Big East Melt: Part II, Upstate New York’s Bovine Falls

What it Feels Like .. to run Watertown, N.Y.'s elusive 40-footer into the Black River

courtesy Horizon Aerial Media.

Tony Gianfagna running the falls (and pictured below) with the author at the lip.
Footage courtesy Horizon Aerial Media.

I'm wondering if this is a good idea. The Watertown cops have already been called, there's less than a hundred yards ahead of me until the edge of the world, and I just watched my friend Tony Gianfagna drop over it. Bovine Falls is more like a cliff with water pouring over it than most waterfalls, with a tiny drainage, and mixed opinions among law enforcement regarding the legality of kayakers paddling over it. Regardless, I find myself running through the pre-flight checklist in an eddy, practicing my tuck and imagining myself plugging deep into the boils below.

I peel out, paddling slowly but deliberately toward the lip. It seems to take twice as long to travel the last 10 feet to the lip, but I still struggle to fit all the adjustments I think I need into the space. The rooster tail at the lip kicks my bow up and I roll forward, pushing my feet down, staring 40 feet down as I plummet. I tuck forward and close my eyes, waiting for impact. Not quite enough. My head smacks against the cockpit rim as my bow deflects on the surface and I shoot out into the pool. I run a mental check and find no real injury before joining Tony in a shout of celebration.

The sun is setting, and the steep bank leading out of the canyon is covered with snow. There's just enough time for another run. Better get moving …

photo by Eric Adsit

Photo by Eric Adsit

— Check out more of Gianfagna’s paddling adventures exploring Siberia.

— Read about the Black River’s main paddling festival.

— See more paddlers tackling flat-to-vertical falls.

Check out more swollen, guitar-shredding footage from a Bovine Falls decent last year.