Kaaterskill Creek - Along Rte. 23A to Palenville

Kaaterskill Creek, New York, US


Along Rte. 23A to Palenville

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 2.75 Miles
Avg. Gradient 205 fpm
Max Gradient 256 fpm

Ted Running Red Rock Falls

Ted Running Red Rock Falls
Photo of Ted Devoe by Jeff Sharpe taken 4.24.06 @ low

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01362500 2740 - 30000 cfs V 00h42m 431 cfs (too low)

River Description

Kaaterskill Creek is the crown jewel of Catskill creek boating. It has everything an expert paddler could hope for: read and run boulder gardens, several waterfalls, a tight gorge with overhanging walls and a couple of optional rapids for "big dogs" who don't mind potentially terminal consequences for a blown line.

We've always put in at the pull out on the left (as you drive upstream along 23) before the hairpin turn and Kaaterskill Falls, a tourist attaction, which is on a tributary of the Kaaterskill. There is potentially another mile or two of difficult whitewater further upstream of the standard three mile run, if you're willing to explore and the water level is right. The gradient for this upper section, which begins below Haines Falls, looks to be about 280 feet/mile. The standard run can be described in three parts, each about a mile in length.

To run the first part, you'll need to park at the aforementioned pull out and bushwhack you're way down to the creek. From there, you'll have consistent maneuvering through read-and-run Class IV boulder gardens. There is some wood to be weary of and you'll want to be on the look out for Fawn's Leap, a 25 footer that several very good boaters I know have passed on. After Fawn's Leap, there is a great boulder garden rapid that culminates in an 8 foot boof on the left. After the boof, there is about twenty feet of fast moving flat water before Red Rock Falls. Get out on the right and have a look at this sliding waterfall. It is probably the easiest of the three "big" drops, but the landing is very shallow, and it should be reserved for those who have rubber spines and/or very good health insurance. Walk on the right, under the bridge, but be careful not to stub your toe on some of the rusty rebar that blends in so well with the red rock.

Upon re-entering the river you will shortly enter the gorge, the second part of the run, and the most beautiful. The road disappears pretty quickly and several waterfalls cascade into the creek, creating the illusion that civilization is a lot farther away than it is. Here the boating isn't as continuous as above and the drops are more distinct. Three deserve mentioning:

1) Atom Bomb Falls: In his book, Dennis Squires calls this the most horrific undercut in the state of New York. I don't know about that, but it is a big drop and it feeds right into an undercut (according to Dennis there is new wood in the undercut as well), so we've always walked it.

2) There is a relatively benign looking rapid that has pin potential, especially at low water. The hazards are obvious so long as you do not float into it unwary. A clean line opens up with more water, but if you are unsure of the line at low flows, a very dainty portage is necessary on a narrow path along the cliff walls twenty feet above river level. Watch your step.

3) The last rapid in the gorge is a classic triple drop. The last hole could be terminal at high water and would be very difficult to portage. At lower levels though, it is not too bad, and the three ledges are fun boofs. The view back upstream of the triple drop framed by the grotto-like walls of the gorge is more reminiscent of a tropical paradise than a roadside creek run in the Catskills. But just downstream, a bridge comes into view and the gorge section is over.

Get out here if the water is low. The creek changes character dramatically here. It widens and takes on a pool drop character. There are maybe eight drops from here on down to the takeout. The first one is the most challenging. Get out on the left and inspect the twisting, narrow slot. We've always passed on the top move and just run the bottom ledge. There may be a line on the right that opens up with more water instead. The drops that follow will vary depending on water level, but they are all in the IV-V range. When you get to the takeout bridge, run the last 15 footer backwards, forwards, upside down or whatever, and then climb back up and do it again.

A quick word on difficulty: This is a fairly continuous creek with several significant hazards even if all the Class V drops are portaged. For a safe, controlled run, you should have Class V skills. This is not huck and tuck boating. I would say it's a step up from other creeks in the area I've run such as Fall Creek, Raymondskill, Beerkill, and more challenging in overall difficulty than Adirondack classics such as the Bottom Moose, the Raquette, and the Beaver. Putting in below Red Rock Falls would definitely make for a more manageable day for a Class IV paddler with a good guide at favorable water levels, but please use discretion.

I will try to get some pics up this spring. If anyone has any, please post them here. Enjoy.



Catskills Area Reaches

Basic Creek                               Batavia Kill                                    Bear Kill 

Beaver Kill (Delaware Trib)       Beaver Kill (Hudson Trib)              Beer Kill 

Beer Kill, W. Branch                  Bowery Creek                                Bush Kill 

Callicoon Creek, E. Branch       Callicoon Creek, N. Branch           Catskill Creek (1.) 

Catskill Creek (2.)                     Catskill Creek (4.)                          Claverack Creek 

Coxing Kill                                 Delaware                                       Delaware, E. Branch 

Delaware, W. Branch                Little Delaware                               Dry Brook 

East Kill                                     Esopus Creek (1)                           Esopus Creek (2) 

Esopus Creek (3)                      Esopus Creek (4)                           Esopus Creek (5) 

Hannacrois Creek                     Kaaterskill Creek (1.)                     Kaaterskill Creek (2.) 

