Popolopen Brook - Hiker's Bridge to Hudson River

Popolopen Brook, New York, US


Hiker's Bridge to Hudson River (Hell Hole)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 200 fpm
Max Gradient 300 fpm

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders
Photo of Jeff Sharpe by Wayne Gulmantovicz taken 04/18/07 @ 2 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Ramapo River near Mahwah NJ
usgs-01387500 700 - 2000 cfs V 00h21m 225 cfs (too low)

River Description

First of all, a comment on the claimed first descent in '02. There are rumors that Eric Nies (of Nies' Pieces fame on the Green) regularly paddled this creek solo back when he was a med student in NYC, which would place the actual first descent sometime about a decade prior, although I don't know for certain. Regardless of who was the first, it is seeing considerably more traffic of late, and why not? This is most likely the best Class V run in Southern NY and New England. It is short, but action-packed with such a variety of outstanding whitewater that I can hardly justify going anywhere else when it is running, which happens to be a lot. After four runs in a weekend at a perfect flow, I spent Sunday night dreaming vividly of the Popolopen. Its twisting chutes, dynamic boofs, and endless boulder gardens are enough to satisfy even the most discerning gradient seekers. Despite all of this, the run is very dangerous. Sieves, undercuts, and strainers are an ever-present factor. Expect to spend about three hours to safely pick your way down the creek if it's your first run.



Downstate New York Area Reaches

Beer Kill                                          Beer Kill, W. Branch   

Callicoon Creek, E. Branch            Callicoon Creek, N. Branch 

Coxing Kill                                      Croton 

Delaware (1.)                                 Delaware (2. Mongaup Wave)

Delaware (3.)                                 Fishkill Creek 

Mombaccus Creek                         Mongaup 

Moodna Creek                               Neversink (1.) 

Neversink (2.)                                Neversink, E. Branch  

Peters Kill                                       Pocantico 

Popolopen Brook                           Ramapo 

Rochester Creek                            Rondout Creek (1.) 

Rondout Creek (2.)                        Rondout Creek (3.) 

Sandburg Creek                             Stony Brook (1.) 

Stony Brook (2.)                             Wallkill 

Wappinger Creek


Google Map of New York Whitewater

New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-04-26 13:16:11

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Upstream of the Hiker's BridgeIVPutin
0.3Hungry Hungry Hippos5.0Hazard Photo
0.3Chutes and Ladders5.2Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.7Concentration5.1Hazard Photo
1.0Lots of Boogie WaterIV+Photo
1.5Hell Hole5.3Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
1.6Last RapidIV
2.0Take OutTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Upstream of the Hiker's Bridge (Class IV)

Hike up river left about one quarter mile past the hiker's bridge for some Class IV warm up. The best putin is at a small dam/ledge drop. If you feel off your game here, it is highly recommended that you drag your boat and your ego back to the car because the next half mile is a full step up. Alternatively, you can cut out the most intimidating whitewater by carrying from the hiker's bridge about a quarter mile down the trail on river left and then bushwhacking back down to river level above Candyland. You will be able to see the river below you for most of the portage until a dense copse of evergreens obscures your view. After the foliage opens up, begin descending down to the river.

Hungry Hungry Hippos (Class 5.0, Mile 0.3)

Alex Running Hungry Hungry Hippos

Alex Running Hungry Hungry Hippos
Photo of Alex Nicks by Wayne Gulmantovicz taken 04/18/07 @ 2 ft

After a hundred feet of Class III below the hiker's bridge, grab an eddy on river left and scout this rapid carefully. It begins with a five foot angled ledge right next to a massive logjam. About 25 feet downstream, the river constricts into a 5 foot wide slot backed up by a cave on the left (the hippo's mouth) and a rock on the right, with most of the water recirculating back into a very sticky hole, necessitating a perfectly executed boof. The approach is fast and deceptively tricky, too.The boater in the picture is running the bottom half of Hungry Hungry Hippos. You can see the constriction just upstream.

