Other Rivers and Creeks
Black River, Upper Section
Black River (footnote) is a major river that drains a large area in Herkimer, Oneida,
Lewis and Jefferson Counties in upper New York State. The river's source
is from various tributaries, including North Lake and South Lake.
The river ends at the eastern end of Lake Ontario west of the City of Watertown.
The section included here is below Kayuta Lake and just into Lewis County.
| Section || Difficulty || Distance || Time || Scenery || Page
| Hawkinsville to Norton Rd. Bridge ||3+ || miles || 3 hrs || good || 77 & 85
The Upper Black River starts off with a bang and
keeps you alert during the first half of the run.
The second half of the run is much calmer.
After checking out the first drop from the old
bridge abutment at the putin, decide whether you're
up for a surf or not. If you are, paddle down the
right side into the recirculating eddy which will
take you back up to the hole. If not, ferry over
to the left of center and run the green tongue
through the hole at the bottom of the first drop
and go through the middle of the two bridge
abutments. Work your way left to run the rest of
this long rapid, around rocks, boulders, pourovers,
and holes. Some of these holes can be surprisingly
sticky,so pay attention and paddle hard when you go
over the drops if you don't want to go for a surf.
Many of these holes look like they could be fun on
a warm day. The putin rapid is about 300 yards
long and is rated Class III.
After the putin rapid things flatten out for about
a mile and a half. Enjoy the scenery on this section.
Although the water is mostly flat through here, the
current is generally good, so you don't have to paddle
Eventually the moving water ends and you will head into
another good section of rapids, again rated Class III.
The route through is generally straightforward, but
watch out for a pourover/hole on the left near the top
of this rapid. Go left around the island and pick your
way down through the rocks and boulders. As you come
to the end of this rapid you will see a high voltage
power line on your left. You will end up in a large pool
of moving water just before the river bends to the left
about 120 degrees to go under the power lines.
As you go around the bend, you will see the start of
Powerline Rapid. This rapid can be easily run by stay-
ing to the left side and heading towards the small
waterfall coming off the left bank. Stay away from
the right hand side, where there are significant
pourovers. When you reach the waterfall, the river
bends hard back to the right. Just follow it around
and through the waves and holes. At this point you can
move back towards the center. Powerline is rated
Class II-III+ when run down the left side.
After Powerline the characteristics of the river change
dramatically. The valley opens up and for a short while
there is a low limestone wall on your left.
Soon the Moose River Road is reached, which is Access
Point B. Continue on downstream, avoiding the many
rocks sprouting up in the rock garden. The river banks
soon become cobble and eventually turn to mud and
The river flattens out and becomes fast moving water.
As you approach a bend to the right below the quarry
you will notice a nice house sitting on the inside of
the bend. Follow the river around the bend where it
flows over some low rock ledges and creates some nice
surfing waves. Enjoy these waves and imagine what it
would be like to have these waves right in front of
When you're tired of surfing, head on downstream, where
the fast moving water quickly delivers you to the
takeout and your waiting vehicle. Take out behind the
leftmost stone bridge pier. Note that at high water
levels a hole could be formed by this bridge pier, so
adjust your plans accordingly.
To get to the putin, drive north from Utica on Route 12
approximately 32 miles to Boonville. Turn right (east)
onto Woodgate Drive / Hawkinsville Road and go 2.6 miles
to the bridge over the Black River. Cross over the river
and take an immediate right onto Edmonds Road.
Pull over where the road bends to the left at an old
bridge abutment and park here. This is the putin,
Access point A.
You may be attracted to the low head dam above the putin,
but don’t even think about it. The dam has been run,
with unpleasant consequences.
To get to the takeout from the putin, go back to Route
12 and turn right (north). Go approximately 4.2 miles
to just past the point where the road becomes a divided
highway. On your right is the turnoff for Norton Road.
Turn onto Norton Road and go east approximately 1 mile
to the bridge over the Black River.
There is parking on the west side of the river. Be
careful not to block the farmer’s access to his field.
Note that if you are coming down Route 12 from the North
you can not easily see the Norton Road turn because the
highway is divided at this point. The crossover for
Norton Road is just before the divided highway ends.
Access Point B, the Moose River Road Bridge, is where
the gauge is located. It is on the Northwest corner of
the bridge on the upstream side of the green and white
Hazards: This section of the river is for intermediate and
advanced paddlers only as there are numerous hazards
for the less experienced paddler. See trip description
above. Also there is a low-head dam just above the
putin; pourovers have sticky holes.
Water Conditions: Runnable October - May.
Gauge: Nearest is on the Black River near Boonville.
Minimum: 4.5’ (Optimum is 7.3’)
Maximum: 12’ (highest known run is 16’)
(data from New York Whitewater, Volume 2 - see below)
Rescue Index: Always less than 1 mile from a road.
Nearest Camping: Rocky’s Recreation Area south of
Boonville, NY (315)942-2250
Driving Time From Binghamton: About 2 Hrs & 35 minutes.
Source of Additional Information:
"New York Whitewater, Volume 2", by Dennis Squires;
Acknowlegement: Bob thanks Frank Hughto-Delzer for the
infomation presented here on the Black River.
- Difficulty Class:
- 0 = little or no current (beginners).
- 1 = light current (novice paddlers).
- 2 = fast current with small waves (intermediate paddlers).
- 3 = large waves (experienced paddlers only).
- + = plus rocks and boulders to make it more interesting
- * = strainers are likely to be encountered.
- Page: Refers to page number in DeLorme's New York State Atlas & Gazetteer. 1988
Mar. 2006 Feb. 2010