Photo courtesy of melodythomasphoto.com
Rafters, including writer Mike Lynch in the front left of the boat, take on rapids on the Indian River.
 
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As we shot through the rapids barreling through a series of waves, I heard some commotion behind me and to the right. Instead of turning my head, I focused on the whitewater ahead, continuing to paddle downstream.

Moments after we had left the chaotic whitewater, as our raft slid into a section of smooth water, I found out what happened.

Apparently Dave Hendershot, who was sitting directly to my right in the front of the raft, had slid toward the edge of the raft as we hit an especially big wave. In the excitement, it appeared he might be tossed from the raft. But as his body bounced a bit his foot remained firmly in a toehold.

“My daughter grabbed me and held me in,” he said with a laugh afterward.

Hendershot also said that he didn’t think he was really close to falling out because he felt secure with the toehold.

Hendershot was one of about 20 people in two rafts taking a trip down through the Hudson Gorge in the Central Adirondacks on this early June day.

The trip started at the Adirondac Rafting Company’s base in Indian Lake. There, we were provided wetsuits, paddles and helmets and given an introduction from owner Bob Rafferty about what to expect for the day.

After the getting geared up, the group tromped onto a school bus, which took us to the starting point of our rafting trip. There were two rafts heading out this day. Each was led by an experienced guide. My group was going with Carrie White, who has close to a decade’s worth of guiding experience. The other raft was led by Todd Cunningham, who has guided for nearly three decades.

The put-in for the trip was just below the Lake Abanakee dam on the Indian River.

Here, in a parking lot above the river, White schooled us in safety and gave us a crash course in whitewater paddling. The most important thing to remember, White told us, was not to attempt to stand up in running water if we fell out of the boat. In trying to stand up, one could potentially get their foot or feet caught and be pulled underwater by the strong current.

Instead, one should attempt to float downstream on their back with their feet ahead them, so they could push off any downstream obstructions. If there was place to get out of the water on the shoreline, the swimmer should make a full-out attempt to do so.

As it turned out, no one on our trip fell out of the large Moravia raft. There were points of high excitement, like when Hendershot slipped off his seat for a moment, but the trip really never felt dangerous.

Rafferty said his company has a perfect safety record.

Summer rafting is also a different experience than what happens in April and May. During the early spring, the weather is cold and the water can be very high, especially this year when the Hudson hit historically high levels. In the summer though, the whitewater isn’t as intense, making it better suited for families and beginners. Children as young as 10 years old can take the trip with their families.

In addition to the White’s safety talk in the parking lot, our group spent about 20 minutes practicing our paddling strokes in the river before heading downstream. We practiced turning, slowing down and other basics. Once White felt comfortable with the way we were paddling, we headed down the Indian River.

Immediately, we hit some Class III rapids. Before we got too far along an osprey flew overhead. It was clenching a small fish in its talons.

The osprey was a perfect example one of the big bonuses of this trip: it takes you through the heart of a very wild place in the Adirondacks. For much of the trip, rafters are miles from any road. Their only means of getting out is to rely on the raft and the river.

So, of course, that is exactly what we did. After paddling three miles on the Indian River, we sped down the Hudson River for more than a dozen miles. We paddled through some high Class III whitewater that tossed our raft around. Other times, we drifted at a calm pace, taking in the sights, such as the Blue Ledge ledges about halfway through the trip.

During the day, we only stopped once. That was for about 30 minutes to have some lunch, which was provided by the guides. After that break, we once again headed downstream.

As we watched the nearby forests drift by, White told anecdotes about past rafting trips and gave a brief history of some of the region.

One story she told that sticks out was about a young guide who fell out of his boat in some turbulent water. Unable to catch up with his raft, he hopped up on a rock in the midst of the whitewater. As White came past his rock, the guide leapt through the air and landed in her raft. 

Although we had no such high drama on our trip, we had a good mixture of excitement and downtime to take in the sights. In my opinion, this trip is one of the most unique in the Adirondack Park. I highly recommend it.