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Trip Reports

Find trips reports from 2001 and prior in the Bow & Stern Archive
All: by date By Title: A-Z By Author: A-Z Last 12 Months 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Past 12 Months...

Lower Mad (open for business)! Tuesday Mar 10, 2020
Chase Brook scouting (solo) Saturday Oct 26, 2019
Lower New Haven: we have water! Saturday Oct 19, 2019
Ottawa River Friday-Monday Aug 30-Sep 2, 2019
Hudson River Gorge Sunday Jun 16, 2019
Taming the East Branch Pemi Saturday May 25, 2019
Upper New Haven Sunday Apr 21, 2019
A Joe's Brook Trip That Wasn't Saturday Apr 20, 2019
2019 Ledges Race Saturday Apr 13, 2019

Past 12 Months...

Lower Mad (open for business)!
Tuesday Mar 10, 2020
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

As the day began, the Mad R. USGS real-time online gauge was showing "ice", but the New Haven gauge was barely over 500 cfs, so we were surprised to find the Mad with, as Jamie put it: "a lot more water than I was expecting". The put-in trail was still snow-covered, but the river was open from top to bottom, and fun! We had sunshine and rain showers - sometimes simultaneously - during our run, and temps close to 50 degrees. Quite pleasant for March 10th. Chris had to pull his skirt and swim below the horseshoe (river left), after capsizing above the lip, but he was unfazed. The water where he is going later this month (Costa Rica) will be warmer, if he happens to have another swim!

Chase Brook scouting (solo)
Saturday Oct 26, 2019
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: too low
Author: Chris Weed

Saturday, October 26 offered a beautiful, crisp afternoon, and I needed to get out of Burlington, so I headed east and south to German Flats Road in Fayston. My original plan was to check and see if a couple of river-wide logs on Mill Brook were still present, but when arrived I recalled my interest in exploring the tributary along German Flats Road.

I arrived about 2:20 pm, and I spent the next 2.5 hours exploring the brook on foot. My hope was that it offered an interesting extension of the usual run on Mill Brook along Route 17 (Mill Brook Road). My main concern was that it might be too wood-choked to be worthwhile.

My initial hike upstream from near Route 17 revealed a continuous Class 2/3 stretch with a number of logs to avoid, but with easy ways to walk around them. The brook flows through some lovely woods, much of which turn out to be part of Fayston's Chase Brook Town Forest, which connects to extensive network of mountain biking trails.

At a certain point I was blocked by private land, which could have been circumvented by fording the brook and continuing on the river-right bank. I didn't want to drench my hiking shoes, so I headed back to my car, and drove up further up German Flats Road to look for additional access points.

Fortunately, I came upon the trailhead and parking area for the Chase Brook Town Forest trail, which is almost directly across from the Fayston Elementary School. A recently constructed foot bridge connects the parking area to the trail on the river-right bank. I parked, crossed the bridge, and headed downstream along the brook. The Town Forest trail quickly heads uphill into the forest, but there is an older trail (no longer in use) that follows the brook. That allowed me to scout the section that I had previously missed. I found more wood, but the river gradient remained steady, with interesting features in the riverbed, including an apparently natural log dam that impounds a shelf of gravel and cobblestones, forming a 3.5 or 4 foot drop. (There is a narrow bypass on river-left.)

A check later on Google Maps showed that the total length from the trailhead down to Mill Brook is about 0.71 miles or maybe a bit more (accounting for bends not shown on the map). This is a substantial addition to the run from the culvert at the Mill Brook Road intersection, making a total of 2.35 miles down to the takeout just above the final bridge before Route 100. I think this is well worth some effort to clean up some or all of the obstructions, several of which are small diameter logs. I hope to recruit a small crew to do the work this fall.

Lower New Haven: we have water!
Saturday Oct 19, 2019
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Author: Chris Weed

The week ending October 19 brought north central Vermont a lot of water. The New Haven watershed apparently received 2-3 inches of rain, and at about 3:30 pm on Thursday (the 17th) the New Haven crested well over flood stage on the USGS gauge, at a reported flow of 9,900 cfs. I was curious to see what that flow might have done to the riverbed up in Bristol.

I touched base with Paul Bicknell on Saturday morning, and we agreed to meet at the church (the put-in) at 12:00 pm. It was to be Paul's first time down the LNH, and the water level and weather were perfect for it — a crisp, clear October day. (It was also ideal because Paul now lives in Bridport, and can get to Bristol in less than 35 minutes.) I posted on the message board, and Chris Frost saw the post and met us in Bristol.

After Paul and Chris set shuttle we put on about 12:30. The second rapid after the put-in is now a straight shot down to the Baldwin Creek confluence. Some large boulders that used to be under the log pile that we have previously passed on the left have apparently been moved downstream, close to the end of the rapid, before the river turns left to head into the next drop. Such changes were already somewhat evident in prior runs this year, but Thursday's blowout flow enhanced the transformation.

