Guide to a great day on the Hudson!

“All Forward!”
“Back on the right!”
“Hit the deck!”

For eight years as a licensed whitewater raft guide, I’ve called out these - and other - commands to many different crews on my raft. People from all different walks of life — many of them meeting for the very first time — have to learn quickly how to act and react quickly as a team. Their goal: to safely have as much fun as possible as they navigate the exciting rapids of the Hudson River Gorge.


Well, come along as I “guide” you through a Day in a Raft through the Gorge!

Outfitted and ready for a day on the Hudson!
Outfitted and ready for a day on the Hudson!

Step 1: Get Your Gear! There are ten rafting companies of the Hudson River Gorge. Each one offers a slightly different take on the experience. But each one issues each customer a helmet, PFD (personal flotation device) and paddle. AND - depending on the weather and your personal comfort - each company has neoprene wet suits available for all customers.

Step 2: Meet your guide! Each company on the Hudson works only with trained licensed guides. These professionals will be your raft’s private captain for the day. Introduce yourself to your guide and get to know her (or him!)

Step 3: Take Me To The River! Hop on the deluxe transportation vehicle (aka: retired school bus) - and be whisked to the gateway of the Hudson River Gorge: The Put-In Pool on the Indian River.

Step 4: Whitewater Cram School! Once you and your team gets your raft to the river’s edge, everyone will scramble in. It’s now time for a crash course in terminology:

T-Grip (where you hold your paddle)…
Lilly-dipping (No, you don’t want to be accused of doing this!)…
Eddy (circular moving water often downriver of a stationary object in the river)…
Hydraulics, waves and holes (all features that vary in intensity depending on the river’s speed and volume)…
Confluence (point where two rivers meet)…
Rock (well…that one’s kinda self-explanatory)…

Also…Every guide has his or her own preferred set of commands - this is how he or she communicates to the crew what has to happen in the raft. In the Put-in Pool, he or she will run through the basic commands and then quickly get everyone on the raft working together like an efficient machine. (Paddling together is key!) A few minutes of team practice and it’s time to go ‘round the bend to start your adventure!

Step 5: Indian River, Here We COME! Your entrance to the Hudson River Gorge starts on the Indian River. Working with a timed dam release, your guide will now probably do a little barking to get your crew to maneuver the raft where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. Alarm Clock! Square Chair! Indian Head Rapids! Gooley Steps! All forward! Forward 2! Back on the left! Hit the deck!
And *BAM*, just like that, you’re now at the confluence of the Hudson and Indian Rivers. Relax for a moment and take a gander upriver to your left. That’s the mighty Hudson River coming in there!

Step 6: The Hudson River Gorge! The river widens here and the rapids have changed a bit. The next few miles have some great rolling Class II-III rapids and, of course, the Don’t Miss Opportunity to jump off Elephant Rock (aka Jump Rock)! Once through Blue Ledges (the spectacular cliff wall towers majestically on river right), you will feel the energy of the river quickly intensify…

Rafting through whitewater on the Hudson River
Rafting through whitewater on the Hudson River

Step 7: The Crux of the Hudson River Gorge! Starting with The Narrows all the way through Harris Rift, it’s time for The Big Whitewater of the Hudson River Gorge! Through a swift succession of big rapids, your guide will get your team working together to navigate through some intense and heart-thumping whitewater.

Two things are guaranteed through here:
1. No trip is the same!
2. Every trip is Unforgettable!

Step 8: Three Mile Eddy! With the biggest water behind you, these last couple miles are a great time to relax, chat and reflect as you paddle along to the Take-Out. There are still some fun rapids and definitely time for some excellent splash battles!

Step 9: Take-Out! You will meet up with your company bus and be ferried back to your raft base. Once there, be sure to ask about any photos that were taken of your raft (there are at least two professional photographers on the river) and, of course, thank your guide for a first-rate day on the river!

Step 10: Smile! You just had a fantastic day on the Hudson River! Come back again and bring your friends!

Super happy on a fantastic river adventure!
Super happy on a fantastic river adventure!


This week in related ADK stories:

Saranac Lake girls’ getaway

Central ADK spring birding

Perfect Lake Placid spa day

Wild about Westport

Whiteface spring skiing - get high!

Romancing Malone

Tupper’s top fishing spots

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