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Difficulty II-III
Length 4.5 Miles
Flow Range 9.00 - 14.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 53 minutes ago 10.35 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 09/25/2018 10:40 pm

River Description

Letchworth State Park boasts a spectacular, meandering 550-foot deep river gorge lined with slate cliffs. It is called the "Grand Canyon of the East."

Within the gorge, the Genesee River is class II run at low levels (9.0 feet) but becomes a respectable class III river with great surfing opportunities at higher water (stage 10.5 feet). The Genesee River is consistently at its highest during March and April. The river periodically floods between October and June. The highest recorded flood peak was 90,000 cfs on June 23, 1979. The river is closed to kayakers at stage 14.0 feet and higher. Every October, the draining of Rushford Lake augments river flow through Letchworth Gorge by about 1.0 foot.

Sign the release and get a Waiver # at the Admin center near the South end of park.  Get a map at the gate when you pay your $6 park Entry Fee so you can find everything.

Sometime around 2015, the road to access the put in was washed out.  The new put in is on the east side of the river.  

Take Out: St Helena parking lot. From the visitors center turn right out of parking lot on park road (3.4 miles) Turn right at the second sign for St. Helenas and go to parking lot (0.2miles). Take out is down the gated restricted access road, river left (0.45 miles)

Put In:
From check in office, Turn right out of parking lot on park road (0.75 miles)
Turn left onto Denton corners Rd and exit park at castile exit (2.1 miles), Turn left on 19A (2.1 miles),  Turn left on 436 (1.4 miles),  Turn left of east parade Rd (3.0miles),  At cross roads (42.60124, -78.00288) there is a porta-john and a gated road to the left.  Park there and walk 0.5 miles to the put in which is on river right.

(Put in was at Lee's Landing, a 1/2-mile carry downhill from the parking lot east of the swimming pool/Letchworth Outfitters (Raft Co.) Look for a gate across the grassy area north of parking lot near the CCC statue. Follow the dirt road to the bottom of the hill. Right to Lee's Landing, Left at the bottom, then Right in 300 yards to Red Ball.)

If you run the Loop, no shuttle is necessary. The carry back uphill is about 1/2 mile from either Red Ball (airplane/helicopter warnings on power lines) or Lunch Rocks (the next rapid below Red Ball).

If you pass Lunch Rocks you are committed to about 5 miles of Canyon to St. Helena's. This is the last takeout before the dam. Go with somebody that knows how to find it. In early Spring, there may be a lake backed up above there from the dam--not likely to be a worthwhile trip. Stick to the Loop in those conditions.

Western New York Area Reaches

Beaver Meadow Creek                     Canadaway Creek (1.)                                      Canadaway Creek (2.) 

Canaseraga Creek                           Cattaraugus Creek                                           Cattaraugus Creek, S. Branch 

Cazenovia Creek, W. Branch (1.)    Cazenovia Creek, W. Branch (2.)                     Chautauqua Creek 

Clear Creek, N. Br.                           Conesus Creek                                              Eighteenmile Creek 

Eighteenmile Creek, S. Br.                Ellicott Creek                                                    Genesee (Letchworth) 

Honeoye Creek                               Keshequa Creek                                            Little Chautauqua Creek 

Murder Creek                                  Niagara                                                             Oak Orchard Creek 

Oatka Creek                                    Rushford Lake Outlet                                       Sugar Creek 

Twentymile Creek

Hoppy's post on the FLOW Massage Board)

Google Map of New York Whitewater

New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group

Rapid Descriptions


Class - III Mile - -0.5
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Immediately below Lower Falls is The Inner Gorge, a 200-yard long segment of the river confined between the vertical walls of a deep gorge. Paddlers are allowed to run the river from the base of the Lower Falls, but they are not permitted to putin anywhere except at Lee's Landing. Thus, you must paddle and portage upstream from Lee's Landing through The Inner Gorge to get to the base of Lower Falls. Vertical gear & ropes are needed. At stage 10.0 feet and higher, it is impossible to access The Inner Gorge.


