Cattaraugus Creek, NY

Has anyone paddled the Cattaraugus Creek NY from Zoar Bridge to Gowanda lately? Are the levels sufficient to paddle this Sunday? Is there a shuttle available?

Doe anyone have any additional information as we have not paddled this creek before.

This looks like an amazing place to paddle.

PS. I am posting for someone else…so Ness if you are wondering…no I am not taking a ride on the Thruway…lol

The AW page says too low from G on

– Last Updated: Nov-03-10 6:42 PM EST –

down, so one might assume the run just above is too low also. Generally AW describes things as runnable when I consider them too low.

Error on my part. AW says the stretch from Zoar bridge to G is too low.

Zoar Valley
is pretty sweet. Never paddled through, just hiked/scrambled.

I live a few miles from there.There is a gauge reading you can access on line but unfortunatly I don’t remember what level is enough.This creek comes up fast with rain upstream.This is a beautiful wilderness gorge trip past a large section of virgin forest. A word of caution-this is challenging when the level is high and once in the gorge acess is extremly difficult in emergencys. Except for one area where a helicopter can land,a basket trip up the 400’ goarge wall is the only way out once help gets to you. People die down there every year.


Cat creek
The water is low. When it is up, this is a solid class 3 run. It goes up to a nasty class 4 to 5 when it gets a lot of water. It goes up fast and comes down the same way.

I do not know of any shuttle service.

it’s raining lightly here now,but heavier rain is forcast for tomorrow. I could possibly help with shuttles,but don’t want to run it myself.


Thought maybe you were coming here

– Last Updated: Nov-04-10 9:18 PM EST –

If so, you would be invited to come see us!

Kim, your friends should join the Zoar Valley Paddlers Club Yahoo group and post and ask their questions.

The ZVPC are the people who know their stuff about the Catt.

I have only paddled above the gorge, at 1.9 - 2.1 feet, only up to the take out at North Otto Rd, and that level was considered too low for the gorge.

I have never paddled through the gorge to the take out at Gowanda. Twilight_Paddler from here has done that paddle, though. Maybe he can help?

The Zoar Valley Rafting Company runs whitewater rafts through the gorge in the Spring. I have seen pix of the water in the gorge at 3.5 feet, and it looked BIG (or ask Riverman69; he went through it on a raft at that level). I am told it is a solid class III most of the time, but can easily get higher than that. It rises and falls quickly.

I know that 2 feet is too low to run the gorge. I think the "good" level to run it is between 2.5 and 3 feet, but don't quote me on that.

Your friends should try to make contact with the ZVPC for the best info.

And if you ever come up this way, we'd love to see you!

Catt Creek Gauge,00060

Gauge level of 2.5 or more is good!

– Last Updated: Nov-04-10 8:26 PM EST –

That is an excellent run!!!!

Generally most experienced white water kayakers want around a 3 or more...

For canoing, it's good from about 2.5 on up - although, once the gauge is much over 3, plan on bailing an awful lot - the whole run is a series of drop ledges.....

With that said, we run it a lot at lower levels also - below 1.9 -2 on the gauge, it really isn't worth it. But, above 2 it can be fun... just not as fun... At these lower levels you have to read the water carefully - it is very channelized and not a lot of choices of where to go. Last winter I had an absolute blast twice (once in Dec, once in Jan) at a level of about 2...

Depending on water levels, this run can range from class II's and III's to hard IV's or greater. I'd say 2-3 on the guage expect mostly class II's and III's... Be warned though, a few of the rapids are kind of must make - a swim would be very bad!!! There is a great potential for foot entrapments so keep your feet up!!!! Also, as you come into gowanda, at several areas there are additional hazards - rebar is sticking out of the concrete walls - sometimes just out of sight, an inch below the surface... they can create nasty holes in boats and paddlers have been impaled on them. So, stay away from any concrete walls.... A few of the rapids have some nasty holes which can be keepers... they do recirculate at the right water levels.

Once the gauge hits 4 -6, anyone paddling this better have some solid skills. At this level you are talking solid class III's and higher. Swimming becomes very bad at these levels. Very long swims, very sharp rocks, many crevices and trenches to get stuck in, not too mention undercut rocks....

over 6.5 on the gauge, I personally won't run it anymore. For one, it's too hard to fit under bridges, and mainly, swims are just too bad! The consequences of a mistake are really just too high.

It is a very scenic paddle - the gorge is amazing. I would be surprised if you don't see any eagles. As noted above, you are pretty much on your own - it is very difficult for anyone to get in to rescue someone. It can literally take 3-4 hours or more for help to arrive, especially if they have to hike in (sometimes impossible at higher levels). Bring first aid, extra clothing, and basic boat repair materials... At higher levels (3.5 or more) swims can get interesting - as in, very long!!!

It is basically all shale - so expect very sharp rocks... Some of the rapids do have nasty strainers so scouting is very helpful... Many times you will encounter islands - one channel may be wood infested while the other is open - and many times you won't see the strainers until after you've already committed to a particular channel.

