airplane/helicopter warnings on power lines) or Lunch Rocks (the next rapid below Red Ball).
If you pass Lunch Rocks you are committed to about 5 miles of Canyon to St. Helena's. This is the last takeout before the dam. Go with somebody that knows how to find it. In early Spring, there may be a lake backed up above there from the dam--not likely to be a worthwhile trip. Stick to the Loop in those conditions.
REPORT THAT YOU ARE OFF THE RIVER IN PERSON OR BY PHONE USING YOUR WAIVER # TO ADMIN CENTER. INSTRUCTIONS ARE ON YOUR WAIVER. DON'T FORGET UNLESS YOU WANT THE PARK POLICE SEARCHING FOR YOU.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-09-30 15:11:54

Editors


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-0.5THE INNER GORGEIII
-0.3THE SLUICEIIIPlayspot
0.0THE PUTINPutin
0.1ENTRANCE RAPIDIII
0.2RED BALLII+Playspot
0.5LUNCH ROCKII+Playspot
0.6LETCHWORTH GORGEII+
4.5TAKEOUTTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

THE INNER GORGE (Class III, Mile -0.5)
Immediately below Lower Falls is The Inner Gorge, a 200-yard long segment of the river confined between the vertical walls of a deep gorge. Paddlers are allowed to run the river from the base of the Lower Falls, but they are not permitted to putin anywhere except at Lee's Landing. Thus, you must paddle and portage upstream from Lee's Landing through The Inner Gorge to get to the base of Lower Falls. Vertical gear & ropes are needed. At stage 10.0 feet and higher, it is impossible to access The Inner Gorge.

THE SLUICE (Class III, Mile -0.3)
Approximately 1/4-mile upstream from Lee's Landing is The Sluice, a narrowing against the river right wall where the river funnels through a sluice. This play spot is best at stage 9.0 feet and higher. The Sluice is best for super-sonic surfing, micro-eddy hopping, and nuclear-powered stern squirts.

THE PUTIN
There is only one legal putin, at Lee's Landing. From the calm pool at Lee's Landing, one can either paddle upstream or downstream. Upstream you will find The Inner Gorge (including Lower Falls) and The Sluice. Downstream is The Loop and the standard run all the way to Saint Helena.

ENTRANCE RAPID (Class III, Mile 0.1)
Immediately downstream of the pool at Lee's Landing, the river plunges down a relatively narrow 200-foot long cascade with a complex and surging wave train. This stretch is perhaps the wildest rapid on the Genesee River below Lee's Landing. At high water (Stage 13 feet), these waves can be over 15 feet high. If this rapid doesn't excite you, then you should probably hike back up the hill and head home.

RED BALL (Class II+, Mile 0.2)
This rapid derives its name from a red ball that is suspended on a wire over the end of the rapid. Immediately after Entrance Rapid the river begins to turn left. This is Red Ball, a 150-yard stretch of whitewater with about two dozen great surfing waves and holes. These waves are great surfing at 10.5 feet. At 11.5 feet this becomes a heavy class III run, with large waves and a stopper hole. At 13 feet this stopper hole is monstrous.

LUNCH ROCK (Class II+, Mile 0.5)
Although Lunch Rock is no longer there, this rapid still retains the name. Past Red Ball there is a long stretch of flat water before entering Lunch Rock Rapid. A major wave/hole is located here. Below 9.0 feet the hole is too shallow. At 9.5 feet it's a fun little surfing wave with a deep pocket but is little else. At 10.5 feet, it is a small but powerful hole that offers a real bite. At 11.5 feet, the right channel opens up, offering some nice surfing, and the hole in the left channel becomes a stupendous surf wave.

LETCHWORTH GORGE (Class II+, Mile 0.6)
Further downstream it is the scenery, not the whitewater, that is interesting. The photo at the top of this page shows this section of the river.

TAKEOUT
The takeout is located at Saint Helena. The dirt road here is not obvious, so keep your eyes open. It is a long hike up the hill to the parking lot. Occasionally the rafting company will give you a ride on their shuttles from the water's edge to the parking lot. Be sure to thank them profusely.


No Comments

Users can submit comments.


Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.


Or, consider donating