Whenever I tell people that my friends and I have an annual camping/rafting trip to New York, the reactions are usually somewhere along the lines of “wow you guys are hardcore” or “I’d never be able to rough it for a weekend and do whitewater.” Occasionally I let whoever I’m talking to think I’m some backwoods badass, but more often than not end up fessing up and explaining that our annual camping/rafting trip should be called a camping/floating trip and that it’s one of the funniest, not to mention easiest and most economical ways to get a group of friends together for something alittle out of their comfort zones.
We’ve tried a few different rafting locales and campgrounds, but for the past two years have exclusively come back to the Kittatiny Campgrounds located in Barryville, NY. In fact, we’re gearing up to go back the weekend of July 7th.
This is a really easy trip if I’m at my parent’s house in NEPA as the campground is directly across the New York border, 20 minutes north of Honesdale. However, it’s a relatively easy ride from both Philly (where I’m coming from these days) and the NYC area (where I’ve never come from, but my friends do).
You’ll want to make sure to mapquest or get written directions before you set off for Barryville, which is very much off the grid. Chances are you’ll have no cell service, and that your GPS may not even be able to pick up a signal. Now, this is annoying if you don’t plan for it, but if you find the location ok, and know going into the weekend that you won’t have use of your means of communication, then cliche as it is to say, it’s sort of a nice respite. As someone who’s phone is glued to his thumb, I promise after a few hours of sitting around the campfire with some adult beverages, you won’t even have the urge to check yourself in (ok, maybe a little, but you’ll get over it).
I typically go up either early Friday morning, or sometimes go up Thursday night. You’ll want to make sure that at least someone in your party could get there to clear out the campsite for set up. The campsites are pretty spacious, but it’s also a good idea to try and carpool so your site resembles a campground, and not a parking lot.
As stated, the campsites are decent sized, but if you’re going with a group of more than 5 or 6 people, I’d opt for two campsites. They also have designated “group sites” which are larger than average. We usually get one group site, and an additional site for 10-15 people. That way, we could have the tents in one area, and the fire/party spot in another.
Here’s a map of the campground. You can consult and reserve specified sites. We’ve never camped down by the river, or been down there at night so i can’t comment on what the atmosphere is like. However, from a purely observational point of view, it seems like a lot of tents lined up side by side in a field.
We always stay in the “trout terrace” portion of the campsite. It’s located in the woods near a stream, so gives you the illusion that you are actually in the wilderness (an illusion since most campers bring a bevy of cars, tents, and sound systems). You’re not as on top of one another up here, and are very conveniently located near the bathroom facilities.
Make sure to go shopping prior to crossing into New York. My buddy and I always go up early, pay for our group, and go shopping on the way over, adding the price of food into the cost of the trip. It’s never been more than $100 per person, which includes food, two nights of camping, and rafting. We don’t go crazy, just get the essentials: chicken, hot dogs, hamburgs, eggs, bacon, OJ, as well as garbage bags, paper towels, cutlery etc. I’ll put together a camping chicklist for another post. Now, I’m lucky to have a good group of friends that always bring their own share, so usually we have some seafood, pasta salad, etc that friends bring, but if you want to add this to your bulk price, go for it.
We put everyone in charge of their own booze. It doesn’t make sense to have everyone chip in for x cases of x beer, especially when there’s a mixed group. Again, I’m lucky to have friends who don’t try to mooch, and most of us come over prepared. Now, you’re allowed to bring coolers in the rafts if you camp, so make sure you preplan for that. There is a small general store about 2 miles down the road, but it’s jacked up tourist prices, as is the campsite’s general store.
Now, the cost of your trip will depend on the size of your group and the amount of activities you particpate in (they have rafting, tubing, kayaking, paintball, and ziplining available). You’re liable to spend money on gas, and for any beverages you bring (and any bar visits….we’ll get to that later), but all in all for the amount you’re doing, it’s a cheap weekend.
If, like us, you’re planning on either rafting or doing another activity Saturday afternoon, you really won’t be spending an excess amount of time at the campsite. By the time everyone gets there Friday night, we usually just rally around the fire and die out one by one.
Rafting is early, and since the last of us usually die out pretty late, it’s not always a pleasant morning. Also, somebody has got to be the de facto in charge party, otherwise you’ll never get going.
The campsites are unattended during the day, so make sure you lock valuables in your car and don’t leave anything you don’t want stolen in your tent. We’ve never had any problems, but then again, we never left anything out.
The bathrooms are your standard camp fare. The showers don’t really do medium heat (freezing or scalding) and the water pressure isn’t all there, but they have toilets and the sinks are fine to wash up a bit. If you can’t make it an entire weekend without an hour shower and hygenic session, skip this trip. You’re friends, who’ll miss your complaining, will thank me.
