Black River

Section of river: Black River (Canyon)
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 11 miles/16 KM
Season: May – September
Best rapids: Knife’s Edge, Rocket Ride, Cruncher, Hole Brothers

250px-BlackriverwatertownnyThe Black River canyon offers an unusual blend of reliably high water and warm weather rafting.  While many rivers turn mellow during the normally drier summer months, the Black runs full and fast, thanks to daily dam releases and the unique topography of this special river.


Rather than widening and slowing like most low-land rivers, the Black finds itself constricted between narrow canyon walls, and dropping over steep ledges and monstrous boulders in a last gasp of excitement before melting quietly into Lake Ontario near Dexter, New York.  Leaving the put-in point in Watertown, the river quickly rounds a bend and drops out of sight into an isolated canyon punctuated by dozens of waterfalls dripping into the main channel.

black-river-rift2_mThe Black River is a photographer’s delight, and a whitewater enthusiast’s paradise.  Hole Brothers, near the beginning of the trip, is a picture-perfect surfing wave where rafters can hone their paddling skills while drenching their raft-mates.  Rapids like Rocket Ride, Knife’s Edge and Cruncher are typical of the Class IV drops that make the Black River one of the East Coast’s finest whitewater runs.  Spring runoff in May can sometimes raise the Black to Class V or higher, while flows from June to October offer solid Class IV whitewater excitement.