Chutes and Ladders (Class 5.2, Mile 0.3)

The crux move at Chutes and Ladders

The crux move at Chutes and Ladders
Photo of Chutes and Ladders by Jeff Sharpe taken 10/02/11 @ 500 cfs

This is a very steep series of twisting passages through and around large boulders. The whole rapid is about 100 yards in length and drops around 60 feet. After snaking through some pushy boulder gardens, the river drops steeply through a chute on river right and then immediately over a ledge rife with pinning hazards. It is a popular option to portage this part of the drop and put in above a fifteen foot clean ledge with a fast approach rapid. The drop ends in a pretty large and swirly pool. The view upstream from the pool is quite impressive as the steepness of the rapid is hard to comprehend from above.

Check out this video

Popolopen Kayaking from Jeff Sharpe on Vimeo.

Sorry! (Class 5.0, Mile 0.4)

The last part of Sorry!

The last part of Sorry!
Photo of Sorry by Jeff Sharpe taken 10/02/11 @ 500 cfs

This is three somewhat distinct sections of boulder gardens and ledges with eddies in between each. Depending on the wood situation and water level, all or none may be runnable, hence the name Sorry! The first section begins immediately below Chutes and Ladders. The line is on the left and ends with a challenging ledge drop that can either be run center left clearing a hole and piton rock or snuck center right by catching an eddy in the center of the main flow upstream of the ledge. Good eddies left and right below the ledge. The middle part is a pretty straightforward series of moves into an eddy on river left. The final move is over another ledge with some nasty pin rocks on the right and a good clean boof on center left, followed by some run out and then a couple of big eddies before Candyland starts.

Candyland (Class 5.0, Mile 0.5)

The first boof in Candyland

The first boof in Candyland
Photo of Candyland by Jeff Sharpe taken 10/02/11 @ 500 cfs

My favorite rapid on the run. From the large eddy below Sorry! you will see a huge boulder obstructing most of the rivers flow with options left or right of the boulder to setup for the main part of the rapid. The river constricts against another big boulder along the left bank and quickly drops over a sticky five foot ledge. Immediately downstream is a second boof best run on the left, unless it is high when you can go crashing through a huge curler on the right to miss the hole. Eddy out on either side. Three more boofs follow in succession below.

Concentration (Class 5.1, Mile 0.7)


Photo of Alex Nicks by Wayne Gulmantovicz taken 04/18/07 @ 2 ft

After some short boogie, the river splits around an island and drops steeply on both sides. This rapid is easily portaged on river right. A line exists in the left channel but it is manky. The lead in drop holds pin potential as well, and the exit drop resembles "Go Left" on the Green.

Lots of Boogie Water (Class IV+, Mile 1.0)

One of the boogie rapids in the second half of the run

One of the boogie rapids in the second half of the run
Photo of Toby Buscescu by Jeff Sharpe taken 10/02/11 @ 500 cfs

The half mile below Concentration is mostly boat scoutable boulder gardens separated by comfortable pools. Some of the drops are pretty dense and may require some creativity to find the best flow at lower levels, but everything can be run pretty clean if you know where to go and there is no wood. When you reach the backwater behind a large, stone dam get out on the right to portage the dam along a hiker's trail.

Hell Hole (Class 5.3, Mile 1.5)

Hell Hole, Boof Line

Hell Hole, Boof Line
Photo of Chris Reid by Nick Gottlieb taken 06/22/09 @ 1'

One of the most visually spectacular rapids in the Northeast. Hell Hole looks like Crystal on the Bottom Moose on steroids. An upstream view of the whole rapid is framed by a large, stone dam that was built in the 18th Century. Below the dam, the constricted river pushes over a few back to back ledges before plummeting over a 20 foot waterfall into a massive recirculating cauldron spraying water 50 feet up into the air. Hell Hole has been run, but most normal people will portage.

