Delaware - Scudders Falls Recreation Area

Delaware, New Jersey, US


Scudders Falls Recreation Area

Usual Difficulty II+ (for normal flows)
Length 0.25 Miles


Photo of Paul Michael @ 9,000cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Delaware River at Trenton NJ
usgs-01463500 5000 - 50000 cfs II+ 01h10m 4910 cfs (too low)

River Description

Great wave train and various hole/waves due to a broken down wing dam depending on water level.

If this is too low, you might want to head over to the Lambertville Wing Dam.
Lat/longitude coordinates are an educated guess.

Robert North 2005-01-10 23:33:13
The Lowdown on Scudders Falls

Located just off of Route 29 about a 1/3 mile north of I-95, Scudder Falls may be the archetypal park-n-play spot. If you park in the lower lot, it is no more than 25 yards from your car to the river and about 100 yards back to your car when you get out. That being said, Scudders actually offers a lot more than the wave train along the Jersey side that most people think of as Scudder Falls. The Delaware here is 200+ yards wide and there are at least 6 features that provide decent to very good play opportunities at levels from about 8,000 cfs to 50,000 cfs (use the USGS Trenton gauge). Although it isn?t Holtwood, it is the closest reliable play spot to Philly and most of New Jersey and southeastern PA and is good, on average, for about 8 months of the year.

The "Falls" are caused by an old stone and wood beam diversion dam originally built sometime in the 1800s for a mill located on the Jersey side. Most of the old dam in the middle of the river has long since washed away, but sections on the Jersey and Pennsylvania sides as well as a little bit remaining in the middle create some nice features. The Jersey side of the dam had reinforced concrete poured on top of it sometime in the 50s or 60s, apparently in an effort to stabilize the old stone dam.

Starting from the Jersey side, the different play spots and approximate levels for each are:

Jersey Wave train ("The Wave") - Levels ~7,500 to ~ 20,000+ cfs (~9'-11')-- depending on your boat length and hull speed, the front wave is good from about 7,500 cfs to 20,000+ cfs . (11/5/2007, Bob Claudia): Scudder on the NJ wave side is no longer the glassy wave that it use to be at lower levels - it now a really nice hole at most levels. There has been significant errosion of the riverbed right at the base of the drop. It also looks like some of the base of the dam had erroded upstream which allows the water to flow stronger closer to the PA side of the feature. This has made the drop much steeper. People are throwing crazy loops and landing back in the foam pile to set up for the next aerial manuver. You can see the changes on the Youtube videos by searching "Scudders Falls". There is a video from 6/10/06 when the feature was still a wave. The recent videos show the hole. Due to the lack of water, the first time I was there to notice the change was on 10/27/07. It was running at 25k cfs. In the past the feature would be washed out at this level, with the fourth wave being the only surfable wave. This was not the case on 10/27. The first wave was cranking fast with a lot of aerated water on top. I returned on 11/4/07, when the
level was 9k cfs, and it was a full-on retentive hole. Below the wave train is the typical takeout spot.

Second Chute (aka concrete jungle) -- Level ~25-35K? cfs -- Located directly across from the parking lot, this break in the dam has changed dramatically over the last several years as the dam continues to erode. In the late 80s, it was no more than a 6-8 foot wide slot, with lots of rebar and some of the old dam timbers waiting in the bottom hole. Now it is more than 20 feet wide. Last year's (2004) major flooding seems to have changed it even further. A decent wave/hole forms here from about 25,000 cfs on up to the mid 30s (last year is was a super looping hole around 15,000 cfs-- no more). Very nice and dynamic surf, spins, ends but at lower levels the runout is shallow with lots of rocks, etc (quick roll please).

Third Chute (aka "Corner Hole", "Top of Dam") -- Level -- ~13,000 to ~30,000 cfs-- This chute and hole did not exist until about 5 years ago and are located at the end of the Jersey dam adjacent to a small island. Super easy to get to either by running second chute and running the channel behind the dam or paddling up and ferrying across to run 3rd chute itself. At lower levels (less than ~15,000 cfs) this is a great training spot for beginners --- eddy turns, ferrying across a current, peel outs etc. There is a big eddy behind the dam both to practice rolling and bracing and to provide relatively easy rescue opportunities. In the middle range for this spot (15K to 20K cfs), the hole provides dynamic surfs and is a great place to learn to spin (nearly automatic to the left) and to surf a hole, but is still pretty shallow (no ends allowed). At higher levels, (20-25K cfs), the hole is definitely much more dynamic and vertical moves are possible. From 25-30K, the hole becomes smaller but faster and a wave forms behind the dam to the surfer's right washes out somewhere between 25 and 30K cfs. At some point (~35K?), the whole thing becomes a 30-yard wide catch-on-the-fly wave. A word of caution -- at levels from ~23K cfs to ~35K cfs, a very sticky looking low head dam type hydraulic forms behind the dam about 10 yards to the Jersey side of the 3rd chute. Be careful, this would definitely not be a good place to be.

The Diagonals -- Levels ~17,000 to ~28,000 cfs- The diagonals are formed by a rock ledge/remnant of the old dam just above an island in the middle of the river. The feature consists of a big eddy in the middle with a wave/wave-hole on the PA side and diagonal hole on the Jersey side. Both features are bigger and much more dynamic than the Jersey wave train. There is fast surfing available on surfer's left side wave and the foam pile will be over your head on the right side hole at 25K. Please note that, while the eddy is fairly big, the diagonals tend to push you out and away into the main channels. Therefore, a quick roll is necessary to get back in the eddy, particularly on the shallow PA side. If you miss the eddy from the PA side, you can paddle around the island and up the Jersey side to get back to staging eddy. Lots of fun here.

Pennsy Wave -- Levels ~16,000 to 35,000 cfs- A nice dynamic wave forms about 50 feet off of and downstream off the PA dam. Access either from moving eddy river left and below the wave or from eddy behind PA dam. Can be lots of fun at the right level. Harder to catch at higher levels, but if you do it is a very good ride.

PA Hole -- Levels ~32,000 to 50,000 cfs ? Best in the low 40K cfs range, this spot is located below the PA dam almost up against the PA shore. It features a 10-yard wide hole with lots of potential. It is shallow in the low part of the range, but deep enough to throw it around above 40,000 cfs. Getting over here is a bit of a workout, requiring a hike to the end of the road on the Jersey side and then a long ferry across a strong current. Also, be careful of strainers as there is always wood getting washed into the dam.

Access -- Rte 29 North from Exit 1 of I-95 in NJ. First (and only) left after interchange (~0.3 miles).

Please note that at higher levels (20,000+), most of the playable spots are probably Class III and you should have a reliable roll if you venture over to the Pennsylvania side at high water. Expect a crowd on weekends and somebody will be there most times when the river's at a good level.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-06-02 01:43:02

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)

Rapid Descriptions

Overview (Class N/A)

Scudder Falls Aerial Guide

Scudder Falls Aerial Guide
Photo by B. North & Google Earth @ medium

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