Putnam Creek, NY

This past weekend was a Raquette off-week, so I figured there’d be nothing to do but Deerfield Fest. Then, lo and behold, it dumped rain on Friday. I refreshed the radar every ~5 or so minutes through the whole work day and it was looking really promising right up until 6pm or so. Then the storm disintegrated. I’d had high hopes for getting on the Opalescent, but oh well, I figured, I do love the Dryway. But, Tripp Burwell came up from Boston to go kayaking for the weekend and insisted that we do something other than the Dryway on Saturday, so as Saturday morning slowly (and painfully) rolled around, I shrugged off my mandatory pre-Dryway headache and decided we should go run High Falls Gorge on the Saranac.

Toth-Fish in its Natural Habitat
The Toth-Fish struggling to motivate (and taking a pre-boating nap) at the put-in.

We didn’t quite make it there. Tripp insisted we go check out Putnam Creek instead, something he’d scouted at super high water a few months earlier. I resisted, pointing to the online gauge which indicated that it wasn’t running. But we went anyway. We found the creek and in a shocking twist it looked low but runnable. Score one for Tripp. We drove around for awhile trying to figure out where to put-in eventually settling on a bridge shortly below the pond where it originated and just downstream of a gnarly drop we dubbed “The Sausage Factory” — because it’d be very hard to boof, meaning you’d likely end up sausaging it (aka penciling) probably getting chundered (like sausage meat).¬†There were a few miles of class II boogie before another bridge where we encountered a fun boulder garden that could’ve used more water.d

Toth in an Early Boulder Garden
Toth coming through the first boulder garden stretch on Putnam.

After this, we had another bit of flatwater before hitting another road bridge and the start of the real goods. The river gorged up and went through a stretch of pretty significant and steep boulder gardens — more water would’ve made them friendlier, but also much more stacked. As is, we were able to boat-scout the majority of it. A quarter mile or so of chunky boulder garden led to a change in riverbed. Instead of boulder gardens, it became large, block ledges.

Tripp on Broken Ass Falls
Tripp resurfacing at the bottom of Broken Ass Falls (named for the shallowness and the broken beer bottles on shore).

As the road comes back to the river on the left, you hit a large series of bedrock ledges that will probably be pretty stacked at high water. This is the only drop you can see from the road while driving shuttle. It starts with a couple ledges building from 2-7′ then goes into a bigger rapid that drops ~20′. The channel right of the island is a gradual slide; the channel left of the island is a cool looking slide into 10-15′ boof…into very shallow water. We ran right, but I think with more flow left would be a sweet line.

Big Ledgey Section
The big ledgey section. We ran the left side of the photo.

The two final big rapids were far and away the best. The first was an incredible slide into a 20+’ boof into a minigorge with a stout hole to boof in the exit. River right is heavily posted, so scout left here. Unfortunately the lighting from above sucked and I didn’t realize from scouting that I’d be able to get out downstream, so the pictures didn’t come out great.

Toth on Waterfall #1
Toth boofing the first 23.79'er on Putnam.

There’s one more fun slide-to-boof between this and the final drop of Putnam, an awesome 23.79′ boof into very little water that comes after another road bridge. Toth went with the sausage off this drop and made a little contact with the bottom but was fine. Tripp boofed the shit out of it, and I managed to land with at a nice 45 degrees. Although Toth was ok, I wouldn’t recommend not boofing this drop. It certainly isn’t deep.

Tripp on Waterfall #2
Tripp boofing the second big boof on Putnam.

Putnam was way better than I expected. I’ll definitely be going back. I was shocked that this creek is on AW and still you don’t hear about anyone running it. The first waterfall into the minigorge is one of the coolest drops I’ve ever run. We had roughly 200cfs on the gauge which is quite low. I’d recommend 300cfs as a good first time level. The steep boulder garden stretch will get full-on pretty quickly, and the rock in that section is not very nice, so be careful. It’s basically wood-free. If you want any more info on put-in / take-out, shoot me an email.

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