Today I kayaked my way down the Kayaderosseras from Milton Center to Ballston Spa. This was much more difficult kayaking than anything I have been down so far. According to the ADK Canoe and Kayak guide to East-Central NYS, the rapids are class I with several class II rapids along the way. In higher water they could be considered class III. The water level on the Mohawk River Cohoes Gauge was at 10,000cft/s.
I dropped off my bicycle at the destination. As I drove up the creek, I scouted out some of the more worrisome sections, including several of the sections of rapids. I checked out the view from the Northline Road bridge.
I looked upstream and downstream trying to imagine how safe it would feel.
From the security of shore, the rapids looked like fun. The water was only a few feet deep, but fast moving, and seemed perfectly safe. Once I actually got in the water, the water was a lot more intimidating.
I drove up to Milton Center, and put the kayak in the water. There were rapids almost the entire way down. I could only pause to take a picture at this relatively calm spot:
Early on, I arrived at my first of many obstacles. This one consisted of a narrow chute of fast-moving water obstructed by a large log. Someone with mad skills (or perhaps a bow saw) could probably get through this easily enough, but not me. I portaged around this one.
Further down the way, I encountered a similar scenario that looked a lot easier to get around. I was not able to paddle around the log, and ended up with the current pinning the kayak sideways against the log. I was stuck. I ejected from the kayak, and managed to let go of the paddle. Yard sale! I chased the paddle, but it had gotten caught up in some logs under the water. I went back to the boat and dragged it away from the log. It was full of water and weighed a ton. I struggled with the boat until I managed to get it back to shore, and went back to the paddle. The paddle was under the water, bent into an arch shape by the current. I grabbed the paddle and yanked it out of the water. It is still a little bent, but it seems to work ok.
Fallen trees covered half of the river in many places. At times this required some fast slalom action through big waves. It was very challenging because in the rapids, you need to focus on getting through the present situation, but at the same time you need to be looking far ahead to determine if you want to commit or if you need to look for a quick place to bail out. Meanwhile, you have to pay close attention to what you can't see ahead. If you are in rapids and there is something blocking your view of what's ahead, it seems to me that you have no choice but to find the shore and scout out ahead rather than take a big chance. Most of the time you don't have the luxury of pausing to think about a situation because the powerful current is always dragging you quickly forward. It was nerve-wracking, and by the end I was ready to be out of the water.
As soon as I looked back at the water, it once again looked fun and no big deal, but now I know that it feels worse than it looks!
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation change: 232 feet
Avg Slope: 58 feet per mile
Time taken: 1 hour, 13 minutes (kayaking)
A month and a half later...
I drove by the Kayaderosseras and took a quick picture of the take-out point on August 13 (a month and a half later when the Mohawk River Cohoes Gauge was at 2000cft/s). Previously, the water was rushing by so fast that I wasn't sure I'd be able to stop the boat to get out. On this day, the creekbed had hardly any water in it and would have been entirely unkayakable. It looks as though I was kayaking during a really good time in the season! Here is what it looked like on August 13: