Lehigh - 1. White Haven to Rockport


Lehigh, Pennsylvania, US

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1. White Haven to Rockport (Upper)

Usual Difficulty II+(III) (for normal flows)
Length 9 Miles
Avg. Gradient 30 fpm
Max Gradient 30 fpm

No Way 2


No Way 2

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Lehigh R bl Francis E Walter Res nr White Haven PA
usgs-01447800 450 - 10000 cfs II+(III) 00h50m 195 cfs (too low)


River Description

Location

The Lehigh is located in northeast PA, about 2 hours from NYC and 1 1/2 from Philadelphia. White Haven (the put-in to the upper section) is about 45 miles west of the NJ border on Route 80.

Where to Stay

There is a large state park campground (Hickory Run) near the upper section, and a smaller private campground (Lehigh Gorge Campground) on Route 940 about a mile from the put-in of the upper section. You can also stay at the rafting outfitter campgrounds, although they tend to be noisy at night. The Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau also has some lodging ideas.

Water Levels

  •  
  • 400 cfs on the White Haven gauge is the minimum flow to get down the river without dragging your boat in some sections. Even at this level the lower can be a long, scratchy day.
  • 1000 cfs is more of a fun run, with most of the nastier rocks covered Wilhoyt's, Battleship Rock).
  • 4000 has a lot of nice surfing waves and some sticky holes (Chiller and Thriller in Little Swimmers, Amy's Hole below Eye of the Needle).
  • 10,000 has great wave trains, and any hole will let you out eventually (well maybe not Perculator at Z).
  • Don't think the Army Corps will ever let it get above 13,000 though - can't have everything.

The Francis Walters dam access road was modified to allow the dam to store water for recreational purposes, not just for flood control. The Army Corps of Engineers now fills the dam in the spring to allow whitewater releases approximately every other weekend during the summer, and to ensure a minimum flow for trout fishing. Future changes may include a multi-level discharge to allow colder water to be released during the summer to protect the trout fishery.

Related web sites: ab257's Lehigh Page  Lehigh River Water Trail 
The weekend releases are posted Fridays at: Army Corps and reservoir levels can be found at: Francis Walter Dam

River Description

The Lehigh River has 2 whitewater sections classed as an easy III (easier than the Lower Yough, but much harder than the Delaware), with guided raft trips, raft rentals, or great trips for private boaters. The river can get crowded during weekends (particularly release weekends) with raft trips and clubs.

Section I (the Upper) is a 9 mile run from White Haven (at Rt 80) to Rockport.

Section II (the Lower) is a 12 mile section from Rockport to Jim Thorpe (or you can use the Glen Onoko take out which cuts out 2 miles of mostly flatwater and Class II down to Thorpe).

Section III is a summer Class II 'family float' trip running from Jim Thorpe to Bowmanstown. Not as pristine and senic as the first two sections, but nice on those hot summer days.

The Upper has more play spots (including enders at Wilhoyts and Beaver Hole, squirts at Lunch Rock and Eddy Turn Rock, and great surfing waves at Ledges) than the Lower, but is not as pretty as the gorge area of the Lower. The biggest rapids in the Lower (Little Swimmers, Oxbow, Tower) are longer and bouncier than anything on the Upper. But then the Lower has more flatwater stretches, and can have a pretty stiff headwind near Bear Creek.

A bike trail follows the river along an old railroad bed from Glen Onoko to White Haven as part of the state park, with bike rentals available locally. The river is administered by the PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources. There is a steep trail starting at the parking area at Glen Onoko that goes up to the top of a multi level water fall. The park administers access to the river as well as the bike trail. The eastern shore of the upper section borders Hickory Run state park, with some hiking trails down to the river. The whole White Haven to Thorpe area has a long history of coal mining and tourism. Water levels are dependent on the releases from the Francis Walters dam, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers; planned weekend releases are usually announced by Friday. There is usually enough water for regular releases in the spring, thru the end of May. The Army Corps also tries to release the second and fourth weekend in June, the third weekend in September and the first and third weekends in October by cutting back the flow during the week and increasing it for the release. These releases are sometimes cancelled due to prolonged dry spells.