Now, I’ve been real white water rafting before, and it’s a ton of fun. This, however, is not it. I refer to it as fake rafting as it’s more floating than anything. I believe one of our rafts didn’t even bring oars with them last year.
We do the Barryville to Pond Eddy trip. It’s seven miles and takes four to six hours, depending how much you paddle, how often you stop, etc. If you’re into getting a workout, get a canoe or kayak. The rafts are legitimately difficult to steer if you have a group of inexperienced rafters involved. I’ve done the kayaking, which takes only about three hours if you’re paddling the entire time.
Rafting is pretty much a party on the water. If you’re blessed with good weather, then nothing is as relaxing as laying on the side of the raft, in the sun, with a Bud Light Lime. If it rains, just make sure you bring enough alcohol to make the rain fun. It poured the first year we went, and we ended up hopping in the water and floating next to our raft. It was warmer in the water than being pelted with rain. There are plenty of places to stop and lounge, swim, or lunch en route, and in general the rafters are a pretty friendly group.
We try and eat prior to our trip, bringing only beer and water in our coolers. My group usually gets pretty rowdy (people throwing each other out of the raft), and I don’t know that food would survive. Make sure you bring a cooler that floats and won’t open up in the water. If you really want to be innovative, and make friends, bring a floating cooler.
Aside from the first trip, we’ve been blessed with good weather and haven’t had a bad time.
If being on the water isn’t your thing, Kittatiny does have some other activities on hand. They have a paintball course and a zipline course which just opened (it was being built last time I was there).
We did paintball one time we went in the fall. They have several different courses and games up on top of a mountain in their property. You’re taken up in the back of an old army truck and given equipment and instructions there.
We had the good fortune to be paired with a bachelor party who consisted of ex-Iraq war vets who played paintball every weekend with high powered automatic weapons. It was painful.
The road the campground is situated on is part of the Upper Delaware Scenic Bypass, and in all honesty it is an interesting road to drive. A few old forts, and historical events are marked, and a portion of the road clings to the side of a cliff, with only a man made stone wall between you and the Delaware. It’s worth checking out if you arent’ scared of heights (I am).
The town of Barrysville is little more than an four way intersection. There’s a diner, the Carriage House Restaraunt & Hotel (which is worth mentioning because it’s parking lot is the only place with cell service), and the River Market, where you could grab anything you forgot. The River Market also has an ice cream stand which we’ve frequented in the past.
I’m sure there are other things to do in the area if you’re staying for an extended period, but we’re just focusing on camping/rafting with this post.
Cedar Rapids is not in any way why we came camping, but is most defintely one of the factors in us coming back. It’s a small bar situated about a half mile down the road from the camp ground entrance. The first time we went, everyone who arrived commented that “the bar across the street has blow up palm trees and looks fun.” We swore that we came for a cheap, naturey weekend and wouldn’t be distracted by the bar. Lies.
Our second night after rafting and recovery, half of our group needed a nap. The rest of us decided why not go down and check out the bar, see if it’s worth anything (we’ve since discovered on subsequent trips that there is a trail that goes over the mountain directly to the bar..just bring flashlights).
It’s a nice enough place, and looks like it belongs somewhere a little less rural than Barryville. The building reminds me of a ski lodge: high ceilings, alot of wood paneling, carved bears in the corner, and they have a giant deck overlooking the river. As it normally goes, we started off with “just a few drinks” and ended up leaving at four am after group sing alongs, body shots, dancing on the bar, and other assorted mayhem. Cedar Rapids still manages to allude alot of campers, so we haven’t been there yet when it’s disgustingly packed, but it seems to get a decent crowd. The bartender, Caesar, remembers us every year and is always welcoming. Make sure to tip him big if he’s there.
Cedar Rapids has become the highlight to every camping trip. It’s something about being at a vacation bar, where you don’t have to dress up, and can just forget about normal life for the weekend. I’m not the only one either. I was talking to a friend’s roomate just the other day about camping/rafting and she she had gone. After discussing how much fun we had, her first question was, “but did you go to Cedar Rapids?”
If you’re like me, you check up Yelp or Trip Advisor before making any down payments. I checked tripadvisor on Kittatiny the other day, just out of curiosity and had a good laugh.
First of all: the number of people complaining about insects is hilarious. Your in the woods.
Secondly: if you want the perfect getaway for a group of your friends, or a college reunion, you’ll have nothing to worry about. An abundance of people on tripadvisor complained of “people talking loudly after sunset.” Sunset is usually around 9, and in my opinion camping is ment to be late nights spent around the fire. They do enforce quiet hours (which is why we head to the bar).
I’d ignore the reviews if I were you. Take my word on it.