Class - III Mile - -0.25
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Approximately 1/4-mile upstream from Lee's Landing is The Sluice, a narrowing against the river right wall where the river funnels through a sluice. This play spot is best at stage 9.0 feet and higher. The Sluice is best for super-sonic surfing, micro-eddy hopping, and nuclear-powered stern squirts.


Class - Mile - 0
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There is only one legal putin, at Lee's Landing. From the calm pool at Lee's Landing, one can either paddle upstream or downstream. Upstream you will find The Inner Gorge (including Lower Falls) and The Sluice. Downstream is The Loop and the standard run all the way to Saint Helena.


Class - III Mile - 0.1
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Immediately downstream of the pool at Lee's Landing, the river plunges down a relatively narrow 200-foot long cascade with a complex and surging wave train. This stretch is perhaps the wildest rapid on the Genesee River below Lee's Landing. At high water (Stage 13 feet), these waves can be over 15 feet high. If this rapid doesn't excite you, then you should probably hike back up the hill and head home.


Class - II+ Mile - 0.2
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This rapid derives its name from a red ball that is suspended on a wire over the end of the rapid. Immediately after Entrance Rapid the river begins to turn left. This is Red Ball, a 150-yard stretch of whitewater with about two dozen great surfing waves and holes. These waves are great surfing at 10.5 feet. At 11.5 feet this becomes a heavy class III run, with large waves and a stopper hole. At 13 feet this stopper hole is monstrous.


Class - II+ Mile - 0.5
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Although Lunch Rock is no longer there, this rapid still retains the name. Past Red Ball there is a long stretch of flat water before entering Lunch Rock Rapid. A major wave/hole is located here. Below 9.0 feet the hole is too shallow. At 9.5 feet it's a fun little surfing wave with a deep pocket but is little else. At 10.5 feet, it is a small but powerful hole that offers a real bite. At 11.5 feet, the right channel opens up, offering some nice surfing, and the hole in the left channel becomes a stupendous surf wave.


Class - II+ Mile - 0.6
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Further downstream it is the scenery, not the whitewater, that is interesting. The photo at the top of this page shows this section of the river.


Class - Mile - 4.5
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The takeout is located at Saint Helena. The dirt road here is not obvious, so keep your eyes open. It is a long hike up the hill to the parking lot. Occasionally the rafting company will give you a ride on their shuttles from the water's edge to the parking lot. Be sure to thank them profusely.


Gage Descriptions

Class 2 @ 9ft
Class 3+ @ 13ft
Closed @ 14ft

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



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Army Corps Study Threatens Lehigh River Boating

Bob Nasdor

Paddlers on the Lehigh River below the Francis E. Walter Dam and Reservoir are concerned that a planned study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its partners, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will lead to a reduction in whitewater boating opportunities on the Lehigh. The study will evaluate the feasibility of various alternatives to optimize project operation. Aside from the project's authorized primary missions of flood risk management and recreation, the study will also consider water supply and water quality, to identify possible improvements to the existing structure, infrastructure, and operations that will support current and future demands within the region. The Army Corps is holding a public meeting on January 9, 2020 at the Mountain Laurel Resort in White Haven, PA from 6-8 p.m. to explain the study and hear public comments. American Whitewater, Appalachian Mountain Club, and other organizations are expected to file comments with the Army Corps prior to the September 29th deadline in order to share our concerns about the study and potential impacts on boating, the outdoor recreation economy, and the Delaware RIver Basin. We encourage our members to attend the public meeting to voice their concerns.

article main photo

Moose River Video

Mark Singleton

2010 marked the 25th anniversary of protecting the Black and Moose rivers!  View an online video documentary on the Moose River and the early role that American Whitewater played in protecting this amazing river.


Jerry Hargrave


Alex Barham


Paul Martzen


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191102 05/08/08 Jerry Hargrave n/a
1206627 06/09/16 Alex Barham Added local info
1210387 09/25/18 Paul Martzen Put in changes from Steve de Boer
1198285 09/30/10 Matt Muir Added abstract.