Last Rapid (Class IV, Mile 1.6)
Short. Bouncy. Fun.

Take Out
Use the beach on river left next to the pedestrian bridge. It's a short hike back to the Visitor's Center where you can leave a car.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
December 1 2011 (2568 days ago)
Wayne GmanDetails
As per the ranger they are gonna put a gate up on the takeout facility. Also the ranger said the
cops always stop by in the parking lot at 5:30 keep them beers hidden even after the ranger leaves
for the day.
September 1 2011 (2659 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
Popo Update--following Hurricane Irene--Posted by Jeff Sharpe in NPMB.com-- The mighty Popolopen
seems to have fared pretty well through the highest water she's seen in at least a century. The
water was high enough to remove the hiker's bridge from it's foundation on river left. Fortunately,
the bridge is still anchored to it's river right foundation and is not a hazard to paddlers. I got
a run in this afternoon at a nice medium-low level. The river bed has clearly changed at the visual
gauge (faintly painted yellow markings river left at hiker's bridge). It was reading zero but was
probably more like a previous 1 ft. There's almost no wood on the run except a very large tree that
extends all the way across the top drop in Hungry Hippos. A line is still there but some basic
pruning should clean it up a bit. Some rapids changed around but mostly for the better. From top to
bottom, here's what I noticed: - some of the FU rocks in the last section above the hiker's bridge
have been pushed aside - the rock in the exit slot at Hungry Hippos (the Hippos mouth) has opened
up a bit. It's probably a bit more forgiving of a hole now though still definitely capable of
producing swims. - the lead in stuff to Chutes and Ladders is totally rearranged. At the pillow
rock where you used to head right to limbo under an old telephone pole, the pillow is gone and so
is the telephone pole. Unfortunately, the pole was replaced by some new wood in almost the exact
same spot. And there are new rocks upstream and left of the old pillow rock. You can't go left
anymore and you definitely can't ride the pillow. The line looks okay but we walked since the crux
of Chutes and Ladders also changed significantly. The chute on the right side looks more or less
unchanged but the sievey, pinny mess that it dumps you into is now more sievey and pinny. I think
you can still dog left if you can catch the eddy below the chute and then run a little sneak to set
you up for the slot boot and then the last part of the rapid (where most people, myself included,
usually re-enter the river to get the awesome 10 foot sliding drop into the big pool). - the
entrance to Sorry has cleaned up and you can now enter center, head left down the channel and then
back center into an eddy. There is a new piton rock in the exit of this first section of the rapid.
If you go for the "high speed boof" option down center left you definitely could slam right into
it. If you're like me, catch the eddy and then run the little sneak route center right. Of course,
at high flows that eddy is tough to catch and all bets are off. The rest of sorry paddled
beautifully. I think a few other little FU rocks may have shifted put of the way. - the top of
Candyland was unchanged I think. It's possible that the setup to the first boof may be slightly
different. Or maybe I just took a slightly different line than usual. The three boofs in the second
part of Candyland were largely the same although the first in that set also now has a center right
line in addition to the normal center left boof. - the boogie between Candyland and Concentration
had some slight changes; nothing major and it all paddled really nicely, but definitely changed a
bit. - Concentration looked a little woody. I didn't venture in there. The portage is just too
easy. - the big slot boof on hard river right below Concentration is even bigger and wider too.
It's just plain awesome. I believe you can also run center down a big boof there as well now. -
Some of the boogie in the next section had some small changes but nothing of note. - the rapid in
the lower half of the run that is a notch above everything else in length and difficulty changed.
There used to be two rocks that you had to cut between moving right to left. That whole rock jumble
shifted around. Now you want to run a nimble little line left to right between two different rocks.
It was pretty clean and probably on the whole a little easier than the old line. - the last rapid
changed a lot and is definitely cleaner now with a nice exit on the right. I think that's about it.
The Popo is still the best run in the area by a significant margin...and maybe is even a little
better now.

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