5 – The Chatham Chop

Stanley 1

This next stretch of river goes from the Stanley Street Bridge to the Canoe Brook reservoirs, just north of Route 24.  It’s my home town, and the area I have best scouted, or so I thought.  I knew to expect some choppy rocky areas, and am relieved that the morning’s rain will provide enough depth to kayak the whole way.  After a typical long summer stretch without rain, this section might involve a lot of kayak dragging.

Stanley 1.5

Back in the water, there is a 2’+ drop right away.  There is well enough current to go right over, and my family is right there on the side, watching and sending me off, video recording for fb posterity.  The drop goes well with not too much water coming in, my go pro making it look worse that it was.

Stanley 2

I bought a gopro for the trip. It’s a cute little 1 ½” cube that I’ve mounted on the kayak, and it’s voice activated.  While not as interactive and hilarious as Siri can be, I’m still finding it amusing in the peaceful moments of solitude to be having a conversation with my camera.

Stanley 2.5

Right after the Stanley drop, I’ve come up to the NJ Transit Chatham Train Bridge I go over and back each day.  I know it’s tall but I’m not prepared for what I see.  This is an all stone block bridge rising up improbably high with a long graceful arch.  No concrete, this is a fitted stone masterpiece of great strength and grace.  It could easily be Roman.  Then passing under I let out a loud sound as I have under each bridge to see what kind of echo, if any, I get back.  This great stone curve responds with incredible smooth reverberation.  It’s a mystifying sound, haunting in a positive way.

Stanley 3

Up ahead there is little time to pause as I’ve hit the rapids.  At the outset there is a rock in the middle that I look at most days from the train atop the bridge to gauge the water level.  I maneuver and get a good touch of this rock, and am surprised by the unexpected surge of energy I get back.

The rocks are now all over and I’m actively negotiating a path in this shallower faster section of river.  The river is wide, with great branches sweeping over.  There are roads close by, including River Road, but there’s so much going on I hardly notice.  It’s a great stretch with a few calm parts.  Between Chatham Road and Main Street there is a dam with a 1 ½ -2 foot drop.  It’s at the end of a straight fast stretch and has concrete embankments on each side.  I pulled over to scout.  On the left side there is a concrete platform at the bottom of the drop that has the real chance of wrecking a kayak in certain conditions.  It’s clear on the right side where I went over and was fun.  This is a section that must be scouted and assessed for the conditions of the moment and the skills of the kayaker.  Portaging is a good idea.

A few more rapids and I’m under Route 24 and into the Canoe Brook Water Reservoirs.




Author: paddlingthepassaic

Architect, husband, father, outdoorsman, tango dancer, tai chi-er and cook. paddler too :)

One thought on “5 – The Chatham Chop”

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