Most people claim I’m crazy—but in my skewed estimation—the best time of the year to be in Old Forge is in April. Specifically--the three or week season when the ice breaks free on the Moose River and spring rains create favorable flows for whitewater rafting and kayaking.
The Moose was the first New York whitewater river I boated after moving to the state back in 1983 and it remains a sentimental favorite—my home river. Its difficulty varies from an easy class 4 at low water levels up to a solid class 5 at higher flows. It is the most challenging whitewater commercially rafted in the state.
But it isn’t simply the lure of the river that makes April my favorite season to visit Old Forge.
Some people associate the Adirondacks with the verdant green of summer or autumn’s riot of red and gold—but to my taste, the Adirondacks are most stunning in the early spring when the rugged bones of the landscape are revealed. The stark beauty of the mountains is on display.
Sure, the temperatures can be brisk in April. Often you can wake up to an April morning with the sky spitting snow. But just as often you can end the afternoon in brilliant sunshine and you’ve exchanged the sweater and boots for shorts and sandals.
But mainly, I like to hang out in Old Forge on April evenings after a day on the river. Old Forge was built to accommodate the crush of summer tourists but in April, the funky restaurants and bistros scattered throughout the village are populated only with other guides, whitewater enthusiasts and curious locals. It’s a comfortable and convenient time for a night out.
Don’t get me wrong—any place in the Adirondacks is pretty special. And at any time of the year.
Just not quite as good as Old Forge in April.
For rafters who want "big" whitewater, spring begins early in the Adirondack Mountains. While the High Peaks region lies locked in winter's icy grasp, the warming trends of February and March will work on the moisture laden snows of the lower slopes. The softening spring snow begins to dwindle, creating millions of gallons of crystal clear run-off to fuel rafting fever. Tiny rivulets become rushing streams, which in turn feed boiling spring torrents. Surging rivers turn overnight into raging thunderheads, pounding down through the ancient gorges of the Adirondacks. It's rafting paradise for those bold enough to tackle big water, and it is home ground for Adirondack River Outfitters. Inc.
ARO has had springtime operations on the Hudson and Moose, and Black Rivers, two of the best spring rafting rivers in the Northeast since 1981. Each season ARO introduces thousands to the wild exhilaration of rafting big-league whitewater on these two famous rivers. The Hudson and the Moose are the most popular spring trips in the Northeast, and the reasons are clear. As rafters become more experienced and adventuresome they are capitalizing on the bigger-than-life spring whitewater thrills. The accessibility of the Hudson and Moose rivers, combined with their challenge of heavy-duty waves and technical whitewater, make these trips natural choices for serious rafters.
Spring rafting with ARO is not tea with the Queen. It's tough, cold, thrilling, rewarding, unpredictable, and as safe as is possible. This is wilderness adventure class rafting, and this is what ARO does best There are risks involved, but ARO combines 35 years of experience, intense technical and medical training, licensed professional guides, and the best equipment in the world to minimize danger and maximize enjoyment.
ARO has been meeting the springtime challenges of the Hudson and the Moose since 1979, and though the faces and the waves change, the scenario is always the same. ARO is poised with all the essentials: world class boats, safety equipment, paddles, Class V life vests, commercial quality helmets, full wetsuits, veteran guides, and heaps of hot, hearty food. Everybody in the company is eager to get out on the monster waves. That enthusiasm is matched by the anticipation of hundreds of rafters, veterans and newcomers alike, who venture out each week to wrestle the champion whitewater. Together, ARO guides and their teams of paddlers meet the impatient, relentless rivers, climbing and pitching over 10- foot wave trains and plummeting into hungry, churning holes. Whether battling the giant, cresting breakers of the Hudson, or testing the ultimate intensity of the Moose, springtime rafting doesn't get any better than this.
If you are up to the challenge, ARO has an unforgettable experience in store for you. You can do it, and we'll show you how. We stand by our reputation as New York's whitewater pioneers, ensuring you the finest whitewater adventure on and off the river. Beginning in April. ARO will launch a new 8-week spring season in the Adirondacks. We will continue to set the standard for eastern rafting.
For the stout of heart and strong of limb, ARO has its Moose River operations. We offer this high adventure, high intensity trip to accomplished former customers' and other experienced rafters who are ready for the ultimate spring challenge. ARO began on the Moose in 1979 and has been running successful trips there ever since.
The rains have come and gone leaving great water levels on the Black River and summer weather. There is still time to make a reservation for this weekend on the Black River. The rivers is back up to adventure class levels and the weather should be in the 80s.
Whether you are rafting the whitewater of the Black River, near the 1000 Islands, or the Hudson River in the Adirondacks, it is easy to extend your adventure. The 1000 Islands is a paddling paradise with beautiful water, secluded islands to explore, outstanding fishing, and great places to camp. The Adirondacks are the East’s largest wilderness area with 100s of peaks to climb, countless lakes and rivers to paddle, hikes that lead to back country water falls, and literally millions of acres to explore and inspire.
