Paddling the Raritan River, from end to end Sign up for final trip Saturday, Sept. 17

For years, kayaking enthusiast Suki Dewey dreamed of paddling the length of the Raritan River – the   longest river completely in New Jersey – from the headwaters near her home in Oldwick to Perth Amboy, where the river opens into Raritan Bay.

She was intrigued when Brian Horowitz, who leads paddling trips for the Appalachian Mountain Club, suggested a similar journey this past spring. Dewey, a trustee of Raritan Headwaters Association in Bedminster, immediately volunteered to work with Brian to make it a reality.

The result has been the Raritan River Sojourn, a 50-mile paddling expedition down the Raritan over six non-consecutive weekends this summer, starting on the South Branch of the Raritan River in Clinton on July 10 and ending in Perth Amboy on Saturday, Sept. 17.

“The Raritan is really a peaceful, beautiful river,” said Dewey, who joined fellow paddling enthusiasts the first three days, missing Day 4 due to vacation. “We saw an eagle every day, and kingfishers galore.”

While the first two paddles were along relatively narrow and forested stretches of the South Branch, the river widened after the confluence with the North Branch. The final two trips go through some of New Jersey’s more developed and industrial areas.

Horowitz, a Bridgewater resident, said planning Days 5 and 6 was bit tricky because the Raritan River below Johnson Park in Piscataway is tidal. “It all came down to when the right tides were available (on a weekend),” he said.

He’s arranged the remaining trip to begin at high tide so the river is sure to be deep enough for paddling. Paddlers will be able to take advantage of the outgoing tide as they head eastward toward Raritan Bay.

The final leg will take paddlers about nine miles, from the Edison Boat Basin to Perth Amboy. The river will be wider and more open, but divided in places by an island. The channel on one side has been dredged to accommodate commercial traffic, said Brian, so the paddlers will stick to the quiet side. A boat of at least 12 feet is recommended.

A Different Perspective

Dewey said organizing the Sojourn interested her because few residents of the Raritan Basin ever see the view from the river: “People say, ‘This is my river, but I’ve never been on it.’”

The Raritan isn’t a big paddling destination, she said, because many paddlers don’t think of it as a viable river for their sport. The upper portions can be very shallow in dry weather, portages are required in a number of places, and there is little whitewater.

But those who take the trip, she said, are rewarded with views of New Jersey that they could never get from the road. They also get to see, firsthand, where much of the region’s drinking water supply originates.

Raritan River Sojourn’s pilot season so far has been a success, with seven to 15 paddlers joining for each leg of the trip. Assuming the last paddle of the season goes well, Horowitz and Dewey hope to repeat the Sojourn next summer.

“The event has been a lot of fun, and I hope it continues,” said Dewey.

“If we do this again, we’ll include more of the North Branch,” added Horowitz.

For more information about the Day 6 paddle, go to http://activities.outdoors.org/search/index.cfm/action/details/id/91343&act=13