The upper section of the Lehigh is stocked with trout down to about Hickory Run at Eddy Turn Rock. From the Francis Walter Dam down to White Haven is also a popular fishing stretch. A non-profit association stocks the river from Jim Thorpe down to Allentown. Mud Run near the Northeast Turnpike Extension overpass is fly fishing only. This area is one of the best for fishing in Carbon County. No boating is allowed on the Lehigh's upper section from White Haven to Rockport during the first weekend of Pennsylvania's trout season (early April).

Safety

Even the most playful rivers can be unforgiving, so be prepared (the AWA incident report was for an unguided family group not familiar with the river using plastic department store 'toy' rafts) . The park rangers will inspect your boat to be sure that you have adequate flotation (i.e., air bags in canoes- too many wrapped Grummans in the past, or that your rafts are adequate with multiple chambers), protective flotation devices (i.e. life jackets - to be worn at all times while on the river), and won't let you on the river without them. Helmets for kayakers and strapped-in open boaters are also advised, as are throw bags, biners, and 1st aid kits, duct tape (you get the idea). Boat access (put-in and take-out) within the park boundaries is allowed only at White Haven, Rockport, and Glen Onoko. The rangers patrol the bike path (weekends, during the spring season) on river right in case you get in trouble or have to hike out. Backboards are located at intervals down the river along that roadway. Don't boat alone unless you and your next of kin are prepared to accept the vagaries of Mother Nature and your own misdeeds. Rescue people first, equipment second. Float with your feet on the surface. Watch out for rattlesnakes. Don't walk on the railroad tracks. (I sound like somebody's mother.) State park rules apply: no alcoholic beverages on the river, life jackets on at all times on the river, no swimming, no fires, no parking at the bottom, etc., etc., etc. Have fun out there...


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-08-12 10:21:54

Editors


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0White Haven Put InPutin Photo
0.3InitiationIIIPhoto
0.8TanneryIIPhoto
1.2Triple DropIIIPlayspot Photo
2.0ZII+Photo
2.5Lunch RockIIPlayspot Photo
3.0No WayIIIPhoto
3.5Eddy Turn RockIIPlayspot
4.5StaircaseIIIPhoto
5.5LedgesIIPlayspot Photo
7.0Mud RunIIIPlayspot Photo
7.5Second ChanceIIIPhoto
8.0Larry, Curly, MoII
8.5WilhoytsIIIPlayspot Photo
9.0Rockport TakeoutIITakeout Photo

Rapid Descriptions

White Haven Put In

White Haven Put In Map

White Haven Put In Map

Access is by a dirt road starting at the far end of the White Haven shopping center parking lot. This road is closed to cars beyond the put-in, but is available to bikers all the way down to Jim Thorpe. It is also patrolled by the park rangers, watching out for boaters in trouble.

Initiation (Class III, Mile 0.3)

Initiation Map

Initiation Map

This is actually several small rapids at the start of the run. The first is at the railroad bridge crossing, with a shallow squirt eddy on river right at the bridge pier. Just below this is a small surfing wave with an eddy on river left. After this is a short stretch of whitewater. Follow the current down the center to the pool below. The next stretch should be entered to the left of center. Follow the current as it meanders to the right, back to the left, and then down the center to the end of the rapid. Watch out for numerous rocks, and for rafting companies' photographers on river left. Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3
Satellite Photo 1
Satellite Photo 2



Tannery (Class II, Mile 0.8)

Tannery Map

Tannery Map

Once the site of the second largest tannery in the US, this rapid is marked by a new bridge across the Lehigh. The upper portion of this rapid (above the bridge) has a ledge on river left, with a kayak slot on the right side of the ledge at higher water. The normal route follows the main current to the right of the ledge. The lower part of the rapid (below the bridge) has a couple of standing waves in the middle of the river with a large eddy to the right. Watch out for fishermen in this area. Photo 1 Photo 2
Satellite Photo 1
Satellite Photo 2



Triple Drop (Class III, Mile 1.2)