Kinderhook Creek  (3.)              Kiskatom Creek                             Mombaccus Creek 

Mill Brook                                   Neversink (1.)                               Neversink, E. Branch 

Neversink, W. Branch                 Peters Kill                                     Platte Kill 

Plattekill Creek                            Potic Creek                                  Roeliff Jansen Kill (1) 

Roeliff Jansen Kill (2)                  Rochester Creek                          Rondout Creek (1) 

Rondout Creek (2)                     Rondout Creek (3)                        Sandburg Creek 

Saw Kill (1)                                 Saw Kill (2)                                    Saw Kill (3) 

Schoharie Creek (1.)                  Schoharie Creek (2.)                    Shingle Kill Creek 

Squirmer Creek                          Stony Clove Creek                        Ten Mile Creek 

Thorp Creek                               Tremper Kill                                   Wallkill 

West Kill                                      Woodland Creek                            Vly Creek 


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StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-04-21 17:55:46


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put InPutin
0.1Class IV BoogieIV+
0.8Fawn's Leap5.3Portage Waterfall Photo
1.0Red Rock Falls5.1Waterfall Photo
1.1Gorge SectionIV+Access Photo
1.4Atom Bomb Falls5.2Portage Waterfall
1.5Triple Drop5.0Photo
1.7End of GorgeAccess
2.8Take OutTakeout Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Put In
Driving out of Palenville, look for the gravel turn off on the left, then bushwack your way down to the creek.

Class IV Boogie (Class IV+, Mile 0.1)
From the put in to Fawn's Leap is Class IV/IV+ boulder gardens. Keep an eye out for strainers and enjoy some quality boogie water. When you see the road reappear and a waterfall coming in on your right, catch an eddy and get out to scout/portage Fawn's Leap.

Fawn's Leap (Class 5.3, Mile 0.8)

Fawn's Leap Upstream View

Fawn's Leap Upstream View
Photo by Jeff Sharpe taken 4.24.06 @ low

This comes immediately below a beautiful cascading waterfall coming into the Kaaterskill on river right. The cautious will want to get out above this on the left and walk the quarter mile or so to Red Rock Falls using the shoulder of the road. Otherwise, portage on the right for a great series of rapids leading up to Red Rock or if you're feeling REALLY good, set safety, let the cameras roll, and fire up this impressive waterfall.

Red Rock Falls (Class 5.1, Mile 1.0)

Red Rock Falls

Red Rock Falls
Photo of Red Rock Falls by Spencer taken 4.23.06 @ High

Broken vertebrae? Hmmm......

Gorge Section (Class IV+, Mile 1.1)

Entrance to Gorge Section

Entrance to Gorge Section
Photo of First Rapid below Red Rock Falls by Jeff taken 4.23.06 @ High

This is the first rapid in the Gorge section and is immediately downstream of Red Rock Falls. The Gorge is fun Class IV+ boulder garden action with the exception of Atom Bomb Falls.

Atom Bomb Falls (Class 5.2, Mile 1.4)
Ugly undercut on the left. Typically portaged or "run" by scraping over the ledge on the right. Scout on the right.

Triple Drop (Class 5.0, Mile 1.5)

Upstream View of Triple Drop

Upstream View of Triple Drop
Photo by Jeff Sharpe taken 4.24.06 @ low

This one's mandatory. The third hole is terminal at high water, so exit the gorge at Atom Bomb Falls if the level is high. At low flows, the first drop is the stickiest, but if you've made it this far, there's nothing to worry about.

End of Gorge
If you want to skip the run through town, you can take out at the bridge just outside of Palenville. The drops through town are all pool drop and of a very different character than up above. The first drop, which comes immediately downstream of the bridge, is split by an island. The left side is unrunnable and the right is very junky, but scouting needs to be done very stealthily; the landowners on either side of the river do not like visitors and have numerous "no trespassing" signs posted. There are 5 or 6 other good drops between here and the take out.

Take Out
Take out at the bridge on 32A as you are coming into Palenville from Saugerties. Multiple runs of the 15 footer at the take out are the norm.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 13 2016 (972 days ago)
rrmartinez (155234)
On 4/9, I hiked the creek. About 1/2 mile down from the put in, a tree feel on an utility pole that
has a power line crossing the creek. The power line is now hanging about 5-7 feet above the creek
bed and could be in play depending on the water level. I will post the a picture of the rapid above
and of the power line.
April 3 2010 (3174 days ago)
Wayne GmanDetails
Fawns Leap is rated a 5.3 This has been run quite a number of times over the years which means my
crew is likely to give it a go. My buddy who had fired it up 5 years ago dropped in on it in
Aug/2009. We knew the drop had changed since the historic highwater event and we were warned. the
level was not high that day. The unexpected action on the boater about half way down Fawns was to
just get uncontrollably thrown over on the right and he snapped the right blade right off his
paddle in the action. He didn't hit any rock hard with his body while falling upsidedown. He Rolled
up offside, ran back to the truck for a new paddled and we fired up all the rest of the drops at
what I thought was a very managable flow. (btw we all walked fawns after that) Just look out for
this one and post successful Fawns Leaping. Remember he stuck the line and got wrecked maybe a
medium high healthy flow is what we need there?
July 1 2006 (4546 days ago)
Eric NiesDetails
As of June 29, 2006, flood damage has closed Route 23a from Palenville to Haines Falls. You can
still put in at the bridge above town (below the gorge and triple-drop) and run the mile or so
through town, but access upstream, even on foot, will likely not happen for several months. As of
now (July 1) it is closed to car, foot, and bike traffic above the bridge.

The flooding also changed the first rapid below the bridge. The gravel bar that separated the left
(evil) and right (not so evil) channels has eroded, sending more water left. So, higher levels will
be needed to make the right side go. The left side has some new wood as well.

Apparently the flood damage upstream is very significant, washing out big chunks of road. The first
boaters who venture back should be wary.

A riverside homeowner in town said he'd never seen the river this high. He told me that his house
interior was pretty torn up from the flood. Looking at the high water line, I'm sure other homes
were damaged too.

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