The Bottom Moose is an undeniable classic. With big drops into pools big enough to be called lakes, it’s what the Adirondacks are all about. If you’re looking for a party, come to Moosefest, held annually in Old Forge in October. Otherwise, come just about anytime and you’ll at least be able to run the Top 4.
If you value your spine, avoid the tempting Put In Ramp certain locals rave about, which has broken at least two backs and a few paddles. Instead, slide in below the bridge like a sane person and paddle toward your first of several horizons. Fowlersville Falls, Class IV, drops about 40 feet on a 45 degree slope. Even at base flows, the hole in the center is terrifyingly retentive and way out in the middle of the river where no one can reach you with a rope. Start as far left as you can, avoid the boulder at the lip, and enjoy the ride. The eddy at the bottom left recirculates quite hard above 3.5 feet, so be ready to take a lap and peel out close to the hole.
Both left and right of the island below Fowlersville are fine. The right is a small slide, the left is a ledge hole. Class II water leads to a sharp bend to the left and Funnel, Class IV, which you can scout on the right. The longish Class III lead in has some great eddies to catch, as well as one or two boofs. Drive left to right to cross the powerful curler that leads toward the triangular shaped rock in the center of the outflow known affectionately as The Diamond Splitter. If you eddy out after crossing the curler, it’s almost always better to go with the spin than to fight it.
A few no name Class III rapids break up the flatwater before Knife’s Edge, Class V. Knife's Edge is recognizable by the rising pink bedrock walls and narrowing riverbed. Eddy out early and scout from the right. The sneak is a Class IV move through the break in the bedrock above the drop on the left. The S-turn line starts on the right and finishes left, and the boof line along the Knife’s Edge starts right and stays right. Around 3.3 feet, the boof line is one of the most fun moves anywhere. Stay out of the left pocket; a lethal pothole lurks below the foam pile.
Around the bend you’ll find Double Drop, Class IV, which can be run just about anywhere, as long as you stay out of the crack in the center of the second drop.
Below Double Drop, a hydropower station dewaters the river except during scheduled releases, high water (over 5.5 feet), and dam repairs. The dam is offline more often than you'd expect, so check with local paddlers to see if you can run the bottom half of this stretch during an unscheduled release. If you’re unlucky, and the dam is operating, you can take out here on the Lowdale Road.
Typically you’ll have to portage down to the outlet of the dam, but under certain circumstances you can run the dam itself. Both sides are runnable, but they are Class V and should be inspected carefully.
A long stretch of flatwater leads to Agers Falls, Class IV, an 18-foot waterfall with a fun slide after it. There’s an autoboof flake near the center and a plug line on the right. The far left has been run, but the boil/undercut combo should deter most from considering it. The slide below has a tendency to push unsuspecting paddlers right into a slot, so hit the top hole with a left angle for a smooth ride.
Agers is a popular park and huck spot due to the easy access and nearby parking lot.
Another longish stretch of flatwater is interspersed with Class II and III water. Generally people start left, and work hard right. After a slight right turn, the river picks up again, and you’ll have to choose between the left and right sides of Shurform, Class V and IV+, respectively. If you’re going left, get out to scout early. There’s a hidden piton right at the end; angle and drive to the right to avoid it. On the right side, you can run the Class III lead in and eddy out to scout just before the steepest part of the slide. Drive across the curlers to get as far left as possible, and then just hang on.
Most of the time, the Class II boulder gardens below Shurform are tedious at best. Wind your way toward the left for the most fluid route. When the river takes a sharp turn to the left, you’ll be approaching Powerline, Class IV-. It’s basically a big wave train ending in a hole, but there are some great eddies to catch. Bear left in the boulder mess below at normal flows, and eddy out above the large midstream boulder to scout or portage Crystal. Class V-.
Most people run down the center of Crystal, boofing the double ledge “horseshoe” holes on the left, and then cutting left down the “elevator shaft.” Use a late right boof stroke on the final drop. The race line straight down the middle is another option, especially at high water, but it lands shallow and has caused back injuries for swimmers.
On the left you’ll find the steeper, more intimidating Alpine Line, which drops the full gradient of the rapid in a single shot. Scout it from the left, it's only slightly smoother than it looks.
Magilla, Class V, and Matilda, Class IV+, are the last hurrah. Magilla, named for its resemblance to Gorilla on North Carolina’s Green River Narrows, is a challenging waterfall with plenty of consequence. The left line funnels down a chute to a sideways boof, and the centerline has more than a few holes to mess with your line. There’s a landbridge/pothole at the lip that keeps most people running the left side.
Matilda is the sneak on the right. Make sure there’s a good amount of water going over the dam before you commit, it lands shallow at even normal flows and can hurt the back. From here, it’s a fast pinball slot to the lip. Stay straight, or angle slightly right, it’s possible to get stuck behind the curtain in a side pocket.