Crossing the State of New Jersey by Canoe,
August 8, 1971 (70 miles)
by Randy & George Carty
This Website provided as a courtesy of Mohawk Computer Company, Inc.
Published in the “trips” section of the December 2001 Postcard is a report titled
“Scouting trip on the Raritan River”.
As an extension of the trip reports about our 2001 D&R Canal series, the reports brought back some thoughts of the past from our members and I am pleased to share one of these stories with you.
George Carty submitted the following newspaper article describing a trip across New Jersey that George and Randy Carty accomplished 30 years ago. This story of 30 years ago demonstrates that today we rarely invent something new. We can all learn a lot from the clubs past and bring the good things of the past to our future. I hope you find this story interesting reading.
George Fluck, Vice Commodore
Article by Michael Serrill, News Tribune staff writer, September 18, 1971
The Delaware-Raritan Canal was a nightmare to the Cartys, who encountered low bridges, a one-mile portage and extensive pollution. The Millstone River portion of the 70-mile trip, however, was 'absolutely beautiful' according to the brothers. The last leg, from the Raritan Bay to Sandy Hook, posed another problem for the canoers, who took seven days to complete the trip.
When Randy and George Carty announced a few months ago that they were going to paddle canoes from Washington Crossing, Pa., to Sandy Hook, some of their friends scoffed.
Randy is, after all, 52 Years old, and George, 47. At that age, most vacationing Americana are neither willing nor able to do anything more vigorous with their leisure time than collapse on a backyard hammock or: stretch out on some sandy beach. The most vigorous exercise imaginable for most over-45s might be a few swings on a golf club or the casting of a fishing line over the side of a gently rocking boat.
Randy and George Carty were therefore especially proud of themselves last month when they jumped out of their canoes and ran to greet their wives waiting on the Sandy Hook beach after doing just what they said they were going to do.
"We made believers out of a lot of people," George said after completing the 7O-mile paddle in less than a week. Both George and his brother admitted that they were exhausted by the end of their journey, but neither felt any other ill effects or regretted their battle with the currents.
Part of the reason is that they were physically well fit for the grueling voyage. Both are members of the Mohawk Canoe Club, a statewide organization with more than 300 members
Under the club's auspices, George last year paddled a canoe more than 500 miles in streams and rivers all over the state. Randy, a commodore in the club, logged more than 350 miles. The trip from Washington Crossing to Sandy Hook brings both their totals for this year to more than 250 miles.
The-two men began canoeing five years ago. They say it relieves them from rather sedentary existences as X-ray technicians, Randy at Fort Dix and George at the Mercer County Clinic in Trenton.
In making the trip to Sandy Hook, the two brothers had to overcome a variety of tactical difficulties. The first was that there is no waterway that flows across the breadth of the state, forcing the Carty's to take a circuitous route over a number of canals and rivers.
The duo shoved their aluminum canoes into the Delaware River early on the morning of Aug 8. They paddled several miles south on the river to the entrance to the Delaware-Raritan Canal near Trenton.
The abandoned canal, which runs through the center of Trenton, gave the canoers nightmares. First, there are a number of bridges over the canal, many of which, Randy Carty said, are no more than 12- inches above the water. To get by the bridges, the brothers had to submerge their canoes to let them float under the bridges, walk around the bridges, then retrieve the canoes and bail them out.
When there was clear canoeing on the canal, Randy said, children standing along the banks would mirthfully throw stones at the Cartys. "We paddled a little faster then," said Randy.
Of all the waterways they traveled, Randy said, the canal was the most polluted. At one point near Port Mercer, Randy said the two canoes were grounded on a wall of utility poles and pilings that was apparently built expressly to prevent raw sewage pouring out of a nearby plant from flowing down the canal into Trenton.
In the heart of Trenton, the canal goes underground for more than a mile. The Cartys handed their heavy packs of provisions over to their wives, who were following them in cars, and carried the canoes more than a mile along the shoulder of the Trenton Freeway.
Canoe club rules prohibit the members from seeking help in such circumstances. The canoes are too large and heavy for one man to carry so the two men had to carry one canoe at a time and after a few hundred feet go back and get the other one. It took several hours to walk that mile.
After carrying the canoes to the point in north Trenton where the canal reemerges, the two sportsmen were tota11y drained of energy, but continued on to Port Mercer, where they camped for the night.
Monday morning they abandoned the troublesome canal and entered the Millstone River, on which they paddled north for more than 20 miles. Randy Carty said that the Millstone River leg of the trip was "absolutely beautiful," with abundant foliage and wildlife for them to gaze at as they made their way through the tricky currents. Both men were also impressed with Carnegie Lake, a bulge in the river near its northern terminus.
Monday night they camped at Blackwells Mills on the edge of the lake.
Tuesday morning the canoers continued up the Millstone to Bound Brook, where they entered the Raritan River. They expected to make it to the mouth of the river by nightfall, but at about 3 pm they were caught in the middle of the river by a violent thunderstorm. They took refuge from the danger of being struck by lightning under some trees at the edge of the river.
The two brothers camped for the night on a concrete slab under the New Jersey Turnpike Bridge in East Brunswick. There, Randy said, they met one of the less pleasing forms of river wildlife, a rat that "must have weighed 2O pounds.
Wednesday the going got rougher, as the Cartys paddled out of the river and into the Raritan Bay.
Canoes, of course, are not built for ocean travel and at this point the Cartys voyage became difficult and dangerous. When they entered the bay that Wednesday afternoon, the water was so rough that they could not safely remain in the canoes.
They retreated to shallow water along the shore, disembarked, and waded though water up to their shoulders, dragging the heavy canoes behind, for more than an hour and a half. This arduous task crushed their plans to reach Sandy Hook Wednesday evening.
Early. Thursday morning they left Keyport, but the going was so rough and the current so strong that they ended up paddling twice as far as they actually traveled. They did not reach Keansburg until two in the afternoon. From Keansburg to Sandy Hook State Park an ocean-going boat is a trip that takes at most an hour. In the canoes It took more than three hours of' hard paddling to reach the southern end of Sandy Hook.
At about 5:30 they beached their canoes and loaded them onto trailers and headed for home, exhausted but happy.