American Whitewater's decade-long efforts to secure legal access to New York's incomparable Class IV/V Ausable Chasm reached a major milestone on June 19, 2010 when New York State Electric and Gas opened the gates at their new river access area at the put in. Unfortunately, employees of the Ausable Chasm Company, a downstream landowner, sought to intimidate paddlers by calling the State Police, filing three trespassing complaints, and through shouting at paddlers. Their goal was clearly to discourage responsible and legal enjoyment of the Ausable River by members of the public. American Whitewater attempted to work with the ACC for a decade but their opposition to public enjoyment of the Ausable River has been aggressive and unwavering.
At this time no trespassing charges have been filed by the State of New York - a state that broadly supports the public's right to enjoy rivers. We should note that two of the complaints remain unresolved. The ACC is a company that is hostile to public access, and may call the police and threaten paddlers in the future to discourage use. With this said, it is commonly understood that paddlers have the clear right to paddle, scout, set safety, and portage on the Ausable River's bed and banks. The bed of the river is defined by the state as the lands below mean high water, which is 11,002cfs on the Ausable. The bank extends some distance beyond that point. Both the put in and take out are legal public river access areas.
Paddlers need to make their own decisions regarding paddling any river, and the Ausable is no exception. We encourage paddlers to learn more about river access laws in New York by reading this pamphlet and the AW New York Navigability Toolkit Page.The State's definition of a river's bed and banks can be found here, and the state has found the Ausable River navigable. If you have further questions please call state or local law enforcement and enquire about your rights.
For paddlers planning on paddling the Ausable we have a few tips for you:
1. Use only the designated put in at the NYSEG powerhouse, and the designated Takeout at the Route 9 bridge. Do not enter or leave the river corridor between these points. Park in designated spaces.
2. The ACC has strung a rope across the river to signal their take-out. This is NOT the public take out, so please paddle over the rope with caution and continue downstream to the Route 9 bridge.
3. Conduct all scouting, portaging, and safety as close to the river as you deem possible and safe. Limit on-shore activities to scouting, portaging, and setting safety. Obviously do not use ACC walkways or trails. No Trespassing signs installed by the ACC may or may not have any geographical accuracy.
4. If you are threatened, harassed, or your access is limited by ACC staff in any manner that you feel infringes on your rights or your safety, safely and normally continue downstream and promptly call the state police from the takeout and file a complaint against the ACC.
5. Be on the lookout for potentially hazardous metal debris in the river, especially near Mike's Hole. If possible, please photograph this debris from your boat, and send the photos to AW.
6. Be safe and have a blast out there if you decide to go!
American Whitewater has been working hard over the past month to bring clarity and resolution to this matter, and we will continue to do so. We regret that the ACC has taken such an aggressive stance against the public enjoying the river.