Minimal Water Level to Paddle Rivers

Dochartaigh

New Member
Sep 4, 2015
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Pennington, NJ and Levittown, PA
Hello all, first post here and I thought I'd go straight to the experts of the Pine Barrens for this information:

What are the lowest runnable water levels on the Mullica, Batsto, Oswego, and Wading rivers for a kayak?

Below I made a list of each river, the USGS gauge link, what section(s) I most frequently run, and what I *think* to be the lowest runnable water level (taken from my personal experience, and peoples trip reports online). I'm completely open to different gauges to use, different water level numbers, or better methods to find out if a river is runnable a certain day (besides driving down there to tell for myself).


MULLICA RIVER (Atsion Lake to Pleasant Mills)
USGS Gauge: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?01409400
0.95 feet minimum (lowest I've run it lately is 1.15' and it was perfect)

WADING RIVER (Speedwell to Hawkin, or Hawkin to Evans bridge)
USGS Gauge: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv/?site_no=01409810&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060
10.3' minimum (lowest I've done was 10.42' and for the first couple hundred yards we had to get out of our boats a couple times and pull them, but pretty good after that)

OSWEGO RIVER (Oswego Lake to Harrisville Dam)
USGS Gauge: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv?01410000
2.82' minimum ***besides a couple spikes due to rain, this gauge has been at this level all summer long...and everyone says you can only run the Oswego early or late in the season...is this true? Or has it been a freak occurrence this season?

BATSTO RIVER (Hampton Furnace to Batsto Village)
NO GAUGE, I use the Mullica gauge to judge this river (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?01409400)
0.95 feet minimum ***any better source for judging the Batsto?


Any help would be greatly appreciated. I've tried calling the local canoe rental places, but WAY too many times now they've told me the water level is OK, zero complaints...they just had a guy do it yesterday....and then I get stuck on a river dragging my kayak behind me 20+ times to make it to the end...
 
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ecampbell

Piney
Jan 2, 2003
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We stick to Qswego and Atsion Lakes now, and out of Crowleys. No point in fighting it. Wait for lots of rain!
 

Dochartaigh

New Member
Sep 4, 2015
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Pennington, NJ and Levittown, PA
I hear you. I've been checking water levels a couple times a week (especially after rain). Even after we have a pretty large downpour the water levels are still extremely low on most of those rivers...I haven't been out on an overnight kayak trip since the beginning of the season.
 

Dochartaigh

New Member
Sep 4, 2015
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Pennington, NJ and Levittown, PA
Been there, done that Karl – and no thank you! Think my record on the Mullica from Atsion to Mullica River Camp was 8 hours (with some people new to kayaking), and 542 is even further down.

That sounds like our last trip down the Wading from Speedwell to Hawkin Bridge. Probably no less than 12 fallen trees we had to portage around (water level was high, but the problem was the banks drop off quickly so I had to backtrack nearly every time to find a decent place to get out of my kayak...then drag the kayak back to where the tree was to get back in).
 

Dochartaigh

New Member
Sep 4, 2015
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Pennington, NJ and Levittown, PA
So what do you guys think about paddling this weekend on the Batsto or Mullica rivers? Here's the USGS gauge for Mullica (from Atsion Lake)



If it keeps on following it's downward slope from last weeks rain, it'll probably be below my drop-dead point of 0.95 feet....but I'm dying to get in one last overnight trip on the river before it gets too cold out (yes, I'm a wimp and don't like camping when it gets to ~40º at night...or I should say the people I go with just can't handle it ;)
 

Jason Howell

Explorer
Nov 23, 2009
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I paddle quite a bit. I would say your levels are right on with the Oswego. I have run it below 2.8 but there is some scraping to for sureand walking from time to time in a canoe. The hardest part on low Water is the Martha pond area where there are many stumps on which to stub ones toes. Oswego water level was looking real nice as of this morning.
 

Dochartaigh

New Member
Sep 4, 2015
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Pennington, NJ and Levittown, PA
Thanks for the confirmation!

I think there's a problem with the Oswego gauge thought – I don't think it's a very accurate way to tell how the paddling conditions are...

For example, when the Mullica was at well below half it's runable water height (i.e. drought everwhere), the Oswego gauge was still right around it's 2.82' runable level. When people are saying they hiked around the Oswego area and saw bare gravel on the riverbed glistening in the sun - the Oswego gauge still said that same 2.82 feet level (when it's perfectly clear if you try to kayak you're going to be dragging your boat behind you more than you'll be paddling it).

So does anybody have any better ideas on how to gauge when is a good time to go on these various rivers, or is this about it? Mullica gauge seems pretty accurate in my experience (if my 0.95 drop-dead number is correct). Oswego gauge I'm still not sold on. Batsto doesn't have a gauge. Wading seems to be passable most of the year (Hawkin Bridge down at least)...
 
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