Over the next three weeks the ARO Blog is going to describe a series of vacation itineraries, which will of course include a whitewater raft trip or two. With thirty four years of leadership in outdoor recreation, we are familiar with what Northern New York has to offer, and who can best provide the experience you dream of.
Check our Blog or Facebook for the latest Northern New York outdoor vacation advice.
Q - What is more fun than going on a whitewater rafting trip with ARO?
A- Guiding the raft.
Q- Do I have to pay extra to be the guide?
A - Believe it or not if you are the guide not only don't you have to pay, but you get paid for having all that extra fun.
Q - So how do I get in on the fun?
A - Contact ARO and see if you are qualified to enter our Guide Training Program.
Q - What are the necessary qualifications?
A - Along with the guiding skills which we will help develop, the most important aspect of being a river guide is being a ‘people person’. You have to enjoy being with people, and be sensitive to their concerns and fears, while inpiring them to meet the challenge. The quality of our staff and their ability to relate to our rafting guests is what makes people choose ARO and refer us to their friends.
It’s also important to be a team player. Working at ARO is a group effort, you will be assessed on your willingness to lend a helping hand, and your ability to be maintain a positive atitude and support your team mates.
Please note that completion of our guide training does not guarantee employment. trainees are assessed on their rafting skills and personality. Be genuine, be friendly and be caring.
Q - How much does the training cost?
A - The only cost is your time and efforts. On days when you are joining us for training trips, you will be expected to arrive with the guides and assist in the trip preparations, inflating and transporting rafts, etc.
Q - What are the employment prospects?
A - ARO will be hiring additional guides for the the 2017 season for both our Black River and Hudson River operations.
For most guides it is a labor of love with the added benefit of being paid to guide when needed, plus tips from appreciative guests.
On the Black, the majority of the newly licensed guides that are hired, will work part time. Weekends being the most likely days for work, with some weekday possibilities. Top candidates may be offered additional non-guiding work, to help increase their work days. People with great cooking and BBQ skills, or a CDL to drive a bus, in particular, may have additional opportunities.
On the Hudson, trips are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (when the dam releases occur). New guides often get three or four days of guiding per week in July and August. New this year we have an Aerial Ropes and ZiplineCourse and and a Paintball area which will provide additional employment opportunities. We are also developing additional Adirondack activities that may provide.
Q - How long will it take me to become a guide?
After you have passed your state written exam, got certified in first aid, CPR and water safety, and completed your five documented training runs on a river, you can obtain your license. However, that is only the minimum required by New York State. ARO has much more stringent requirements, depending on your background experience, and aptitude for guiding, you will need anywhere from the state mandated six training trips on a river, to twenty or more. Our traners and staff will determine if and when a trainee is ready to guide a group of ARO guests. Many trainees that started with little or no river experience and took longer to develop their skills went on to be outstanding guides.
We are looking for people who love outdoor adventures and enjoy sharing this passion with others. Employment opportunities exist for part time guides from April to October. It is a great summer job for teachers, college students, and people working in the ski industry.
I have to make an awful confession: for me—the best part of a whitewater weekend isn’t the time spent on the river…
Instead—it’s the time after the trip reliving the day’s adventure with friends around a table with dinner and drinks.
Somehow—the rapids always get bigger, the swims more spectacular, and my paddling more heroic from the security of firm ground and in the comfort of dry clothes while enjoying hot food and a cold beverage. Funny how that works!
At ARO, we always end our trip with a barbecue complete with frosty libations. It’s the perfect opportunity to test your trial version of the day’s adventure!
Now, as conscientious guides, we make sure all the beverages provided for the barbecue are exhausted before leaving the party—we don’t want to create work for the cook putting away the extras! But it always seems the barbecue is never long enough to reflect upon all the glories of the day—or to polish up all the details of the stories!
Fortunately, ARO’s rafting bases are centered in areas famous for accommodating outdoor adventure guests. There are plenty of funky bistros and restaurants available for apre-raft celebrations!
Here’s a list of “guide-tested, guide-approved” destinations to provide the perfect conclusion to your day on the river:
(Company disclaimer: the phrase “guide-tested, guide-approved” does not merit the same gravitas as the Michelin Four-Star rating system. “Guide-approved” only confirms the availability of cold beer (usually at reasonable prices), better-than-average bar food, pool and/or dart games, relaxed dress code and an extremely tolerant attitude toward raucous high-jinx).
HUDSON RIVER GORGE: Just a few miles down the road from our Hudson base is the village of North Creek with a cluster of comfortable bistros including the Barking Spider, Bar Vino, Laura’s and Basil and Wicks. You can park the car and pub crawl to most of them. Extend the Après Rafting further by staying at Adirondack River Beds, a Hostel located near our base and run by one of our guides.
