Water Temp East Branch Delaware River - Downsville

Hi Everyone,

The East Branch is close to us, though we haven’t paddled it before. Looking into it for leisurely day trips. Trying to reconcile a water temp question.

All the posts I’ve found, like this one and this one , suggest that it’s an easy beginner paddle. There’s a great outfitter there who also rents boats to tourists.

However, the water temp gauge at Downsville shows the temp in the low 40s, which I thought puts it into extreme dry suit territory.

I will likely call the outfitter; just hesitant as I’m not planning to rent boats from him.

Anyone have experience on this section? Am I missing something?



Temperature appears to be in the mid to upper 60s and climbing from the lower 70s a couple of days ago.

If there is a dam upstream of where you are planning on paddling a dam release can increase the current and lower the temperature substantially. I wouldn’t hesitate to call the outfitter. Most outfitters are happy to give advice and problems due to unprepared paddlers are bad for business.

Thanks! I did call. I think I got someone other than the owner… Clearly wanted to just hang up and send me to their site. =)

They did say that the temp there is always in the 40s because of the constant release from the bottom of the reservoir. If you wanted nicer paddles you need to go downstream.

Still not sure how they can market that launch point as novice when the temp is so low. I know the 120F rule… But 40s is /cold/.

Thanks again!

The 120°F rule has no scientific basis and is no longer cited by the USCG or the ACA which was largely responsible for its spread. However, this zombie “rule” still lives on in various corners of the internet.

Always dress for the water temperature. Once you are in the water the air temperature in largely irrelevant.

It’s a mystery to me how outfitters rent boats with water temperatures like this. They must have a great liability waiver. Around The Chesapeake area most reputable outfitters shut down when the water temperature goes below 60°F, or if they rent boats will only rent to people who have suitable cold water gear.

Interesting! I hadn’t heard that it was a zombie rule.

I’ve paddled Downsville to Hancock in a tandem canoe. It’s an easy beginner paddle. I did it in shorts and a t-shirt in summer with a PFD on and don’t recall the water temperature being a concern. It may be have been cold at the put in, but not alarmingly or memorably so. And I recall that section of the river being relatively shallow and the flow wasn’t heavy, so maybe it seemed like we wouldn’t be immersed for long if we dumped.

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For extensive information on the dangers of cold water immersion and other discredited rules regarding this topic check out the National Center for Cold Water Safety.

Water temperatures can change dramatically the further downstream you are from a deep dam release, especially with shallow water.

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TY! I might go and scout it sometime.