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We put-in at New Brooklyn Lake just below the dam on a cool and sunny day. We were on the river at 5:30 and I was in the water at 6:15 for a brisk morning swim. I tried to finesse a slim channel of water at a right angle between 2 deadfalls. I never saw the branch that caught me in the ribs and knocked me sideways, tipping the canoe. A good way to start Friday the 13th.
The upper section of the River, New Brooklyn to Piney Hollow, is quite beautiful, is wilder than the lower sections, as it passes through Winslow Wildlife Management Area. After navigating channels through the grasses, we encountered deadfall upon deadfall... for hours.
Climbing over, scrunching under, ramming through briar, branches, spiderwebs, thorns reminded me of playing in the creeks of my youth. Except my ancient, desk-job body ain't what it used to be. I'm still paying for the dozens of times I flung my 6'3" frame under canoe seats to clear low-lying trees. The briar and woods were so thick in spots along the bank, there was no opportunity to portage - we either lifted over or crawled under. A chainsaw would have been no help, as the girth of some of these trees was massive. We did use the occasional handsaw to prune some of the smaller fangs from these monsters.
The first 10 hours were more running an obstacle course than canoeing. Below Route 54, the liftovers almost vanished, and the paddling got easier, despite low water level.
During our outing we saw geese a'nesting, goslings, turtles, osprey, an huge eagles nest (at Lake Lenape) with Momma and young'un, ducks & ducklings, a swimming raccoon. It never ceases to amaze me that an urbanized and very suburbanized Southern New Jersey contains these wonderfully wild, tortuous (and sometimes torturous) rivers.
We reached the third checkpoint, Weymouth, at 7pm. I knew the last time we paddled from this point to the boat ramp at Lake Lenape, we took 3 leisurely hours. I also recalled that we'd left my car in a gated parking area at the put-in that closed at 10pm. We picked up the pace and paddled Weymouth to Lenape in about 1.5 hours. We arrived in darkness, around 8:40pm, and I swore to myself I'd never do the trip again - well, at least until next year.
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