When heavy rains fall over the Tug Hill Region, Brokeback Gorge is the first place people check. Now loosely correlated with the USGS gauge on Sandy Creek near Adams, paddlers hoping to catch this flashy run will still need to confirm flows with a visual at the put-in. Low water leaves the riverbed nearly dry except in the larger rapids, and it makes the largest drop more difficult. High water can create massive wall-to-wall hydraulics that are terminally retentive. Most importantly, the river becomes inescapable above a 45-foot waterfall that can neither be scouted nor portaged. It is best approached with a local guide.
Brokeback Gorge was first run in October 2010 by the author and Taylor Krammen. A super low flow allowed for scouts and perspectives that higher flows wouldn't permit and a portage at the top of a double drop due to concerns about shallow landings. More recent trips have demonstrated that scouting and portaging is very limited or non-existent at appropriate flows; however, all the drops land in pools that are deep enough so long as they are clear of wood.
The run begins at a sharp left turn on the Centerville Road. Walk down along the culvert drainage beneath the powerlines to reach the put-in at a small eddy. The bedrock on the upstream end of the eddy should be just under the water for an ideal medium flow.
Roughly a quarter-mile of Class II and Class III water should be fluid but not high, leading to an abrupt left turn with a faint ATV trail on river left. Stop here to scout the first drop, a Class IV+ 25-foot sliding waterfall run on the left.
Below this a small chute leads to some ledges and a narrow Class V double drop that can only be scouted by standing up in the river on the left side. Only the lip of the bottom drop can be seen from here. Most often paddlers try to boof in the center of both drops.
Several low angle Class IV slides and a few small Class IV drops follow, leading to a Z-shaped slide and the entrance to the most committing portion of the run. Above the slide it is possible but dangerous to scramble up the disintegrating shale wall and out of the gorge.
Immediately after the slide there is a large, slowly moving pool. At the bottom, a two stage Class V drop with bowl-shaped pockets on either side awaits. It's about 18 feet tall, and it can be run just about anywhere, but a swim here would be disastrous. Only three eddies remain between this drop and the 45-foot One Whistle Falls.
Eddies on either side immediately below the two stage drop have strong recirculations, and a third, two-boat eddy on river left immediately after the exit slot provides places to stop. A 2-foot ledge leads to the two-boat-width entry to the Class V+ One Whistle Falls, which drops 15 feet over a steep slide before hitting a kicker flake and dropping another 30 vertical feet. Immediately after landing, paddlers will be swept over a secondary 12-foot waterfall that can be run anywhere.
Below here the river becomes flat and cobbly with 1.75 miles of Class II and Class III water. There are often strainers here, so use caution.
The takeout is located on the West Road where the river crosses underneath a bridge. The land upstream and on the right of the bridge is privately owned, but landowners have been friendly to paddlers.
From the takeout, travel south on the West Road to the first right turn on the Keener Hill Road. Continue straight onto the Centerville Road. After crossing a small stream the road takes a 90-degree turn to the left. Park on the right at the start of the turn. This is the put-in.