Oswegatchie: Kevlar or Royalex?

I’m looking to do a few days on the Oswegatchie a little later this fall, before it gets too chilly. Inlet up to High Falls and possibly beyond. Would I be a fool to take a Kevlar canoe up there at this time of year? Jamieson says it’s pretty rocky. My choice is between a Kevlar Wenonah MN2 and a Bell Alaskan in Royalex. I prefer the MN2 for its tracking and light-weight, but I’m a little hesitant on account of those rocks—not to mention the tight twists and turns. The Bell can handle all of that just fine, but lord she’s a beast. Any thoughts?

It should be no problem. Yes, there are a few rocks, but the current is relatively slow and easy to paddle in either direction. Some rocks are not entirely visible, depending on water level if they are just brelow the surface or not. But nothing is dangerous in the flow, unless you cannot stand a surprise scratch or two from an unseen subsurface boulder in easy current. I paddle kevlar and carbon fiber canoes in this water without issue or worry. The area of Griffin rapids, really just riffles over small stone shallows, may concern you, but it is a short section and you will soon be back into deeper water. You will encounter beaver dams, especially if you go beyond High Falls there may be many. The river in general is winding with many turns, so you will hone your steering skills here.

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I basically agree with yknpdlr, although I can’t remember whether we paddled all the way up to High Falls (we definitely didn’t do the hike).

Anyway, depending on water levels you’ll have to either drag or carry over a lot of beaver dams. I attached a picture from one of our campsites. It shows what was probably the rockiest water we encountered, and also where the current was the strongest. There’s nothing too technical, but you can certainly bash a rock if you’re not being careful.

We were paddling a Old Town Penobscot 16 in Royalex. The weight was never an issue since there aren’t any portages (other than the occasional lift over a beaver dam). The only other consideration that comes to mind is the tight turns. Anything less maneuverable than what we were paddling would have gotten annoying with the turns.

I guided a Boy Scout troop down the Oswegatchie from Lows not long after the 1995 Derecho 100mph blow down. They used aluminum grumman canoes and loved it so much they came back and requested that I guide them again the next year. I was in a home built woodstrip canoe, which survived the whole trip just fine with no damage. Above the falls, we lost count of the number of beaver dams and log blockages at around number 70. You won’t see obstacles quite like this today, but it was quite an adventure back then. There is a short section as shown in bonpawtuck’s image not far from High Falls, but it is short and easily walkable with a line if the water happens to be low. Can be paddled upstream with ease.

I paddled about two-thirds of the way up from Inlet to High Falls in 2020, eventually giving up and hiking the rest of the way to High Falls because I was tired of the meanders and soloing a 15ft Wenonah Heron royalex with a 70lb dog + gear for 2 nights in a strong headwind. I don’t remember the rocks being a problem at all. I remember a LOT of meandering. I did drag over a bunch of beaver dams (half a dozen in the stretch I did maybe?). I had picked the trip over lakes because of the wind forecast for the weekend, and was surprised that even at a pretty low water (I was well below the surrounding shrubs on either side of the bank), the wind was funneled and gave me a good fight. I keep records on water levels and experiences from trips. Here are my notes for that trip:
200 cfs/approx 2.4ft stage: a bit low in places, manageable but swift in places going upstream. Gauge readings from below Inlet USGS Current Conditions for USGS 04262000 OSWEGATCHIE RIVER NEAR OSWEGATCHIE NY

This is helpful. Thanks for the USGS numbers.

I’ve been up in the Adirondacks for the last two weeks. Due to frequent and heavy rain many of the lake are 1.5 ’ above normal and some rivers that are normally not navigable at this time of year are passible but running fast.

However we’ve had a number of windy days. On the first day of the 90 Miler they’re dealing with 15 - 20 mph stern quartering winds, sporadic rain, and 56 degree temperatures. A number of people appear to have opted out.

We’re staying in a cabin on the beach where they end up on this leg.

Two four man canoes finished at about 1:40. No one else in sight. NW winds at 20 and whitecaps across the lake. Waves 1 - 1.5’ short period with about 2 mile fetch.

A child was just swept off the point about .75 miles above us with a pink inflatable unicorn or something. They don’t appear to be in trouble and are blowing into the finish area.

They are now repositioning the finish line buoys as they have been blown out of position.

That was no child, it was an adult idiot just blowing around in the whitecaps. He’s been out there before in past years, photographing, but he did not appear to have a camera today.