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Cayuta Creek, Kelley Rd to Lockwood

Trip Overview

We had heard that Cayuta Creek was a good spring run but might have a tree or two across the creek as well as some strainers. We went to Van Etten, NY, to access the creek at Hickory Grove Rd, hoping to use NY-34 (which parallels parts of Cayuta Creek) to scout the condition of the creek. But coming in on NY-34 from Ithaca, we missed the right turn onto Waverly St from NY-34 until we were south on NY-34 and realized that the RR track blocks any view of the creek from NY-34 for 4 miles, until Kelley Rd junctions with NY-34 and crosses the RR track and offers a bridge over Cayuta Creek. There we got our first view of the creek, running swiftly along, but there was an eddy where we could drop nicely into the creek, or exit the creek, before the bridge. There was a nice dirt pull-off from Kelley Rd before the bridge, where we could easily unload the solo kayak and solo canoe, and leave a car. /// Hoping that we might now scout the creek from NY-34 south of Kelley Rd, we drove south on NY-34 for about 0.75 mile, where the RR track finally crosses over the creek on a nice truss bridge and we could get views of the creek from NY-34. Soon after the next house south of the RR bridge we noted a braided creek area that might have a tree across the creek and also a strainer on the west side of the creek. We continued to scout the creek from NY-34 and from the bridge over the creek at Reniff Rd, which seemed to show a deadfall across the creek upstream of the bridge (which wasn't the case when we paddled it). We found that at the Main St (Lockwood, NY) junction with NY-34 there is a small public park next to Cayuta Creek with an open pavilion (no rest room facilities, though), across Main St from the fire station. There's a steep slope down to the creek, but there was a tiny eddy in the creek there where one boat at a time could launch or land at the park. /// While the distance on Cayuta Creek from Hickory Grove Rd bridge to Lockwood is ca. 7.2 miles, we decided to do the Kelley Rd bridge to Lockwood section of Cayuta Creek, about 3.5 miles, since we had gotten a sense of the possible difficulties for that section. /// On the paddle south from Kelley Rd we saw some merganser pairs and a kingfisher. At the braided section we had noted from the road, we saw that the left channel had a tree completely across it, but making a very sharp right turn could get one headed for the right channel, which had a tree across all but a narrow 3-foot opening along the right (west shore) side. The west side of the creek curved around the end of the tree roots, so that my 16-foot whitewater canoe wouldn't bend around that curve but my nephew's 6-foot whitewater kayak could. I was able to get out on the west shore before the tree and drag the canoe around that spot and put in again, and my nephew squeezed through the curved opening in his short kayak. Right after negotiating that obstacle there was a strainer on the right side just in front of a tree trunk suspended across the creek, but there looked to be enough room to duck under the tree trunk on the right just behind the strainer. Fortunately the water was slow enough to allow back-ferrying around the strainer and then getting in close to the west side to pass under the tree trunk. The creek gets braided again just before coming to Lockwood, with the water pushing us toward the right channel which re-joined the other channels just before the park. Fortunately there was a little island just upstream of the eddy below the park, in the lee of which one of us could hang out while the other maneuvered into the eddy, and got out and on land at the park. Our time on the water was about 1.5 hours, including portaging around the tree across the creek.
  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Number of Portages: 1
  • Portage Description: See description of run.
Be able to back-ferry to stay away from being swept into strainers.
There are no gauges, or bridge markings that I know of, on Cayuta Creek. The water was swift in drops and corners, and judged medium height after looking at USGS gauge heights and discharge rates for rivers and streams in the vicinity, after an overnight rain a couple days before and some periods of rain in previous weeks. There was no snow melt left.

Locations on this Trip