According to this gauge,,1,1,1,1,1

it should running around 2.8 this coming sat, and looking good for at least 2.5 on this coming sun.. This would be a fun level to run at - especially if unfamiliar with this section. This section can literally rise a foot or more within 1/2 hour, and can drop just as fast. Every summer people are rescued due to not paying attention to the water - a lot of hiking trails are actually right next to the river, and will be flooded quite often. It can be nice and sunny in zoar valley, but if it is raining upstream the river can literally rise fast enough that people get trapped... Generally at least 5 people die each year, sometimes drownings, sometimes falling off cliffs...

Every time it gets higher water levels of 6 or more, the river changes drastically - entire islands come and go, channels open and close... huge boulders get moved... We automatically scout just about everything the first time we run it after high water. The river is so twisty that you usually can't see the whole rapid from the top...

A few of us just ran it last weekend at about 2.5 and it was lots of fun!

Even with lower levels, the gorge is so scenic that it is worth it! Many little waterfalls (many nearly 300' high), eagles, cliffs, etc, just make this area absolutely beautiful!!!

I'm not really aware of anyone offering shuttle services in this area.... if i didn't have to work this weekend i'd run and offer to help with shuttling, but work is work...

Hope this info helps - sorry about the disorganization but I only had a few minutes to write it...

Thanks Kyle
I figured you knew the area. Glad you could post this.

Gauge level of 2.5 or more is good!

Thanks for all the replies. We are planning it on Sunday even if it is low. We are coming from Kitchener Ontario and have never paddled this creek before so we are looking forward to the beautiful area and will be aware of all the dangers. Hopefully the water level will come up a bit. We will now likely have at least 2 open canoes and 1 or 2 kayaks at this point so it appears we will not need a shuttle. Our plans should be firmed up sometime tonite.

Again - thanks for all the replies

Tom Harman

have fun
Good luck and have fun! We will be looking forward to a trip report. I am an open boater myself but have only run the Gorge in a raft with an experianced guide. It was over 3 ft that day. Please keep those canoes out of the big holes.

Would love to have a trip report
Yes, please do post a trip report. I would love to hear how it goes, and what you thought of it, Please be careful, but have fun.

PS A lesser class I & II section can be run from the Hammond Hill Rd bridge to the N. Otto Rd. bridge. It’s also very beautiful, with high gorge walls on one side at parts, and you’ll usually see an eagle or two. But watch out for the strainers; they can be nasty.

Trip Report
Thanks for all the good tips about the creek. It was a bit of a drive from Burlington, Ontario where our group car pooled from but not too bad. The weather once we left Buffalo seemed to get dreary and the fields had a light dusting of snow. It was amusing to see snow plows out as there was not enough snow to even bother with. The temperature was about 5 deg C but we were prepared for the cooler weather. We had trouble getting to Zoar Valley Rd due to a new road contruction (we think)but we finally found North Otto bridge and put in at approx 11:50a.

The water level was approx 2.2 and the river was low but was manageable. Our group consisted of 2 tandem canoes and 2 kayaks. This was our first time down the creek and would be a new experience for most of us. One of our members paddled this river several years ago. We were greeted in the parking lot by a dog named Reign and he followed us the whole trip down the River to Gowanda. As we travelled down the creek we scraped on some rocks in several places but were able to find our way down. Some places were a little more difficult and we had to step out of the canoe and manouever our way thru the rocks. This is such a great river with spectacluar views. Our time was a little short due to the time change and we did not want to be off the river past 5:00 so we did not take a lot of pics. For our first time down the river we were quite glad to have the lower water level however if is was approx 3" higher I am sure it would have been more fun and would not hit as many rocks. Some of the rapids were quite large and a little challengeing with the cross currents due to the uneven ledges, holes etc. There were certainly some holes and ledges to avoid and unfortunately there were 2 canoe upsets, one in a hole and another on a ledge with a hidden obstacle. Unfortuantely we dumped near the end on a ledge with a hidden obstacle that hit the bottom of the canoe hard and tipped us unexpectedly and I lost my paddle. We searched to find the paddle and found it sticking staright up in the middle of the rapid where we dumped. We were able to throw a rope and free the paddle only to find the blade was broken. That sucked! Anyways we all had a great time and definetly will do it again next year at hopefully a slightly higher level. The trip took us just over 4 hours to paddle and take out at Gowanda.

Running the Catt.
If you want, I can let you know the next time we run it. We usually have a few kayaks and then myself as the only openboater. It would be nice not to be the only openboater. Although that’s slowly changing… At least one kayaker is now becoming an avid openboater.

The catch is, we play it by ear - when it rains and comes up, we try to catch it. Sometimes we know a few days ahead, but usually just plan a run the day before.

cat creek
Thanks for the report.

Twilight_Paddler, Catt this Saturday?

I think I’d have a rare window to catch the Catt gorge on Saturday. Looks like there’s plenty of rain on the way but will it hold? Don’t have a good feel.

The catch is I’m leaving on a trip and would have to know by tomorrow a.m. If it looks like anyone might be trying to run the Catt I’ll bring a WW canoe. Otherwise, I’ll probably take a non WW boat with me.

What say you Twilight_Paddler? I’d love to paddle it with you.

Catt on Saturday
Looks like we may be interested to run the Catt on Saturday if levels work out fine. I am trying to gather the same folks that ran it 2 weeks ago. Is anyone else interested? We are travelling from The Kitchener/Guelph, Ontario area.

Hope the water’s up for you
My plans have since changed though and the Catt on Sat is no longer an option for me. Someday I’ll get there.