This is the headwaters of the Raritan, mostly class I-II. I've never tried above Naughright road, but by the looks of it from the Manor House Road Bridge you'd need a chainsaw and a kevlar suit to paddle down from Budd Lake. I last did this stretch in an ocean kayak in 92, so I have to check this run out again some day. There could be strainers and various hazards so watch out as usual. Please send any updates. This is mostly moving flat water, with riffles here and there. However, when the South Branch High Bridge Gauge is at 9-10 feet, you will find some hidden central NJ park and play spots... see you there! At high water, however, there is the danger of low bridges: one definite hazard in Middle Valley, and the Long Valley bridge could be tight, too. In general, this is a fun paddle for big open boats. Bring your cooler and picnic. The scenery is incredible. The put-in may look a little brambly, but it opens up. A fun treat is paddling into Long Valley and Califon. The towns creep up and suddenly you're paddling by houses that are built right on the river (from days when building codes were kind of loose). You'll probably want to portage over the dam below Califon (pass the iron bridge and a small lake in town. The next stretch (Califon to Hoffman's) starts to pick up: more rocks, some class II, and probably more strainers, so be more alert. Take out at Hoffman's Crossing bridge for the end of the run.
Crumbling dam ruins shortly below put-in and just above Califon both runnable. Must carry dam below pond in Califon. Read my longer comment.
Ran this stretch on July 12, 2020--the second day after four inches of rain--when (per USGS) it was running only 90-100 CFS (about 6.3 ft. on High Bridge gauge and falling). Gertler gives minimum level of 6.5 ft. on High Bridge gauge to run this section and, for the most part, it would definitely have been better to have SOME more water to facilitate running rock-gardens and over the MANY rock weirs installed to improve the fishing. BUT to update, this stretch now has quite a few downed-tree strainers in the first 7 1/2 miles before it crosses under Route 513. There are at least a half-dozen places where large, fallen trees span the river bank-to-bank and boats need to be lifted over them. You will test your boat-handling and flexibility in maneuvering around and ducking under the many obstacles. There are at least two low bridges above Route 513 that may well have been impossible to pass under at even modestly-higher flow levels.
That being said, the dam ruins and fishing weirs were all runnable, with a lot of bottom-bumping, at the levels encountered--but you would NOT want to have the water any lower or you'd be wading way more than the little bit I found necessary.
That being said, the mixed forest, bottomland scenery is about as good as it gets anywhere in NJ. Sighted herons, mergansers, hawks, muskrat, and what was probably river otter along the way.
Gertler called this a "novice run" (back in the '90's), but it requires your attention, one way or another for most of its 11 miles. The guidebook says it takes 3.5 hours from start to finish, but it took me 4.5 hours in low flows. Again, you wouldn't want to go at any lower levels.
Bring a sense of adventure and a flexible spine. This is not some kind of "nice people", Sunday cruise with the kids and cooler type of outing despite what has been previously posted about it.
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