Triple Drop Map

Triple Drop Map

A large island divides the river with some Class II riffles to the right of the island. Some small rocks and bushes mark the passage entering the left of the island. Chose any slot that has enough water to float you. Enter the channel below in the center, and work your way right to avoid a ledge on river left. About half way down the island you will see a horizon line marking a drop of about 1 foot. Punch the reversal on the far right. If you get stuck you could be in for a long time, until you paddle over to the left shore and drag your raft out. At higher water levels (3,000 cfs or greater) the hole becomes a very sticky surf. Several people have dislocated their shoulders here. There is a tiny surfing hole below this drop. After it, work your way over to the right to rejoin the current as it comes from the right side of the island. A fair stretch of flatwater brings you past Hayes creek witn 3 pillars remaining from an old bridge. Photo 1 Photo 2
Satellite Photo 1



Z (Class II+, Mile 2.0)

Z Map

Z Map

An island divides the river, with Class II riffles to the right. Take the chute to the left side of the island. Come as close as possible to the left bank (ducking underneath the tree) at the chute entrance to avoid rocks lower down in the right side of the chute. At the bottom of the chute against the shore is a pinball rock (smearable). Work to the right as you go down the chute to avoid it, or eddy left just before the rock. Watch out for fishermen in the eddy. Paddle to the top of the eddy and ferry across the chute to exit the eddy and avoid the rock. Stay to the center as you go down the left side of the island. The large square rock on river left becomes Perculator (a raft flipping hole) over about 10,000 cfs. Work your way to the right as you go past the end of the island. Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3
Satellite Photo 1



Lunch Rock (Class II, Mile 2.5)

Lunch Rock Map

Lunch Rock Map

It gets shallow approaching Lunch Rock. Stay to the center right, and then work your way to the center as you get closer to the rock. There is a small surfing wave in the center before your reach lunch rock. There is a strong eddy line as you go past lunch rock, with a large eddy on your right. Great place for squirts, and to practice your ferrying. Watch out for rafters swimming from the front end of Lunch Rock. Below this is a large pool with Tom Turk rock on the left. A rock dive cliff is opposite this on river right. Go off the cliff right where the little bush is. Lunch rock can be reached from Hickory Run State Park by following the Hickory Run trail to the Lehigh at Eddy Turn Rock, and then going upstream. PHOTO 1
Satellite Photo 1
Satellite Photo 2



No Way (Class III, Mile 3.0)

No Way Map

No Way Map

Stay to the right of the island entering this rapid. The river bends to the left, with a large flipper rock in center right. Avoid it to the left. Follow the current over to the center right, and then as it goes sharply to the left (some shallow slots for kayaks exist on the right side). Follow the chute down the left side to where it is blocked by a series of rocks across the river. Below 750 cfs, only one slot is wide enough to let a raft through - the center right one. Miss it and you could wrap your raft. Below this is a maze of rocks to negotiate, but without much current pushing you around. Some large rocks on the right side of this chute above the slot makes a great lunch spot with plenty of amusement. Photo 1 Photo 2
Satellite Photo 1
Satellite Photo 2



Eddy Turn Rock (Class II, Mile 3.5)

A large rock sticking out from the right hand shore marks this rapid. There are eddys in front of and behind the rock. Great for smears above the rock and squirts below.
Satellite Photo 1



Staircase (Class III, Mile 4.5)

Staircase Map

Staircase Map

Below Eddy Turn rock, and after a small riffle is Class III Staircase. It is a gradual drop over a jumbled series of rocks. At low water start far left follow the current over the rocks to wind up on the right at the bottom. Watch out for a metal beam along the shore in the small eddy at the bottom of the drop. At 750 cfs or above start right, and stay on the right side down the drop. Below this is a set of 3 large rocks across the river, called Broken Canoe. Photo 1 Photo 2
Satellite Photo 1



Ledges (Class II, Mile 5.5)

