Midday at the Morris Canal

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Midday at the Morris Canal 13

As paddling trips go, this one wasn’t much: We left shortly before noon, and returned just after 2 PM—nothing like our typical day-long expeditions.

The weather was perfect: clear, sunny and dry with a light breeze. No wind, waves, or other “conditions” that make for an exciting kayak adventure.

But since it was our first trip together in quite a while, we were happy just to be on the water.

We decided to head down to the Morris Canal, the inlet that starts at the Colgate Clock on the New Jersey side of the Hudson and heads inland before petering out in a salt marsh. Originally the canal ran for 107 miles (!) from the Hudson to the Delaware River, but these days, only scattered remnants are left.

Even though—or perhaps because—it’s right next door, Morris Canal is one of my favorite trips, because of the range of experiences it packs into a short excursion. First there’s the Hudson, crisscrossed by ferries and motor boats and barges and sailboats and the occasional Jetski.

Then as you enter the canal, you drift past a marina containing what seems like acres of shiny boats, including 100+ foot yachts, with names that range from the obvious to the amusing (my favorite: a gigantic yacht named “Incentive”). You pass a couple of restaurants—a fancy one to the left, and a more casual one called Surf City (complete with fake palm trees) to the right.

Midday at the Morris Canal 9You paddle past the fancy yachts and condos, and slowly the remnants of industrial New York begin to appear. Rusting tugboats. Antiquated equipment. Rotting pilings.

You veer sharply to the right, and pass under a pretty white footbridge… and suddenly you’re in the marshland. Waterfowl are dozing in the sun and lazily hunting in the water. Reeds rustle softly overhead.

Midday at the Morris Canal 6

Before you know it, you’re at the end of the road, or rather the road at the end: a highway crosses overhead, and the water peters out. You turn around, and ahead of you is a wondrous vista: in the foreground, reeds and pilings; behind that, the breathtaking skyline of lower Manhattan.

It’s that last view that makes Morris Canal such a treat to paddle—the juxtaposition of the bucolic and the urban. Hard to believe you’re only a mile from Manhattan.

Midday at the Morris Canal 7

We paddled back slowly, enjoying the sunshine, the boat wakes, and the lack of current. And we got home just a couple of hours after we left—with plenty of time to pack up the boats and go for an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

It just goes to show you—sometimes the best experiences come in short trips.


Here are more photos from the trip (click on any photo to start slideshow):

23 responses to “Midday at the Morris Canal

  1. Oh these are such very wonderful shots, Vlad. And that first and final vista of NYC – brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I was browsing through your pictures a thought passed through my mind – you definitely get a different view of this places than a motorist or even a pedestrian. Nice shots.


  3. beautiful pictures, as always! so happy to see you both on the water again! such a lovely ride. thank you! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Never heard of the Morris Canal. I’d like to check it out the next time I’m in NYC, though crossing the Hudson sounds a bit nerve-wracking. nervous, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      It is. And despite the fact that it’s the first thing they teach you (when you learn to paddle in NYC) it remains nerve-wracking. Do check out the Morris Canal… it’s worth it!


  5. Pingback: My Article Read (8-6-2015) | My Daily Musing

  6. I’m curious, since I don’t have that kind of boat traffic in Colorado . . . how do you make yourself seen and avoid getting run over?


    • It’s not a good idea to rely on being seen by other boats and ships (especially as many of them, even if they were to see us, could not stop or change course). Rather, we paddle so as to avoid them as much as possible. Complete avoidance is not possible in New York Harbor, however—there can be hundreds of boats of all sizes all around, and often paddling close to shore, where boats dock and undock, rapidly and sometimes unexpectedly, is not the best strategy either.

      We divide the marine traffic into three classes:

      1. Large ships (tankers, container ships, etc.) and tugs with barges. These we absolutely have to stay away from—they can’t deviate from their course.

      2. Ferries, tugs without barges. We anticipate where they are going (some knowledge of the harbor helps a lot) and avoid them as much as possible. But they can maneuver around us if necessary.

      3. Small motorboats and sailboats. We ignore these (but watch them if they come close), since there is nothing else to be done with dozens of motorboats zooming around, sometimes very erratically. Sailboats have the right of way, however.

      Having said this, it turns out that we do seem to be pretty visible during the day, and even at night with lights, since we’ve never yet come close to a collision because the other boat didn’t know we were there…


  7. That’s awesome, so close to the city but you could be a million miles away. Great photos :)


  8. Love this report & photo essay, red boats on blue water, hard to top. Special guest Justine McAllister always an eye-catcher. She’s been wed to RTC 120 for years.
    LOL — you would marvel at your Stockport Middle Ground campsite. Someone installed kitchen counters and a sink with a drain!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Wait WHAT???? Michael, you ‘re kidding. Kitchen counters and… a drain !?!?! Next time we’re there we won’t have to park the beer in the river…


  9. Glad you are back on the water together – and pleased that you are blogging about it! A journey of a thousand miles….

    Never heard of the Morris Canal – clearly more investigation is warranted!


    • Johna Till Johnson

      Anna, we’re working on it…. new trip this weekend… stay tuned!! Morris canal is worth the trip, if you’re okay with the trip being “short”.


  10. I love this phrase: “you’re at the end of the road, or rather the road at the end”. MC is an underrated destination – and a good alternative when we have clients with more ambition than ability.


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