rowing the length of the Genesee River : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

My wife and I are considering a long rowing trip next summer. What we are actually thinking of doing is tracing the length of the Genesee River from a spring in a Pennsylvania field to the mouth at Lake Ontario, the entire width of NY state. In the middle of this trip is the Mt. Morris dam which pretty well divides a small upper river/stream from the lower section which is a true river. We are looking for an appropriate row boat that can carry enough gear to make this 2 week trek and give us enough flexibility to put in fairly early along the river/stream bed.

Any thoughts about what sort of boat we should seek? So far we have been considering some sort of rowing skiff. The idea of a sail sounds good for the lower section, but the upper part requires shallow draft. We are going to have to bag our clothes and food in rubber bags, but fixed storage would be nice.

As in any real trip, the requirements are contradictory. And, oh yes, there is a budget, a very tiny on. Any thoughts?

-- Gary Lehmann (, November 19, 2003


There are lots of higher quality solutions, but the hands-down, low budget winner is a canoe with rowing rig installed. It should be on the large side, i.e. 17'+. Plenty of low cost used canoes around. You might have to build your own seat and extended oarlocks, and the design and construction of this element must be right; breakdowns or poor boat trim or bad rowing mechanics will spoil the trip. The canoe also has the advantage that: 1) it can be paddled through the sections too narrow for rowing; and 2) lighter for the dam portage. Now if you can get your hands on a nice Whitehall skiff, or one of the boats made by Middle Path, that might be best, but if not... BTW, you should get to know Dale Hamilton of Knoxville, TN who has done many similar trips with a female partner.

-- Kim Apel (, November 19, 2003.

You might also like to be aware that there is a large falls in Rochester very near the mouth of the river. I don't remember an easy way to portage around it other than with a pickup truck. It's right downtown, but for sure you'll need to plan for this.

Also I doubt a sail will be all that useful. The prevailing wind is going to be W, you'll be sailing N, (on a reach) and while it will work, you'll be constantly trimming the thing as you are blanketed by trees and other things along the shore.

I'd go with a canoe. The river isn't really that wide, works well with the shallow draft, you both can paddle and they carry a ton of stuff easily. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, November 19, 2003.

Dear Gary,

It's nice to hear that someone is interested in doing a river trip. A century ago, when rowing was America's most popular sport, people everywhere, not just on the coasts, were fanatical about the type of adventure that you are planning. After all nearly every inland town of any size in this country is situated on a river. The rivers provided transportation and power for the factories. They also provided recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, some of these waterways were subjected to shameful abuse, becoming sewers for our homes and mills. In recent decades, with the decline of the smokestack industries and better pollution controls, these rivers are again attracting recreational users. The rivers in my hometown, Pittsburgh,PA, now provide excellent bass fishing right downtown and play host to a regatta that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. A trip on a river or canal is like a trip through history. Someone engaged in a contemplative activity, like rowing, can find clues to our past around every bend - canal locks, battlefields and Indian burial mounds. Rivers are passages to the world. Lewis and Clark travelled by rivers from Pittsburgh to the Pacific Northwest. In the 1860s Nathanial Bishop rowed his sneakbox from Pittsburgh to the Gulf of Mexico. A few years ago Nat Stone rowed on some of those same rivers on his row around the eastern U.S.. For most of the 20th century the focus of the rowing community was on racing and fitness so there is very little modern "how to" literature on travelling these waters under oars, but canoeists have an unbroken record of taking trips on inland waterways since the beginning of time. If you want information on travelling the waterways in your region there are many regional guides aimed at canoeists. Most are updated regularly and they list campsites, restaurants, water hazards, historical points of interest and more. You can find this literature at paddleshops and on-line at paddling related websites. The American Canoe Association and the American Red Cross are great sources of information for travellers in small, human-powered boats. The possibilities for trips of this type in your region are endless. Good luck.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, November 25, 2003.

Dear Gary,

Found this on under books/sports/watersports/canoeing/ excursion guides. Adirondack Mountain Club Canoe Guide to Western and Central New York State (The Adirondack Mountain Club Canoe Guide Series, Vol# 1), edited by Mark Freeman. This looks like a good place to start planning your trip.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, November 28, 2003.

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