Ledges Map

Ledges Map

River wide but tiny ledges mark the entrance to this Class II rapid. You can front surf a kayak from one shore to the other. Some points on the ledges are just deep enough to side-surf. Just below the river wide ledges is a hole in center right that is a good side-surf above 1000 cfs. After a slight left bend in the river is a large set of rocks on the right with a eddy behind it. The best surfing wave on the upper is right next to the eddy. Can be easily front or back surfed, or surfed with a raft. Remember though, no one likes a hole-hog. Have some consideraton for those waiting in the eddy (especially C-1ers). A sandy beach is opposite the eddy on the left shore. Photo 1
Satellite Photo 1



Mud Run (Class III, Mile 7.0)

Mud Run Map

Mud Run Map

The entrance to this rapid has two large rocks on center left, with a slot between them which can be run by a raft above 750 cfs. Mud Run creek enters from the left - a popular run for local expert steep-creekers. Only runnable after a heavy rain. Follow the main current down center left, through a set of small waves and holes. The last hole is 'Beaver Hole', good for pop-ups if you don't have a glass boat with a fragile nose. There are a series of rocks just to the left of the current through here providing good eddys for kayaks. Photo 1 Photo 2
Satellite Photo 1
Satellite Photo 2



Second Chance (Class III, Mile 7.5)

Second Chance Map

Second Chance Map

Called second chance, because if Beaver Hole didn't get you wet, this one will. Stay to the left of center as the river makes a left bend, and this will put you in the center to hit the big wave/hole. To the right of the hole is a rock ledge with a large eddy behind it. But to surf the wave/hole, eddy out against the left shore opposite the hole. Photo 1
Satellite Photo 1



Larry, Curly, Mo (Class II, Mile 8.0)

A series of three Class II riffles, the first of which has an island (take either side), the second has a little hole (the curl), and the third has a large rock at the bottom. The names come from three early guides - Larry Skinner, Dan Chabot (with curly hair), and Mo Iezzoni.
Satellite Photo Larry
Satellite Photo Curly
Satellite Photo Mo



Wilhoyts (Class III, Mile 8.5)

Wilhoyts Map

Wilhoyts Map

A large flipper/wrapping rock is in the middle of a narrow section of the river. Work your way to the left in the shallows above the narrow section, and stay about 25' from the left shore as you approach the rock. Pass to the left of the rock and to the right of a small ledge sticking out from the left shore for the best ride. Eddy your kayak behind the ledge for a nice view of the action, or eddy out along the right shore to line up for pop-ups in the right eddy line behind the rock. There is squirrely water behind the rock, so be sure you have a good roll if you go in for pop-ups. Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3
Satellite Photo 1



Rockport Takeout (Class II, Mile 9.0)

Rockport Map

Rockport Map

Below Wilhoyts is a long stretch of fast water leading up to take-out eddy, where raft trips stage for controlling access to the small take-out area. The last piece of whitewater is a hole along the right bank. Innocuous at 500 cfs, at 1000 or higher it becomes very sticky, and is a great place for guides to direct rafts that have been a pain in the butt all day. Named for an early guide, Scott Newlin, who had a memorable ride there at high water. There was another Whitewater Challengers guide named Scott - Scott Strasbaugh (who won the Olympic gold medal in C-2 slalom with Joe Jacobi at Barcelona), but it wasn't named for him (I had to drop Scott's name somewhere in here). The fast water alongside takeout eddy becomes an impressive wave train at high (>10,000 cfs) water. A great place for rocket moves. Just before takeout, at a large rock on the right shore used for high water takeout, is a great surfing wave. At higher levels you can get good squirts on the eddyline behind the rock.


User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 2 2016 (53 days ago)
garygentile (156090)
A detailed description of the entire Lehigh River can be found in the "Lehigh River Paddling
Guide," which can be purchased online at http://www.ggentile.com/nonfiction_books.html. Scroll down
to the appropriate title.


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  • Lehigh River (PA)
    AW has worked with local paddling clubs to improve the recreational value of dam releases on the Lehigh

Events

Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

September 2013

S M T W T F S
1
Lehigh River Release
11:08 am -11:08 am est
Additional Releases based on high inflows. 650cfs plus inflow up to 850

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Events
Lehigh River Release White Haven,PA runs 05/10/08 - 09/01/13
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