Boating and the Chemung Basin River Trail

The Chemung River is a class one river. Canoeing or kayaking on the Chemung is enjoyable for riders of all skill levels.

Where to rent a canoe or kayak
Southern Tier Kayak Tours, Ithaca, N.Y. (607) 220-3642, or – specializes in guided tours and paddling instructions
On the River Canoe and Kayak Rentals, Big Flats, N.Y., (607) 215-6692 or - rents canoes and kayaks and leads river paddle tours
Endless Mountain Outfitters, Sugar Run, PA., (570) 746-9140,, rents and sells canoes and kayaks and leads river paddle tours,
Wilson Rental Center, Corning, N.Y., (607) 962-8611, - rents canoes 
Summit to Stream Adventures, Watkins Glen, N.Y. (607) 535-2701 – rents canoes and kayaks and leads river paddle tours
Kim's Kayaks, Erin, N.Y., (607) 481-3925 or, rents kayaks 

Outing Groups
Ahwaga Canoe and Kayak Club
The Chemung Valley Virtual Canoe and Kayak Club
Hiawatha Island Boat Club rowing club in Owego (for all ages and levels of ability)
Three Rivers Outing Club -hiking, biking and paddle trips

One personal flotation device (PFC) per person.
A whistle (or noise maker) audible for a half-mile.

CAUTION! Avoid the dam in Elmira downstream from the Grove Street Launch Site! Portage around the dam along the south shore as marked.

River Advice To Paddle By

(With thanks to the Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club)

  •     The 3 most important things to bring a river trip:  training, preparedness and common sense. They don't weigh anything, they are easy to pack in your boat, and they don't smell bad after an overnight river trip.
  •      Don’t go into the river unless you are dressed to play and get wet. When in doubt, dress for immersion. It is much more important to feel good than to look good. (Bring a change of dry clothes in a watertight bag).
  •     The river is always the boss.
  •     No matter how strong you are, the river is always stronger.
  •      Mother Nature plays dirty.
  •     The river gives the test, and then teaches the lesson.
  •     Having rapids named after you is generally a bad thing.
  •     Cold, tired, hungry, stressed-out, intoxicated, high paddlers tend to make bad    decisions -- even if they are your friends.
  •     Don't paddle it if you can't swim it
  •    Portaging around a hazard or rough water is easier and more fun than capsizing, getting hurt or drowning. . . so is scouting ahead.
  •   If you are cold, stop to get warm. If you are wet, stop and get dry.
  •   Improper use of rope on the river can kill you. Proper use can save your life.
  •    A real river rescue is not a place for on-the-job training.
  •   Fear is God's way of letting you know he wants you to stay alive. Pain is God's way of  letting you know you are alive.


Beginner’s basics and reminders for the old hands

  • Life jackets for everyone!  Personal flotation devices (PFD) are a proven lifesaver. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that a PFD can prevent eight in ten boating tragedies. Wearing one is the law in more than half of the states.
  • Designate a driver.  Alcohol figures in roughly half of the reported boating accidents. Save the alcohol for after the paddle.
  • Know your boat’s safe carrying capacity. Capsizing is often the result of overloaded or improperly loaded boats. Check the capacity plates on your boat or consult your owner's manual.
  • Take a boating basics or refresher course. You're never too old to learn!

Never go on the river during flooding or high water events.

River Levels
Be aware of rising water levels. Check optimum river levels for boating.
Dangerously high flows can develop very rapidly due to weather and/or dam releases.
Check recent and current river gauge readings on the internet.
If you are at the river, put a stick in the ground at the edge of the water and wait to see if it is rising or falling. Cancel your trip if the river is rising.

PFD and Whistle
One Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) is required per person.
Each boat must carry a device capable of making a sound that's audible for a half-mile (such as an athletic whistle). Operating watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal

AVOID the dam in downtown Elmira East of the Grove Street Site! Portage around the dam along the south shore as marked.

Let family/friends know you are on the river, where you put in, and where you plan to pull out.
Paddle with others. Have an experienced paddler in the group.

Heat and sun: light clothing, sunglasses, hat, sun block and plenty of fluids.

Windy, cool or rainy weather: can lead to hypothermia, even in summer. Wear or bring layers of wool pile or polypropylene. Avoid cotton.

Keep all gear neatly stored and tied when not in use.
Never tie a rope to yourself or another person.

On the River
Obstacles in the river such as rocks, gravel bars, trees, deadfalls, and dams will form what looks like a "V" pointing upstream (at you). Avoid these and look for "V's" pointing downstream to take advantage of the deeper water flowing between these obstacles.

Downed trees (strainers) on the outside of river bends can be dangerous .Look ahead to anticipate and avoid strainers.

If you are about to collide with a submerged object
: lean into it to present the bottom of the canoe to the onrushing water. Leaning away increases the likelihood that you will roll under, swamp the boat and get entangled.

If your boat flips over:
Hold onto your paddles and the boat if possible, keep the boat below you (downstream). Never position yourself down stream of the boat.

Lie on your back with your feet downstream until you reach a shallow, calm spot or shoreline, then empty the boat and re-enter. Never try to stand up in fast moving water

Canoeing in rough water: kneel down, keep weight centered and as low as possible

Paddling Safety from the Cheasapeake Bay Gateways Network

Optimum River Levels for Boating

Optimum river levels for boating
Chemung River at Elmira: 1 to 4 feet
Chemung River at Chemung: 3 to 6 feet
Chemung River at Corning: 15 to 17 feet
Cohocton River near Campbell: 2 to 3 feet
Canisteo River at West Cameron: 5 to 7 feet - See warning below*.
Tioga River at Lindley: 4 to 7 feet - See warning below*

* Warning! The Canisteo and Tioga River levels can change rapidly due to upstream dam operations.
Optimum river levels are only recommendations. Variable conditions, including shallow stretches, are part of the natural character of Chemung Basin rivers.

Current River Gauge Readings for the Chemung River Basin. Check current levels and recent trends. Posted data is not always correct. Use sound judgment and BEWARE OF RISING WATER.

RIVER LEVELS CAN CHANGE RAPIDLY. All rivers in the Chemung Basin are subject to rapid fluctuations and can rise or fall several feet in a matter of hours.


The Chemung Basin River Trail Partnership assumes no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of printed or web-based information.

Take Responsibility for Your Safety!
Enjoy the River!