Kayaking & Canoeing on the Lower Raritan

Smiling kayaker

Photo: Raritan Riverkeeper

Paddlers on the Lower Raritan get a surprisingly lush and peaceful view of Central Jersey that is more than worth the effort. In many places there is nothing to observe but vegetation, wildlife, rippling water and quiet. Even in the lower reaches, where the river is lined by industrial sites, the experience can be unexpectedly serene.

The 25-mile Lower Raritan corridor has many public access points from which to launch a canoe or kayak. It is important to note, however, that the river segment between the North Branch/South Branch Confluence and Bound Brook (about 11 miles) includes five* separate dams that must be portaged; all paddlers must exit the river and walk around these dams on land. Some of the dams are not well-marked, and all present a serious hazard for those unfamiliar with the river. Only experienced paddlers who know the locations of these hazards should venture out onto the upper portions of the Lower Raritan without a guide. The Raritan, like most large rivers, is also subject to wide variations in flow…and flooding…after storms and during spring snow melt. Caution and good judgement are always the first order when considering any boating activity.

Crew on Raritan River

Photo: Sustainable Raritan Initiative

The lower portion of the Raritan is free of dams, and the segment in Bound Brook and Piscataway is the easiest to navigate. When one gets into the tidal portion of the Raritan, which starts around Piscatawy/Franklin Township, prior planning is needed to avoid being “stranded” due to shallow water when the tide goes out. A one-way paddle during high tide is recommended — an excursion where paddlers arrange to be picked up at the eastern end of their trip, rather than attempting to make the return trip “upriver” by paddling when the tide is going out.

The Raritan Riverkeeper and at least two kayak/boat excursion companies, Kayak East and Reel Therapy, offer limited opportunities to paddle the Lower Raritan with a group and guide during the warm months. Near the mouth of the river, the Raritan Bay Paddling Club, new in 2012, is currently soliciting members for group outings.

Raritan Riverkeeper 2012 Kayak Outing Schedule: www.nynjbaykeeper.org/images/stories/PDF_Files/2012_Kayak_flyer.pdf

Reel Therapy Kayak Eco Adventures: http://www.usgreenzone.com/

Kayak East 2012 Kayak Outing Schedule: www.kayakeast.com/PAGES/tours.htm#Raritan

Caution: Always wear a life jacket when boating. Use caution, and study the hazards before venturing into river recreation of any kind.

*The Calco Dam at Bridgewater/Bound Brook was removed in 2011, and two additional dams are slated for removal in the next few years.

Dam Removal Report — www.raritan.rutgers.edu/resources/2012NJDamRemovalGuidance.pdf

Video of Calco Dam removal — www.nynjbaykeeper.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=123&Itemid=70

GoogleEarth map of the Lower Raritan Corridor —
If you have Google Earth on your computer (you can get it here if you don’t) you can view an interactive GoogleEarth map of access points, recreational, ecological, and cultural resources on the Lower Raritan. Alternatively, you can view a Google Maps version.

Raritan Riverkeeper Access Map — www.nynjbaykeeper.org/images/stories/PDF_Files/raritanriveraccess.pdf