MOOSE RIVER: Our Moose River operation is based in Old Forge and the trip barbecue is hosted at the Back Door. Slickers Tavern, Tony Harper’s and the Tow Bar are all a few steps away. Stay at the Adirondack Lodge, our Moose River base, with great rates for our rafting guests.
BLACK RIVER: Maggie’s On The River is just a short stroll through the river-side park from our base in Watertown. Maggie’s features a deck overlooking Hole Brothers rapid and its raft and kayak surfing. For more formal dining, the historic village of Sacket’s Harbor is a 15-minute drive.
If you require additional information regarding prime apre-rafting locations—just ask any of the staff at the base. Or easier still—just follow them at the end of the day!
What makes a whitewater river unique? Why are some rivers transformed into tumultuous ribbons of foam navigable only by skillfully guided rafts or expert kayakers while other streams remain tranquil flows suitable for a quiet float in an inner-tube?
Essentially—whitewater is produced by three factors: constriction, gradient, and the structure of the streambed. Every whitewater river features at least two of these conditions. But each set of conditions creates a particular kind of rapid—and the character of a whitewater river is defined by the mix of the criteria.
Take the Hudson River Gorge. Many rapids on the Hudson are formed by gradient and constriction. When the river funnels through a narrow gorge, the energy of the water is compressed resulting in long, towering wave trains. The rushing water tumbles over and around enormous boulders on the streambed exploding into crashing hydraulics and breaking waves.
Typically, raft lines on Hudson River rapids are fairly straight forward. Squarely meet the breaking waves down the middle of the wave train. Avoid the hydraulics created by boulders. And enjoy the exhilarating roller-coaster ride through the heart of Adirondack wilderness.
The Moose is totally different. Rapids on the Moose are created when the river falls off the western edge of the Adirondack plateau. Instead of the long, continuous wave trains found on the Hudson, rapids on the Moose are quick, distinct drops where the river plummets over series of abrupt ledges, slides and waterfalls.
The result is a more technical rapid. Slide over a ledge on the right and then move back to the middle before driving back to the right to plunge over a final drop. Failure to perform the maneuver can often result in a flipped boat. Fortunately, rapids on high gradient rivers like the Moose are typically followed by calmer pools where equipment and swimmers can be reunited.
Obviously, some combination of gradient, structure, and constriction can be found in all whitewater rivers. But all characteristics are on full display on the Black River. The first half of the Black is more technical in character as the river drops over rapids with challenging ledges that require complex maneuvering before entering a highly constricted gorge. The Black offers a sample of both high-gradient ledge drops and constriction rapids.
Of course—there is one final criteria that contributes to the intensity of a whitewater river: volume. Typically, the higher the water level—the wilder the whitewater.
That’s why the Hudson Gorge is considered a high adventure trip in April and early May when spring runoff from the High Peaks forces more water through a constricted river bed—the waves grow bigger and wilder. Thanks to water releases from a dam, the Hudson remains a family-friendly adventure in the summer months.
The window for an appropriate volume is more narrow on the Moose. There needs to be enough water to navigate the drops—but too much water makes a high-gradient run impassible. The Moose whitewater season is restricted to spring runoff in April.
On the Black, higher May flows provide the most challenging conditions of the season. However, water releases from upstream reservoirs provide favorable water levels to guarantee exciting whitewater adventure all summer long.
The Central Adirondacks including Old Forge, Inlet, Indian Lake, and North Creek, offer mountain biking opportunities for all skill levels.
The following descriptions come from Pedals and Petals, a great mountain biking shop in Inlet NY. They are a nationally rated as one of America's best bike shops and offer sales, service and rentals. A great place to get advice on area trails as well as help in learning what bike is best for you.
Fern Park Trails (Inlet NY) These trails are for adventurous bikers. Double and single-track trails loop up,
down and around Fern Mountain with lots of elevation change.
The Old Forge Mountain bike trail system are mostly easy trails, flat and some small rolling hills with a few Steep Climbs. There is easy access directly from Old Forge or Eagle Bay. You can also get on the train in Thendara and they will take you to Carter Station in the middle of the trail system. There are a few single-track trails that shoot off the main trail system. These trails are a great family fun trail system.
The calm, emerald green waters of the mighty St. Lawrence River provide a peaceful contrast to our whitewater rafting trip on the Black River. Alexandria Bay, located only 29 miles from, our rafting outpost in Watertown, is the home to Uncle Sam Boat tours. Uncle Sam's tours are a great way to experience the scenic beauty and architectural history for which the 1000 islands are famous.
On many tours you can be dropped off on Heart Island for a self guided tour of Boldt Castle, or view the "castle" as you cruise by. Uncle Sam Boat Tours offers a variety of tours including Twilight, Lunch, Dinner, and Wine&Brew tours. Accommodations in the area range from campgrounds, riverside cottages, to hotels, motels and all inclusive resorts.