Brokeback Gorge is a very committing stretch of Roaring Brook that emerges from a crack in the earth on the West Road south of Lowville, NY. The first mile is one of the most committing and rewarding sections of whitewater in the state, the last mile and three quarters is a cobbly, strainer filled mess. With a big slide, vertical drops, and an unscoutable, unportageable 45 foot waterfall, all set in a beautiful and narrow gorge, the first mile is definitely worth it.
The takeout is on river right of the bridge on the West Road. The land is private, but the owners have been friendly to respectful paddlers. To reach the put-in, drive south on the West Road and take the next right on the Keener Hill Road. Follow this to the T-junction with the Centerville Road, and follow the Centerville Road straight. After crossing a small bridge (Don’t bother with this tributary, it ends in an 80+ foot death drop.), park on the outside of a sharp left turn. A drainage ditch paralleling the powerlines leads to the put-in. If access here is ever contested, it should be legal to put in from the bridge about half a mile further down the road.
Gauge Rock: In the eddy at the put in, on the upstream end, there is a rock with two cracks in it. (Click to the photos tab to see the rock) If the water is just barely covering this rock, the river is at minimum. The high end of runnability is only a few inches higher, and is yet to be determined. At minimum, everything but the major rapids are very scrapy and abusive to gear. At high flows, wall to wall holes form, with no safety opportunities for safety. Use your discretion, but know that at high flows large holes form, and climbing out of the gorge may be impossible. If Brokeback is too high, the lower reaches of Roaring Brook below Whitaker Park will likely be ideal.
Wood: If possible scout or fly a drone over the gorge to check for wood. A single tree can easily choke the entire gorge at any point. Portaging is impossible inside the gorge.
From the put-in, the river meanders through Class II-III rock gardens and slides for about half a mile. A sharp S-turn leads to the lip of the ~25 ft first drop, which should be scouted on the left. If this drop looks like more than you bargained for, hike out now. The vertical right side lands on rocks, so drive left down the banking slide. A U-shaped ledge follows.
One or two ledges lead to the next horizon, a double drop which narrows in an hourglass shape between the two ledges. The first ledge is ~15 feet with a broken lip and relatively shallow landing. The second is roughly 5 feet.
Several small ledges and slides lead around corners and along vertical walls.
A low angle, zig-zagging slide marks the last possible egress point from the gorge before 45 ft One Whistle Falls. In extreme cases, this rapid could be walked back up (proved the water is low enough), and a very difficult climb out of the gorge on river left can be done. There is a small pool below the slide, at the bottom is the horizon of a ~16 foot double drop.
At low water, run the slot on either side of the large flake rock in the center, and straighten out for the rolling lip into the hole. Boiling eddies on the left and right have room for one to two paddlers at most. At high water, it’s possible to paddle straight over the flake rock.
A narrow chute follows, with an eddy on the left big enough for 2 paddlers. This is the last stop before One Whistle Falls.
A 2 foot ledge is followed by a left turn in the river, and the lip of 45 ft One Whistle Falls. This Falls is unscoutable, and unportageable. The lip is less than 5 feet wide, best run down the center right with a tiny bit of left angle and left momentum. About 15 feet down, a kicker flake transitions the drop from a nearly vertical slide to freefall, and has the tendency to barrel roll people to the right. Immediately after landing, a final 12 foot falls can be run anywhere, bearing towards the left.
The rest of the river is bumpy II-III with strainers. When a tributary on the right comes in, you can hike up to see the 80 foot death drop.
Don't bother with the section below. Squires ran part of it but portaged the main gorge. His account can be found in New York Exposed Volume 1, where this reach is listed under Roaring Branch.
First run by Eric Adsit and Taylor Krammen on October 23, 2010. Eric's description:
Saturday, 10/23/10 Taylor Krammen and Eric Adsit made what may be the first descent on an upper reach of Roaring Brook, near Lowville, NY. We put on below a bridge on Centerville Road.
The first 10 minutes was a very low-volume boulder bash through class 2 boulder garden. The river flows around a few bends and then drops over a large slide in the 20 foot range. We scouted this and the next 3 drops from river left. The slide, known as Engraved Invitation, is best run down river left. Shortly after this is a 4-5 foot ledge that would develop a sticky hole in the center.
Immediately after this is Make Your Vows, a V-shaped drop that has a very small shallow landing. We chose to portage this on river left and seal-launched into the boil before dropping over Unavowed, a U-shaped drop that was bigger than we expected.
After that the gradient mellowed for a while until we came around another bend and found a slide with a small pool that fed into a low angle rapid with lots of reactionary waves coming off the left wall as it swept around a right hand bend. At our low flows, we were able to walk down around the bend and discover a pool before the next rapid, Cold Feet.
Cold Feet is so named, because if you get "cold feet" and decide you don't want to commit to running a 30 foot waterfall, this is your last chance to get out. After paddling down to the pool above Cold Feet, we worked our way upstream on river left and climbed out of the canyon to scout the next series of drops.
