Rockaway - Below Falls to weir at Morris Avenue

Rockaway, New Jersey, US


Below Falls to weir at Morris Avenue (Boonton Gorge)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 0.7 Miles
Avg. Gradient 140 fpm
Max Gradient 140 fpm

Mike Below the Bridge

Mike Below the Bridge
Photo of Michael Strange by Stephen Strange taken Nov. 96 @ 3.0'

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Rockaway River at Main Street at Boonton NJ
usgs-01380450 150 - 4000 cfs IV-V 01h00m 255 cfs (running)

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.




StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-07-22 12:33:56


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Boonton FallsN/AAccess Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.0Graffiti Rock IV+Putin Access Photo
0.1Upper Bridge RapidIVPhoto
0.1Lower Bridge RapidIII+Playspot Photo
0.3Below the Big PoolIVPhoto
0.4Boulder Garden FinishIVPhoto
0.5RR Bridge to WeirII+
0.7Gauging Station WeirII+Takeout Access Portage Hazard Photo
0.8Below Rt. 287IV

Rapid Descriptions

Boonton Falls (Class N/A)

Boonton Falls

Boonton Falls
Photo of Boonton Falls - low water by Mark Z. @ 118 cfs

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 0.0)



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 0.1)

High Water Fun @4.5'

High Water Fun @4.5'
Photo taken 09/08/08

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)

Ledges after Bridge Rapid

Ledges after Bridge Rapid
Photo by Mike Stawicki taken 04/02/09 @ 2.7'

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)

Rockaway Ledges

Rockaway Ledges
Photo by Mike Stawicki taken 04/02/09 @ 2.7'

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)

bouldergarden section

bouldergarden section
Photo taken 11/06/09

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)

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)

Gauge Weir low water

Gauge Weir low water
Photo taken 11/06/09

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)

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).

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 6 2016 (954 days ago)
JesseS (158290)
We attempted to put in here this morning (6/6/2016) and where stopped in the lot by a patrol car
that followed us down the hill. The officer took my license and gave me (the driver) a verbal
warning and claimed to have recorded my name. We then went up to the town hall, as per the
instructions on the page here, and received a copy of an adopted albeit not codified ordinance
prohibiting the launching of boats. The non codified ordinance wording is as follows: Chapter 205-5
- Water Access from unauthorized public areas prohibited (C) - No person or persons shall launch or
operate any boat on any portion of the Rockaway River adjacent to land owned, operated, or
maintained by the Town of Boonton south and east of the West Main Street Bridge located in the Town
of Boonton (Pond Bridge). Introduced: September 21, 2015 Adopted: October 5, 2015
August 14 2013 (1981 days ago)
theNJcreeker (153510)
Here is a link to the new gauge:
October 4 2011 (2661 days ago)
DanKubik (153561)
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.
November 9 2010 (2990 days ago)
Stephen StrangeDetails
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.
January 29 2007 (4370 days ago)
Stephen StrangeDetails
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.
January 17 2007 (4382 days ago)
Stephen StrangeDetails
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.
November 19 2005 (4806 days ago)
Stephen StrangeDetails
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

I guess they noticed that the gauge was reading low as well. Now the min/max levels above should be
accurate again.
October 4 2004 (5217 days ago)
Stephen StrangeDetails
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.