"Wading River from Speedwell to Beaver Branch" Chatsworth Sports & Outdoors Tip by KiKitC
Chatsworth Sports & Outdoors: 2 reviews and 6 photos
The Wading River has a variety of adventures for novice and advanced kayakers. The most navigable section of this river for day paddlers is between Speedwell and Beaver Branch, with many easy put in/take spots along the way, the most popular being Hawkins Bridge, Godfrey Bridge and Evans Bridge. There are also great campgrounds (by permit only) withing carry distance to the river, making paddling this river even more popular and populated.
I've paddled this river MANY times and consider it two different rivers. I would recommend the section from Speedwell to Hawkins Bridge be attempted by only experienced kayakers. From Hawkins Bridge all the way to Beaver Branch will be enjoyable for the novice paddler, with less debris and obstacles.
For the more adventurous, putting in at Speedwell can be a strenuous trip, with numerous possible liftovers and sharp turns. The bridge at Speedwell is directly off Route 563, south of Chatsworth and just after Speedwell Friendship Road. There is a small parking area for about three vehicles on the northbound side of Route 563.
The section from Speedwell to Hawkins Bridge is best run in the spring, as water levels can be too low to navigate in the summer. This section is also prone to flooding, so after a rain, the water levels may be at flood level or there may be extreme current for a Pine Barrens stream. PLEASE check on water levels before attempting Speedwell.
Those that do choose to run this section will be treated to not just solitude, but amazing, pristine Pine Barrens flora and fauna. Expect to see many turtles, snakes, deer, hawks, eagles, herons and more. The river begins very narrow, with swampy banks and overhangs. Turns may be sharp, and anticipate fast water after rains. For a good distance, you will be along the edge of Wharton State Forest and cranberry bogs, but will pass through pine and deciduous forests. Occasionally, the river opens to swamp grasses and even plains along the shore. There are less good beaches for stopping along this section on the Wading.
Due to the low water levels and sharp turns, this section is used less frequently by local liveries, thus there is more debris and liftovers. The trip from Speedwell to Hawkins Bridge may take 5 to 6 hours depending on water conditions and debris.
If you are looking to take out at Hawkins Bridge from Speedwell, this branch of the Wading River actually feeds in downstream from Hawkins Bridge. Where the two converge, there is a very high sandy beach that you would need to carry your boat up. It is also in the Hawkins Bridge Campground, so you must have a camping permit to leave your vehicle and take out there. Camping at Hawkins Bridge Campground would turn the trip down the entire river into a more leisurely two-day trip.
One of my favorites is to put in at Hawkins Bridge and paddle to Beaver Branch. Expect 5 hours from Hawkins Bridge to Beaver Branch, depending on water conditions and "traffic". To get to Hawkins Bridge, follow Route 563 south past Mick's Canoe Rental, and turn right onto Godfrey Bridge Road (There is a sign on the left hand side of the road for the Wading Pines Campground, which is down this road). You will first pass over Godfrey Bridge, a popular spot for swimmers, campers and paddlers. Continue down the road past Godfrey Bridge Campground and make your first right (there is usually a sign pointing the way to Hawkins Bridge). Continue past the Hawkins Bridge Campground, and the put in is just over the bridge. A parking area for about 6-8 vehicles just less than 100 yards from the put in.
The water levels just downstream of Hawkins may be low, but once the Speedwell Branch converges in, the river opens to about two canoe lengths wide and the turns become less sharp. Now you will come into more cedar forests, mixed with the pines and oaks. Gravel and sand beaches along the way make great places to stop for lunch and a swim.
The section from Hawkins to Godfrey will take about 1.5 hours. Once again, Godfrey Bridge has camping at this spot, so you may need to get a camping permit if you wish to park/take out here. The campground has been closed the past two years to "regrow", so it is not currently an issue here.
After another 1.5 hours, you will come to Evans Bridge, which is just off of Route 563, about 10 minutes south of Speedwell. The landscapes you will pass change constantly on this section of the river. You are in the pines, then the cedars, then you are surrounded by swamp and grass. In about an hour, you will come to Bodine Field, a great "wilderness" campground, which again you can use for take out with camping permits. ($2 per person per night)
The section between Hawkins and Beaver Branch has a few obstacles, but is perfect for novice paddlers. Most of the river is only a couple of feet deep, so if you do spill, it is easy to recover.
We usually take out at Beaver Branch, which on the river is marked clearly with an obnoxious orange barrel and stop sign. This is the last take out that the local liveries use, so allow room for the liveries to get around. There is ample parking here for about 10 vehicles. To get to Beaver Branch, head south on Route 563 from Speedwell, and bear left onto Route 679, past Harrisville Pond. A dirt road, with a sign marking the campsite is off on the right. Follow past Bodine Field Campground entrance to the end. You can't miss the launch site.
Enjoy your trip.
Equipment: Kayaks are better for the upper section (Speedwell to Hawkins) canoes and kayaks popular in lower river. Bring sun block, bug spray, plenty of water, food and garbage bags (take in take out)
Address: Route 563
Directions: South of Chatsworth, and just south of Speedwell Friendship Road, ending off Route 679