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Dam-it or not?
March 21, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Is going whitewater rafting on a dam-release day on the Lehigh River in May significantly better than going on a non-dam-release day the last week of April?

I am trying to organize a trip for a large group to go whitewater rafting. Our ideal date is at the end of April but it unfortunately does not land on a 'dam-release date.' The first dam-release date happens two weeks later in May AND costs a few dollars more per person. Last year, we went on a dam-release date and it was extremely fun; I wouldn't want this year's trip to disappoint.

My question is: does it really make a difference? The woman at the company said it did but it's hard to believe if she's being entirely truthful or just hoping to make a few extra bucks. It is still spring after all and still pretty cold so far.

Can anyone with more experience rafting on this river lend some answers? :)
posted by pinksoftsoap to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
 
I have been "rafting" on the Lehigh during non-dam-release days a bit later in the season (late May), and it was a whole lot of paddling and very little fun.
posted by apparently at 7:41 AM on March 21, 2011


Never ran the Lehigh, but I am a former professional whitewater guide (Ocoee).

On a dam-release day, the rafting company is guaranteed a certain amount of water. On a non-dam-release day you're at the whims of nature. On the rivers I used to run this meant that on the former, we'd run customers, and if the river happened to be running on the latter sort of day it was probably unsafe (and we'd go get our hard boats and run it ourselves).

(And then occasionally we'd have lots of water over and above the dam release and we had to figure out how to give the busloads of customers who showed up a good time safely.)

So there's a chance you'll get a decent ride on a non-dam-release day (if nature cooperates), but...
posted by straw at 7:50 AM on March 21, 2011


I have run the Gauley in West Virginia on release day and non-release day 3 weeks apart and release day was significantly more fun (and more water).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:54 AM on March 21, 2011


Another former Ocoee guide and east-coast boater here.

Go on the dam release day.
posted by procrastination at 8:31 AM on March 21, 2011


My son's Boy Scout troop went rafting on dam release weekend somewhere in PA a few years back, don't remember the river though. It was a wild ride, almost constant white water for 3 hours. Anytime I've rafted anywhere on a normal weekend, it's been a lot of paddling broken up by the occasional stretch of fun water. So I'm n'thing the go for the release weekend advice.
posted by COD at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2011


This doesn't directly answer your question, but:
1) where will y'all be coming from?
2) are y'all looking for thrilling whitewater, or something that grandma and a little kid would enjoy?

Another raft guide here (Lower Yough). I haven't done the Lehigh either, but from what i just looked at, you're unlikely to have too much water, but too little could very easily make it an awful trip.
posted by Metasyntactic at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2011


This former raft guide (Nantahala, French Broad, Nolichucky, since we're listing our resumes here) also says to wait for the dam-release day.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2011


In response to Metasyntactic:

1) We will be departing from New York, NY.

2) Thrilling but for people who are not professionals. haha Meaning everyone is a fully capable adult - neither grandma nor little kid - but we're not regular rafters either.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 12:06 PM on March 21, 2011


OK, I took a quick look and the Lehigh really is the only commercially-rafted river that's within a reasonable day trip distance for you. If you ever want to go farther afield, there are much more thrilling rivers available =)

So - as I think you've already concluded - DEFINITELY go on the dam release day.
posted by Metasyntactic at 4:44 PM on March 21, 2011


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