Various other sections from there down to the island rapid (next to the Lathrop lumber yard) seem to have changed in subtle ways. At the island rapid itself, we took the middle channel, even though the flow on the gauge at that point was below 700 cfs. It turned out to be quite fluid. I recommended that choice out of concern about possible wood in the right channel. We eddied out at the bottom of the middle channel and walked across the big island to look at the right channel, and found it completely open. However the bottom of it appeared quite different from what I remembered, and looked difficult to get through at that flow. At higher flows I suspect that staying left all the way through (doing less of an S turn) will be the best line.

The remainder of our run went cleanly, despite the low flow through a section strewn with large boulders, which tends to be the most demanding part of the run.

I drove up to Eagle Park after we were done and checked the Gilbert gauge. It was reading about 1.0 feet. I'm guessing it was at 1.2 when we put on.

While I was at Eagle Park a guy named Eric (from up near Johnson) showed up to do a solo run, with shuttle help by Will Parini. He examined the upstream corner of the fishing platform from his boat before heading downstream and saw signs of damage. The river had clearly come over the platform on Thursday, and there was quite a bit of debris on the upstream and downstream sides, with fresh sawdust on the platform itself. Apparently some logs had been cut and removed in the past two days. A Bristol resident who was instrumental in bringing about the construction of the platform in 2012 was also there when I arrived. He was there to assess any  damage that might have occurred during the flood.

The New Haven watershed is primed for a rapid rise and sustained flow with subsequent rainfall this fall. That is what we are getting as I write this (Sunday, October 27) for which 0.75 inches have been forecast. Let's get on it!

Ottawa River
Friday-Monday Aug 30-Sep 2, 2019
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Author: James Poulin

Friday, August 30, 2019

Level: -2.50

Weather: 70 and sunny

Camp this year is at Owl Rafting as our normal location, River Run Rafting, is closed for the season for renovations. From our observations driving by and Sarah’s bike ride through the facility, we didn’t see much renovating. Rumors abound that River Run will be closed next year as well since there have been permitting issues with the provincial government.

Between Ottawa traffic (when has that town become so busy?!?) and border crossing snafus, the various groups made it into camp a bit later than expected.

We opted for a park & play at McCoy’s versus the anticipated burner run down the Middle Channel given the late start (almost 6pm).

The sun was setting, the water was warm and not another paddler in sight. It was a beautiful evening to be on the river.

There were 7 paddlers: John, Paul, Chris F, Chris W, Sarah, Mark and Jim.

Rather than take the normal run out back to the put-in we marched over the island and paddled back to the put-in.

Got back to the car and it was just about dark. Back to camp for a late dinner and an early bed. Long day on the road but at least we got to get wet! 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Level: -2.50

Weather: 70 and sunny

Morning Run

After a semi-leisurely morning we headed out of camp for a Middle Channel run. Being at Owl meant we needed to set shuttle as Owl is about 6 miles downstream of the normal River Run takeout. And that would be 6 miles of pretty much flatwater.

We had 12 paddlers for the morning run: John, Paul, Chris F, Chris W, Mark, Ryan, Sue, Rita, Boris, Dani, Philly Paul and Jim. Philly Paul came up to paddle for the weekend and was hanging out at the put-in looking for accomplices. I guess the VPC crew fit the bill as he paddled with us for the rest of the weekend.

As is often the case, there was much excitement at Phil’s Hole. While a few paddlers took on the Zoom Flume, there others were ready to face Phil. Most did well. John found the playboat tongue through Phil’s and lived to tell about it. Chris F found the left hand side of Phil’s to be quite sticky. But he hung on for what seemed like an eternity (from his perspective) before bailing out. The resulting swim through left side of Horseshoe left him a bit battered.

From there it was on to tackle the Middle Channel. Which at these levels included Iron Ring, S-Turn, Butterfly, a walk over Garvin’s Chute, Little No Name, Big No Name and Black Velvet.

It was the first time for Chris F and Ryan so some explanation was needed and we did scout Big No Name so they could get a sense of the line. Sue graciously agreed to lead the group through Big No Name.

Everyone enjoyed the sunny Canadian wilderness as we were among only a few paddlers on the river this fine morning. We took out at the Wilderness Tours takeout since River Run is closed. The Wilderness Tours takeout can be accessed about 100 yards north of River Run. On the river, it is about ½ mile upstream of the River Run takeout and can be easily found.

We made it back to camp around 1:00 pm for a quick lunch.

Afternoon Run

For various reasons we dropped a few paddlers for the afternoon run having 10 in total: John, Paul, Sarah, Chris W, Mark, Ryan, Boris, Dani, Philly Paul and Jim.

We put in at Upper Lorne to miss the flatwater paddle after McCoy’s. No one seemed to mind.

All was going swimmingly (OK, bad choice of words) until Coliseum. While hitting the main hole on the river left move, Boris dug hard on his paddle only to find there was no blade on one end. Snapped right off! The resulting confusion, not to mention all the squirrelly water over on the left, left him no choice but to abandon ship. Maybe in a moment of clarity he could have mimicked a C-1 boater and finished the rapid with a single blade. But today was not that day.

