I spent this last weekend on the Deerfield River with a bunch of AMC NY folks. Friday and Sunday were spent on the Deerfield, Dryway Section, but Saturday….oh Saturday.
Satuday was my, let’s try canoeing again day on the Fife Brook, a class II river finishing out with class III rapid Zoar Gap. I had already done the Mongaup, a class II+ NY river that feeds into the Delaware and fell in love with it. That time was also in a Detonator, a pretty stable boat. This time was in a Zoom, a not so stable boat. But man what a ride! Short and feisty (like yours truly), Zoom was fast and responsive. I loved that boat, even after going down at Zoar Gap. Anyway, enough gushing over the boats, time to talk about the river.
Every boater needs a beginner river to get started, and the Deerfield, Fife is one of those rivers. Most of it is simple class II with some great practice rapids like Pinball for catching eddies. The river put-in is a little below a dam, just like the Dryway section. Actually, a few different put-ins exist since the road follows the river for the most part, a nice thing if you need to meet up with folks who got an earlier start. Other put-ins include the Bridge to Nowhere and at the Freight Train rapid.
Again, most the river is class II with the exception of Zoar Gap, which is class III+. It has
changed since Irene and apparently has become harder, though I can’t say since I moved up after the hurricane. Those wishing to opt out for the rapid have a last takeout spot, on river right. There are big signs warning of the upcoming rapid. This rapid is definitely different from the rest of the river; I was actually surprised by how the dynamics changed. It narrows, and the water picks up speed. It goes from a wide, somewhat gentle river to a little bit of a boulder garden (my favorite!). The rapid starts center and then paddling either left or right of a big hole in center. If going left, watch out for swirly eddy by catching it to set up or skirting to the right of it with a left-hand angle. If going right, just plow through everything and avoid the hole. There’s a good eddy on river right for catching lost gear should you eat it here.
From that, you’ve got a little rapid and then the main takeout just past the bridge on river left. You can take out a little past that at the Mohawk Park/campgrounds and either way walk up and run Zoar Gap again if you choose.
Overall, this is a good practice river for paddlers. It’s easy for first timers, but offers some technical features for those who want to step up to the Dryway. It’s a good time on the river so get out and see ya there!