This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV-V
Length 0.7 Miles
Gauge Rockaway River at Main Street at Boonton NJ
Flow Range 150 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 49 minutes ago 71.7 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/22/2013 12:33 pm

River Description


  • With all of the black basalt and birch trees, the upper section is pretty in the fall. You can park at the police firing range (just an empty lot with a hill at one end), carry about 120 yds up, paddle about 400 yds of river, and carry about 40 yds up to your car or do it again.
  • The section from the firing range to the gauge is shallow and wide. At low to medium levels it is bony class 2 water. When the water get's higher it is a flat flush up to the gauging station weir.
  • If you want to run the second half of the river (from the gauge to the Reservoir) and avoid legal entanglements, you need to take out on river left at the mouth of the res. and carry back up the nice flat trail as far upstream as you can and then ferry across to river right and carry up the rest of the way (going under 287). You can paddle down the rest of the river to the reservoir, but... DO NOT PADDLE ON THE RESERVOIR!   If you do you will most likely be arrested and or fined for trespassing.


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// 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,

  1. Be polite, don't argue, do what they tell you to do.
  2. While you're packing up, ask them for more info (1. What ordinances or laws prevent paddling in the Rockaway River through Boonton. 2. What ordinances or laws define the fines to be charged in the event of someone violating any ordinances regarding paddling in the Rockaway River through Boonton)
  3. After the police officer answers (or doesn't answer) your questions, go to the police station and ask for details at the desk. The police station is about 1/2 a mile from the river. (here's a map) If you've already been told you can't paddle, you've got some time to go and help everyone out by getting some info. It will only take a few minutes.Be calm and polite. Describe what happened and ask again 1. What ordinances or laws prevent paddling in the Rockaway River through Boonton. 2. What ordinances or laws define the fines to be charged in the event of someone violating any ordinances regarding paddling in the Rockaway River through Boonton. Please write down the name of everyone you talk to and what they said to you (as exactly as you can)

Please email Stephen Strange with any info you gather.




Rapid Descriptions

Boonton Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 0

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.

Graffiti Rock

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.04

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".

Upper Bridge Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 0.05

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.

Lower Bridge Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 0.1

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.

Below the Big Pool

Class - IV Mile - 0.3

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.

Boulder Garden Finish

Class - IV Mile - 0.4

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.

RR Bridge to Weir

Class - II+ Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

From the railroad bridge to the gauging station weir the river widens and consists of class II rock garden rapids.

Gauging Station Weir

Class - II+ Mile - 0.7

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'?

Below Rt. 287

Class - IV Mile - 0.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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).


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john scelba
6 years ago

Here is a link to the new gauge:

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Dan Kubik
8 years ago

The section along the police firing range has completely changed. It has two rapids now and the rest is flat rapid at the top and one about half way through. This was all after Irene. We did not paddle below the firing range as it looked like it had way too many strainers to continue that far.

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Stephen Strange
9 years ago

Despite continued suggestions by locals that people aren't supposed to be paddling this stretch of river, there are NO ordinances in the Boonton Municipal Code relating to paddling, boating, kayaking, canoeing, etc. on the Rockaway through Boonton (Nov. 2010). If you stop before the Reservoir, and carry back up on River Left, Ferry across, carry under 287 on River right, and get into your car at the gauging station, you should be good to go. I've been checking the agenda for the Boonton Town Council Meetings every month since 2007 to keep an eye out for attempts at legislation prohibiting boating. AW people have spoken to the town council regarding the economic benefits of paddlers and many other subjects, but, as Thomas Jefferson said "It is impossible to reason someone out of a belief that they have not reasoned themselves into". Meanwhile we simply have to be vigilant, and polite.

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10 years ago

I ran this section from the Bridge rapid to the lake on 10-25-09. I was told by a nice Boonton officer that the run is technically off limits to ALL boaters after my trip. He did not ticket me though so perhaps the legislation is still not in place at this date. As for the take out I opted to stash my boat on river right next to the interstate because I was walking the shuttle. This does have the disadvantage of driving down past the I-80 interchange all the way to Whippany before you can head back north to your boat. I also noticed another police officer who had stopped just looking at the boat trying to figure out what to do (I had locked the boat next to a tree). He was gone by the time I swung back north on the interstate thankfully. Watch out for a low head dam where the water gauge is, just before you leave Boonton and cross over beneath the interstate bridges. You can scout this rapid before the run by driving onto the southbound interstate ramp and making a small right turn just before committing yourself to heavy traffic. The dam is shallow enough that the hydraulic is not as grabby as it looks, but be sure to know where it is before running the creek as you will need to get a good head of steam to punch it when running. Perhaps the AWA and other entities can attend a Boonton town meeting and explain to them they should be ENCOURAGING whitewater boaters only to run this stream. The town is not in the best of shape economically and any additional revenue they would be a desired shot in the arm. There is a nice diner and pub in the middle section of town, perhaps someone could renovate one of the older residential buildings into a B&B. The Rockaway River is the closest expert whitewater to the Western Hemisphere's wealthiest city (NYC) so the town is missing out on an economic opportunity here!

