South Sandy Creek - 1. Route 95 to Route 11

South Sandy Creek, New York, US


1. Route 95 to Route 11 (Lorraine Gulf)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 45 fpm
Max Gradient 60 fpm

scenic south sandy

scenic south sandy
Photo of cliff edges by Todd Caza

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-04250750 1000 - 5000 cfs III-IV 01h39m 49.9 cfs (too low)

River Description

Here is my writeup from the now defunct Inland Surfing Association web page:


Section: Lorraine Gulf (Bullock Corners to Allendale)

Counties: Jefferson (NY)

USGS Quads: Pierrepont Manor

Suitable for: Intermediate and Advanced

Months Runnable: March and April, or after 2 days of steady rain

Interesting Highlights: The whitewater and the waterfall

Scenery: Beautiful

Difficulty: III (III+ at high water)

Average Width: 40 feet

Velocity: 3 - 6 m.p.h.
Gradient: 38 feet per mile

Runnable Water Levels:

Nearest USGS Gauge: Black River at Watertown, Station #04260500

Best USGS Gauge: Independence River at Donnatsburg, #04256000

Nearest Waterline Gauge:

Minimum: About 16" below the top of the rectangular base of the bridge abutment on route 178 (Access Point B). The rocks in the river downstream of the bridge on the right should be just covered. This level makes for a long paddle. The minimum fun level would be considerably higher, with the water level near the top of the rectangular base of the bridge abutment.

Maximum: Not established

Hazards: Strainers

Scouting: None

Portages: Any strainers

Rescue Index: Remote

Source of Additional Information: The Inland Surfing Association paddling club at (607)785-3891 or the Adirondack Mountain Club's "Canoe Guide to Western and Central New York State", Kevin Howells

Access Points River Miles Shuttle Miles  
A-B 12 7.0  
B-C 1.25 1.8  

To reach the takeout from the North, take the Adams exit off Interstate 81. Follow Route 178 east into Adams and go south on Route 11. Cross over Sandy Creek and continue south on Route 11 about 2 miles to the Route 11 bridge over South Sandy Creek (Access Point C). To reach the takeout from the south, take the Pierrepont Manor (pronounced by the locals as Peerpoint Manor) exit off Interstate 81 and follow Route 193 east into Pierrepont Manor. Go north on Route 11 until you reach the bridge over South Sandy Creek, about 2.8 miles. This is access point C. If you want to cut 1.25 miles off your already long trip, you'll want to take out at Access Point B, which is on the way to the put-in from Access Point C.

To get to Access Point B from Point C, go north on Route 11 to your first right hand turn. Turn right and follow this road past some houses and fields for about a mile to Allendale, which will be the first intersection. Turn right onto Route 178 (south) and drive about three tenths of a mile to the bridge crossing over South Sandy Creek (Access Point B). Limited parking is available on the shoulders of the road on the north side of the bridge. You'll want to be well off the side of the road. You'll understand why the first time a northbound vehicle comes zipping around the curve on the bridge. Stop here and get out to take a look at the downstream end of the bridge abutment and the rocks in the river. If your first reaction is, "What rocks?", that's a good sign. If there are rocks showing, you might as well go home. If the water is near or above the top of the rectangular base of the bridge abutment, then it's a good level.

There is a dirt road that winds its way down to the river on the downstream, river right side of the bridge. This is the takeout for the shortened version of the trip.

To get to the put-in, stay on 178 south and east to Lorraine, about 3.1 miles. Bear left at the Y and go about 1.8 miles to a hard left hand turn (it is possible to go straight, but you want to go left around the turn) and go about 1.9 miles farther to Bullock Corners. Turn left onto the (currently) unpaved road (Leepy Road or County Rte 95). Drive past the farm and park on the south side of the bridge over South Sandy Creek, being careful not to block the farmer's access to the river and his fields. There is a path down to the stream on the southwest side of the bridge.

South Sandy Creek drains the west side of the Tug Hill Plateau, an area known for heavy, lake-effect snowfall. As the South Sandy rushes toward Lake Ontario it cuts into the soft shale of the Tug Hill Plateau and forms the Lorraine Gulf. Numerous pink granite boulders can be found strewn around the streambed, a result of being transported there during the last ice age in the body of a glacier.