The scout here can be confusing. Once you climb to the rim of the gorge, walk downstream until you reach a thick stand of short pine trees. To your right, you can see that the wall slopes down and flattens out before dropping out of sight. I recommend using a rope to climb down to the flat area to scout Cold Feet and Balls Deep, the ledge after it.
Cold Feet is about 12 feet and most fluid on river right, but runnable anywhere. After you climb back to the thick stand of pines, continue downstream for about 5 minutes. I believe we crossed 2 tiny tributaries before we could actually see the big waterfall. Watch out for barbed wire, too. When you see a thin plume of water pouring between the cliff faces and pine trees, you'll get your first glimpse at One Whistle Falls.
Between Cold Feet and One Whistle Falls, the gorge walls are vertical with no hand holds. There is absolutely no way that I can see for you to escape without extensive climbing gear. Cold Feet is most fluid on the right, but runnable anywhere. Balls Deep is also runnable anywhere. One 2-3 foot ledge remains between Balls Deep and One Whistle Falls. At our flows we were able to get out below Balls Deep and traverse along the river right wall to scout the entrance slide to One Whistle. This would be impossible with more water.
Although it appears that you could hit the left wall while running this drop, neither I nor Taylor had any issue with it. I landed in a very flat boof that tweaked my back a little, and Taylor landed at a 45 degree angle, disappeared underwater, and surfaced without touching rock.
Immediately below One Whistle Falls is a 6-foot double ledge runnable anywhere. From here, the river is class 2 or 3 with boulder gardens and cobble bottom. Keep an eye out for strainers here, as well as in the upper canyon. When we ran this, the lower portion of the river was a scrapy mess. We took out at the first bridge we came to, on West Road.
I cannot emphasize enough the impact of high water, wood, or the committing nature of this gorge. At flows where the lead in to the gorge would be enjoyable many of the opportunities to scout would disappear, and some monstrous holes would probably form. Wood anywhere between Cold Feet and One Whistle would be nearly impossible to deal with. Finally, although the drops and rapids described in this report are relatively easy, the consequence of a swim or injury boost this run to at least a class V rating. Feel free to email me at eric(dot)adsit(at)uvm.edu.
Anyone have any info? Whether it's a first D or not, I'm thrilled to have experienced this remote and committing canyon...following the whole process from when I initially saw the gradient on some topos, to hiking it this summer, and to today, finally running it putting all the pieces together. Huge thanks to Taylor Krammen for trusting my judgment and keeping me alive out there!
Watertown Area Reaches:
Black River (Rt. 3 Wave) Black River (Watertown to Brownville)
Black Creek Deer River (Section 1)
Deer River (Section 2) Roaring Brook (Brokeback Gorge)
Salmon River (Section 1) Salmon River (Section 2)
Sandy Creek South Sandy Creek (Section 1)
South Sandy Creek (Section 2) Mad River
Mill Creek Negro Brook
Tug Hill - Old Forge Area Reaches
Beaver (1. Moshier) Beaver (2. Eagle) Beaver (3. Taylorville)
Black (1.) Black (2.) Black (3.)
Black (4.) Black (5.) Black, S. Branch
Cincinnati Creek Crystal Creek Deer River (Section 1)
Deer River (Section 2) Fish Creek, E. Branch Independence River (1. Upper)
Independence River (2. Main) Indian (S.Br. Moose trib.) Little Black Creek
Little Woodhull Creek Mad River Mill Creek
Mohawk (1.) Moose (1. Middle) Moose (2. Lower)
Moose (3. Bottom) Moose, Middle Branch Moose, S. Branch (1.)
Moose, S. Branch (2.) Negro Brook Otter Creek
Roaring Brook (Brokeback Gorge) West Canada Creek (1.) West Canada Creek (2. Ohio Gorge)
West Canada Creek, S. Branch Woodhull Creek (Upper) Woodhull Creek (Middle)
Woodhull Creek (Miracle Mile)
Google Map of New York Whitewater
New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group
We are using the Sandy in Adams as a correlation gauge based on the level on dates of past runs. Use the Flow tab to see more detail.
Another gauge to check is the North Branch of the Salmon should be around 1000cfs.
There is no substitute to the visual guage. Do not put on without checking the the eddy at the put in. on the upstream end, there is a rock with two cracks in it. If the water is just barely covering this rock, the river is at minimum. The high end of runnability is only a few inches higher, and is yet to be determined. At minimum, everything but the major rapids are very scrapy and abusive to gear. At high flows, wall to wall holes form, with no safety opportunities for safety. Use your discretion, and remember that if the Brokeback is too high, the lower reaches of Roaring Brook below Whitaker Park will likely be ideal.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Rock Visual Gauge
Aerial view of Cold Feet, Balls Deep, and One Whistle Falls
Stoked after a successful descent!
Eric Adsit's paddle, just visible in One Whistle Falls
The view of One Whistle Falls from the scout
The slide immediately above the last chance pool above Cold Feet
The ledge below Engraved Invitation
Catching the eddy after the first successful descent of Engraved Invitation
Taylor Krammen, halfway down Engraved Invitation
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