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Difficulty V
Length 2 Miles
Gauge Ramapo River near Mahwah NJ
Flow Range 700 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 46 minutes ago 23.1 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 04/26/2016 1:16 pm

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


Rapid Descriptions

Upstream of the Hiker's Bridge

Class - IV Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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 - 0.25

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

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.


Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.4

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.


Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.5

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.


Class - 5.1 Mile - 0.7

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

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

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Short. Bouncy. Fun.

Take Out

Class - Mile - 2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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.


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Wayne Gman
8 years ago

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.

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Wayne Gman
12 years ago

Popolopen Gorge Trail to Close Fall '08 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Trail to Close for Six Months During Water Main Replacement Project Hkers planning outings in Bear Mountain State Park in the fall are advised that the Popolopen Gorge Trail, including the co-aligned trails (Timp Torne, 1777W & 1779) on the south side of the Popolopen Brook and along both sides of Queensboro Creek will be closed for approximately six months, likely beginning in October. The parks department will be replacing the water main between the water filtration plant at Queensboro Lake and the storage tank at Bear Mountain State Park. This water main supplies all of the Bear Mountain complex, the NYS Bridge Authority, and park residences at the bridge circle and in Fort Montgomery. The main generally follows the route of the Popolopen Gorge Trail. There will be disturbance to the trail from the construction and the trail will be closed while the project is ongoing. The project plan includes restoration of the trail and extensive landscape plantings to replace trees and shrubs removed during construction. A start date for construction is not yet firm, but officials anticipate that the majority of the work will be completed between October 2008 and April 2009. Because the start date is unknown, park officials suggest hike leaders planning to hike along these trails in the fall have an alternate hike plan in place as of October. Check for updates in advance of your hike at the Trail Conference website or call Bear Mountain State Park at 845-786-2701.

Gage Descriptions

The remote gauge may correlate differently to snow melt than rain. On 3/24/07 and 3/35/07 we had perfect medium flows as a results of snow melt. The Ramapo was reacting diurnally and fluctuated between a high of 884 cfs and 799 cfs during that time period. Conversely, I've paddled the Popolopen when the Ramapo peaked at 900 cfs after a rain event and had low water. A fall run that coincided with a peak of 1800 cfs on the Ramapo and the flow dropping to 1400 cfs during the time we were on the river yielded a strong medium-high level.

Although there is a fair degree of discrepancy between the Ramapo and the Popolopen, the rough correlation for rain events is as follows. When the Ramapo is rising:

700-1000 cfs = low
1000 cfs - 1600 cfs = medium
1600 cfs - 2000 cfs = high
2000 cfs and up = hair


Popolopen will usually hold water as long as the Ramapo is above 1000, but it will drop out more quickly than the Ramapo might suggest. If it's trending to be below 1000, it will probably be low or possibly too low, although if it's dropping slowly (less than 100 cfs in a 24 hour period), this may not hold true and you might have a fine water level.

So basically, levels above 700 cfs and holding or dropping slowly should correlate to a good runnable level. However, if it's been more than a day since it's rained you'll probably want to keep a close eye on how quickly the Ramapo is dropping or you might end up with low water.


Here's the original correlation established by Stephen Strange:

Lake Tiorati Br. has a drainage which is nearby and similar to Popolopen Br.'s. By comparing historical streamflow data from Lake Tiorati Br. and from the USGS gauge on the Ramapo R. at Mahwah, NJ, I was able to come up with a rough, but probably fairly accurate virtual gauge for Popolopen Br. It looks like Popolopen will most likely be running if snowmelt and/or rainfall spike the Ramapo R. at Mahwah, NJ to 700 cfs or over.
On the first-descent day, 12/22/02, the Ramapo was just coming down off of a 700-cfs peak. When I ran Popolopen Br. on 01/02/03 the Ramapo was peaking at 1900 cfs.


ducktales wrote, via the Northeast Paddlers' Massage Board, on 12-22-02, 11:02 AM (Eastern):
"First Descent of New Class 4-5 Creek"
Mark J. had been eyeballing it for years before four of us decided yesterday to go for a first descent of Popolopen Brook, a steep creek in New York's Bear Mountain area. Between the snowmelt and Friday's rains, the creek was running at a nice "medium" level; there's no gauge or standard for measuring levels at this point. It's an absolute gem, decidedly more difficult than the West Branch of the Deerfield; for me, it recalled Vermont's Big Branch and West Virginia's Decker's Creek, each of which I've been on only once. But Popolopen is unique, clear water running continuously at about a 300 feet per mile gradient, with a couple of spectacular drops. It's amazing that this hasn't been discovered until now, considering how close it is to New York City; the run ends at the Bear Mountain Bridge, tumultuously tumbling out of the Orange County hills until abruptly stopping at the Hudson River. We could use a cleaning party of boaters with handsaws before the next descent, since there is some wood that really should be removed.

Stephen Strange added:

"I was lucky enough to be in the area a week and a half later with water to spare. I would definitely compare this run to Action Alley on Big Cr. (NC) at over 2 ft, except that this keeps going."

Directions Description

Shuttle Directions

The takeout is just upstream of the confluence of the Popolopen and the Hudson on river left. You can leave a car at the Fort Montgomery Visitor Center off 9W just north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. It's advisable to be low-key and avoid changing at the Visitor Center. They've been pretty cool so far, but we wouldn't want to lose access here. If you use the bathroom or any other facilities, please leave a buck or two in the donation collection box.

To reach the put in, turn onto Firefighter Memorial Drive, which is directly opposite the Visitor Center off of 9W. At the small park, make a left onto Mine Road and follow it about 2 miles up to a pullout that is designated hiker parking. Hike down towards river level and then upstream as far as you would like to put in. There is a great, long Class IV rapid just upstream of the hiker's bridge to warm up on and several more Class III and IV rapids further up for about a quarter mile.

No Accident Reports




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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.


Jeff Sharpe


Alex Barham


Robert Miller


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1200568 09/01/11 Jeff Sharpe
1200716 10/03/11 Jeff Sharpe
1206392 04/26/16 Alex Barham Added local info
1193619 09/22/08 Robert Miller n/a
1198294 10/04/10 Jeff Sharpe