Passaic River above Great Brook

Better listen to Ed Gertler!

by Jürgen Englerth

“It is conceivable that you could start exploring the Passaic a few miles above White Bridge at Osborn Mill (Rte. 663), northeast of Basking Ridge. But the heavily posted put-in and miserably tree- and shrub-choked stream bed clearly make the suggested route (starting at White Bridge) more appealing”. That’s what Ed Gertler, the mentor of most NJ paddlers, says in his book “Garden State Canoeing” about the Upper Passaic River and one should be wise enough to listen to him.

While paddling the Passaic near White Bridge one sunny January day in 1998, I came upon two ladies in their solo canoes. They told me, that they had once paddled the Passaic from Basking Ridge to Lord Stirling Park and it was worth the effort. They knew nothing about an obstructed river bed.

Taking their wisdom more seriously than Ed Gertler’s, later on the same day, I let my wife drop me off at Osborn Pond near Basking Ridge and put in right below the pond’s spillway. With temperatures around 60F, I was wearing a t-shirt, enjoyed the weather and was looking forward to another nice Passaic experience. The joy only lasted to the next bend. From there on it was a continuous series of deadfalls with never more than 40 yards of canoeable water in between. Many times it wasn’t even worth putting the canoe back in the water, so I kept dragging it most of the way. Which in itself wasn’t easy - have you ever dragged a canoe through dense swamp shrubbery? The 1.7 miles to the confluence with the Great Brook, which marks the official head of navigation, took me almost two hours. And whom should I meet there but the two ladies, who were still drifting along. They looked me up and down because I was all covered with debris and parts of swamp vegetation and said: “By the way, we are sorry, but we made a mistake. We never started in Basking Ridge, but at White Bridge. We hope you had a good time anyhow…”

So next time you look for advice about the navigability of a certain section of river, better listen to Ed!

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