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Stephen Strange
13 years ago

I was just told that there is a strainer in "Graffiti Rock" Rapid (the narrow drop which follows the pool after the falls). If you paddle this stretch of river now please be very careful, any mishaps would be very unappreciated by the paddling community due to the town's current heigtened concern and attention directed at boating in the river.

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Stephen Strange
13 years ago

The town council of Boonton is trying to draft an ordinance to prohibit paddling access to this run. It would be very upsetting to lose this convenient and fun stretch of river which runs very frequently throughout the year. If you have ever paddled this reach or think that you might like to someday, please write to: Mayor Cyril Wekilsky, Boonton Town Hall, 100 Washington St., Boonton, NJ, 07005 Let the town council that paddlers safely use this resource frequently with no problems and that we want to maintain that right.

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Stephen Strange
14 years ago

This note is posted on the USGS page for this run now.
National Weather Service flood stage for this gage is 5 feet. Effective Dec. 17, 2004 the stage sensor has been replaced and relocated resulting in recorded stages about 0.5 feet higher than before.

I guess they noticed that the gauge was reading low as well. Now the min/max levels above should be accurate again.

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Stephen Strange
15 years ago

I paddled this in June 2003 and Oct 2004. The staff gauge and the online gauge no longer match. The online gauge now reads about 0.35' low compared to the staff gauge. The staff gauge still correlates to the levels shown here. It seems that the online gauge is the one which has changed.

Gage Descriptions

Stephen Strange contributed:
"I've run this stretch of the Rockaway dozens of times from around 2.3'/120 cfs (very bony), up to 5'/(3000 cfs?). 3' to 4' is best (though there is a good play spot under the stone bridge at lower levels)."

From 2.3'/120cfs(BARE minimum) up to about 3.5'/800 on the gauge the run has a creekier nature

Above 4.5'/1500cfs the water begins to approach a more Gauley like style.

Above ~5.5'/2600cfs the entire run becomes one long, class 5 rapid with a big-water feel to it. (5 feet is the USGS flood stage. With the current local attitude toward paddling in general, it's probably better that people go somewhere else at these levels)


The correlation between the level and cfs has changed a little. In Dec. 2004 the USGS changed the location of the sensor slightly leading to slightly higher "stage" readings related to the volume.

Currently it's about like this:


2.5'-150 cfs

3.0'-400 cfs

3.5'-750 cfs

4.0'-1000 cfs

4.5'-1500 cfs

5.0'-2200 cfs


Directions Description

To get to Boonton Gorge:

From the North- Go South on Rt. 287 until you get to exit 44 "Myrtle Ave. Boonton."

at the light,  turn left onto Myrtle Ave.

drive about 1/2 mile until you get to Main Street.

turn right onto Main St.

about 400yds later, turn left down Plane St.

Skip to below



From the South- Go North on Rt. 287 until you get to exit 41 "Main St. Boonton" and get off.

The ramp loops you around to the right. Turn right off of the ramp

Then turn right onto Main St. and drive over Rt. 287.

after about 1/2 a mile turn left onto Plane St.

Skip to below


bear left twice and you'll end up at a gravel parking area next to the municipal lot.

From here you can carry up and run, or set shuttle over to the gauge (not really worth it unless you'll be running the lower section too).


To get to the gauge. Turn off of Main St. down the ramp to get onto 287 south (you won't be getting on 287, but the gauge and access point is on a little "driveway" which is only accessible from this ramp).

The NJ Transit commuter parking lot will be on your right. Put on your right turn signal as soon as you go past the entrance to the NJTransit lot.

After the NJ Transit parking lot, you'll go over the river.

IMMEDIATELY following the river, on the right, is the small parking area for the gauge.

Don't go down the ramp too fast, it's easy to miss the turn, and even easier to get rear-ended while turning.

If you get onto 287 South, you've missed it.

No Accident Reports





Stephen Strange


Ken Voytac


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190996 04/20/09 Stephen Strange
1196429 11/06/09 Stephen Strange
1198994 12/05/10 Stephen Strange Clarified Directions, typo corrections
1202425 07/22/13 Ken Voytac