Oswegatchie River above Inlet

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

My original trip plan was a two-nighter, paddling up-stream from Inlet as far as possible on day one, paddling/hiking farther up on day 2, leaving most of my gear at a campsite to lighten the load, and paddling back out on day 3. Due to my car breaking down I got on the water after 6pm on day 1, and was racing the setting sun to get up river to a campsite. I ended up making it to Site 45 with enough daylight to set up my tent and food hang (I'd guess it took about 90 min to paddle to 45 from Inlet). Site 45 is on a pretty bend in the river, has a nice easy beach to land on, and has some decent room for a couple tents or to keep a tent at least 30ft from your cooking area. You can see across the river from the site and the view is open and nice - great for watching the sun set. On day two I started up-river again in the morning. High Rock is a known landmark, but it wasn't clear where to get out from my map. I stopped at Site 42 first, but Site 41 is the correct one. There are a couple places to camp there that looked nice, with fire rings near the lookout spots on High Rock. Continuing up river, the winds were somewhat high (~10+mph), and combined with even the late-summer, low-flow current, it was pretty tough going upstream solo with a loaded canoe (fully loaded pack + 70lb dog in a 50lb canoe). I was surprised that even though I was below the bank level and at least 5ft below the tops of the shrubs along the side of the river, the effects of the wind were definitely noticeable and working against me often. The river really meanders a heck of a lot, and it often felt like you could make it up river doing sweep strokes the whole way - half a dozen strokes on one side rounding a bend to the right, then half a dozen sweep strokes the other way as the river bends back to the left. The scenery on the lower part was pretty with late summer wildflowers but a frankly a bit monotonous given the amount of meandering one does, and that it's tough to see over the tops of the shrubs for much of the way. The beaver-induced hydrology was impressive though. There were several side lakes above the river level, held back by small beaver dams with tiny waterfalls flowing a foot down into the main river. I had to haul over several beaver dams in the main channel, some 4-5 ft high. I found putting the pack on my back and getting the dog out made it easier. Still, between the current, wind, and beaver dams it was definitely a bit of a chore after the novelty wore off. I finally decided to make camp at a site near the hiking trail around lunch time and hike the rest of the way to High Falls. After passing up several decent/nice looking campsites lower down, I stopped at site 32. I'd guess I paddled 3-4 hrs from Site 45, including a brief stop at High Rock, though I wasn't paying too much attention. The landings for Site 32 (there are 3 close to each other, one marked), are all pretty steep and muddy. The site is fairly small and it was tough to set up a tent any distance from the fire ring or to have a cooking area distant from the tent (best practice to keep the critters away from the tent). There isn't a view, and there were mosquitoes about (not many, but some, as opposed to none at Site 45). The banks were steep and muddy enough that to pump water with my filter, I actually hopped in my canoe again to get away from the bank. I can't say I'd recommend the site, but several sites just downstream looked quite nice, especially the lean-to at Griffin Rapids. However, these were on the wrong site of the river from the trail, and I didn't feel like making camp and then getting back into the canoe to get to the trail (I would have with less wind and more energy, I think). It took me a little while to find, but someone had marked with pink flagging a rough trail from the Site 32 to the main back-packing trail that takes you to High Falls and other points. Once I found the main trail it was about 1hr 10min at a brisk pace to get to High Falls. The trail traverses several large wetlands by having you hike along the tops of beaver dams, some of which are quite mucky. Around Site 28, the trail runs right along the river again, and this stretch of the river looked much more scenic with large boulders in the river and forest running down to the edge, as opposed to mud/sand banks and shrubs. Site 28 is quite high above the river and looks like it would be great to camp at. On day 3, it rained. A lot. I had several inches of water collected in the canoe by the time I made it back to the take out at Inlet. I could definitely feel the extra weight as I paddled, despite sponging out the water a few times. It took about 3 hrs to make it down river from Site 32 to Inlet. There were probably 5 beaver dams big enough to make me get out and haul over them between Inlet and Site 32.

Safety Notes

Water was a little swift around some corners, but stakes are generally pretty low on this river at similar water levels (late summer 2020)

Gear Notes

I solo-paddled a two-seat Wenonah Heron (royalex, ~50lbs). I was glad not to have a longer boat - there are a ton of turns that were a pain even in the fairly maneuverable Heron. A shorter boat, or a lighter boat for hauling over beaver dams, would have been ideal.


Water level was pretty low, but perhaps average for August. Oswgatchie River gauge at Oswegatchie NY (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ny/nwis/uv?site_no=04262000) was around 200 cfs and 2.4 ft (those this gauge may be below dams from where the trip was)

Portage Notes

None, though there are several beaver dams, some 4-5ft high that you have to haul over. Others are low enough to run down stream, but need to be hauled over going upstream.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 8/25/2020-8/27/2020
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water, River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location