South Sandy Creek feels like the East branch of Fish Creek, only smaller. The river has many tight bends with sheer rock walls, reflecting waves and holes, and waterfalls, just like Fish Creek. Most of the rapids are Class II and III at lower levels. The whitewater is continuous, and at higher levels long wave trains and holes are a regular occurrence.

The put-in is typical of the entire run from Access Point A all the way to Access Point B: Sheer rock walls on one side of the river and a moderate slope on the other side. If you're not paying attention it's easy for your momentum to carry you right into the rock walls on the outside of the turns. You also need to be alert for strainers the entire trip, since the stream is generally quite narrow and winding, resulting in many opportunities for dislodged trees to become snagged.

The put-in is in a relatively quiet pool, and at most levels there is the opportunity to surf some small waves at the head of the pool and get warmed up before heading on down stream. After leaving the pool the river bends to the right and goes over a grassy riverbed through riffles and small waves.

One of the first rapids you will encounter is memorable not for its difficulty, but because of the large, pink granite boulder situated right in the middle of the river. The water is forced into a hard left hand bend around this boulder.

About 1.5 miles into the trip a waterfall pours a significant amount of water into South Sandy Creek from 20 feet up the right wall. The river bends to the left around this waterfall, and the right wall is gradually undercut, meaning some of the river flows behind the waterfall, some of the river flows under the waterfall, and a bit of the river hugs the inside of the bend and flows in front of the waterfall. You will notice several things as you approach this waterfall: the hole, the wind, and the direction the water is flowing. The volume of water coming over the waterfall is large enough that it creates a donut-shaped hole in the middle of the river. In other words, water flows into this hole from all sides. It never fails that the wind is blowing up the canyon from downstream, so that as you are approaching the waterfall a heavy mist is being blown in your face. The moving water also seems to create its own wind. The majority of the downstream flow tries to carry you directly into the waterfall, but an interesting phenomenon occurs. The flow from the waterfall raises the water level in the immediate area so that the water piles up and has no place to go. Eventually it will push you to one side or the other, but you will want to paddle for the inside of the turn to avoid running into the rock wall on the right side. If you do end up under the waterfall, lingering there is not recommended since solid objects may be washed over the falls at any instant and may end up on your head.

At 2.3 miles into the trip a large hole is waiting for you around a right hand bend. The best route is to hug the right bank or go far left. If you end up in the hole, you may be surfing it for a while. If your hole-surfing technique is good, it shouldn't be any sweat, but if not, it will not be pleasant. At moderate levels, flipping over will normally result in your being flushed out of the hole.

The next mile has the steepest gradient, dropping 70 feet per mile. Abijah Creek enters South Sandy Creek at the 2.7 mile mark, increasing the volume of the creek significantly. Abijah Creek has been run by whitewater boaters who claim it is as enjoyable as South Sandy Creek. Below this junction the river valley opens up a bit and the whitewater gets heavier. Waves and holes continue all the way to Access point B almost without interruption.

You will know you're within a mile of Access Point B when you pass between two manmade trapezoidal concrete structures, the remains of a dam that used to block the flow of South Sandy Creek.

The Lorraine Gulf ends as the creek passes under the Route 178 bridge, Access Point B. Takeout is possible just below the bridge on river right. Carry your boats up a little-used dirt road from the river to the road. The best loading point for your boats is probably on the northeast side of the bridge, but watch out for cars, since this bridge is on a sharp curve and it is difficult for cars headed northwest to see you before they're upon you. Below the bridge the rapids slow down to Class II rock gardens, but you will still need to keep an eye out for strainers.

If you choose to paddle all the way to Access Point C, you can take out on either side of the stream. Parking on Route 11 is similar to the parking situation at Access Point B... you have to leave your car on the shoulder of the road. This is made more difficult by a long guardrail that forces you to park well away from the bridge or to leave your vehicle where it seems like the next person to drive by is going to hit it.

Frank Hughto-Delzer

See also the Ellisburg Section, located just downstream.


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


Google Map of New York Whitewater

New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-03-28 21:12:11

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 13 2008 (3445 days ago)
x (1)
Sandy Creek gauge at 5.5' / 2000 cfs is a good level for the Lorraine Gulf section of the South

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