John happened to have a breakdown paddle in his boat. Yay John!

After that, Paul tried his luck on the Dog Leg slot to find a pretty good sized hole waiting for him. Most of the rest of us saw that and decided the far right line at Dog Leg would suit us just fine.

Made it back to camp well before dark and had plenty of time to enjoy happy hour.

We bid farewell to Mark as he needed to get home. It was his anniversary on Sunday so we did not give him too much crap for leaving early.

There was a live band at the pavilion this evening. We listened from camp, which was fine. A few strolled down for a better view and found this music was best enjoyed from a distance to help muffle the rough edges. But you must give Owl points for trying to keep us entertained (as if the river does not provide enough excitement!). 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Level: -2.75

Weather: 70 and sunny

We had 10 paddlers for today’s run: John, Sarah, Paul, Chris F, Ryan, Rita, Boris, Dani, Philly Paul and Jim

The plan was to run the Main Channel. But after three watery runs and two walks we licked our wounds and decided the energy level of the group favored a run down the Middle Channel. Dani and Philly Paul stuck with the Main Plan and the rest of us ventured down the Middle. Dani mentioned later that the Jackson Team was at Push Button putting on quite the show.

It was a very enjoyable run and we barely saw any paddlers. We did see a number of spectators along the way — at Garvin’s and Black Velvet — that made us wonder how they got there.

We made it back to camp before happy hour. We bid adieu to Sue, Rita and Chris W as they headed back to Vermont this evening.

Speaking of happy hour, it was Tequila Night. I am sure something of note happened over the next few hours, but I am not at liberty to say what those things might have been. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Level: -2.75

Weather: 70 and sunny

By the time any of us woke up, Boris had already hit the road — an earlier departure to miss the metro New York holiday traffic.

Ryan and his family were also planning to take off later in the morning and he would not be dipping a paddle today either. But not before he helped us set shuttle!

We set off on the Main Channel from the top with 5 paddlers: John, Sarah, Paul, Chris F and Jim.

John and Chris Zoom Flumed and the rest took the standard “thread the needle” line through McCoy’s. At this time of day, 9:30 am, there were no other paddlers or rafts on the river. It was quite nice.

When we got to Upper Lorne there were three paddlers in Garb. As we went around the corner to Pushbutton we came across a bunch of early morning play hounds maybe 25 boaters! and they boated like locals.

We left them behind and for the rest of the run had a wilderness run without other paddlers or rafts.

We had one swim at Norman's but we regrouped and all of us cleaned Coliseum. It was just Dog Leg and Black’s between us and the end of the weekend. All were sad that the weekend was truly ending but we pushed on.

We made it back to camp in record time (12:30!) and everyone was on the road before 2:00 pm.

Another Ottawa trip is in the books! See you again next year.



Hudson River Gorge
Sunday Jun 16, 2019
Organizer: JimP
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Author: James Poulin

Being that it was Father’s day, I was thinking that attendance would be sparse.  Far from accurate.  14 folks came out for this classic run.  We even had a couple of fathers with offspring in tow.  Paul & Rita and Jonathan & Josiah made it a true Father’s day run!


The level at 4.7 with the bubble was low-ish but still provided for an active day dodging holes and rocks.  And the Indian never fails to excite.


The weather was a bit gloomy – temps in the upper 50’s with spitty rain all day.  Still I managed to get a sunburn on the back of my neck.. How’d that happen?!?


We put on a bit later than normal and were rewarded by not being in the middle of the rafting traffic jam.  It was like we had the river all to ourselves.  And we kinda did as there were no other private trips this fine day.


As for the juicy deets.  Well, those that read these trip reports for the carnage will be sorely disappointed.  There were no swims or unusual lines.  Plus we had four Hudson Gorge “rookies” and they all styled it!  Yes, Sarah had to apply her best hole escape techniques at one point and ChrisW caught the edge of a hole that flipped him and bonked him on the head for good measure (he rolled right back up), but that was about it.  Even the flatware paddle out wasn’t as hellacious as I remember it.  So all in all, a great day on the river with good friends.


On the ride home I was pondering how tired I was and the fact that 14 miles of river would be a just about an average daily length of river on our upcoming Grand Canyon trip.  And we will be doing 18 days in a row!  Time to get in paddling shape this winter!


Taming the East Branch Pemi
Saturday May 25, 2019
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

We got home from our day of boating - and bike shuttling - last night at dusk as the next (umpteenth???) overnight rainstorm approached New England, and I see online this morning the EBP real-time gauge has doubled to 1500 cfs... and climbing. The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River (or EBP) along NH's Kangamagus Highway near Loon Mountain is a quintessential New England whitewater run, and we were surprised that we couldn't interest anyone else in this trip.

This gem is an exuberant mountain stream with clear flowing water, littered with clean, smooth, rounded boulders of all sizes that are mercifully not slippery underfoot. You can't help noticing the 4000 foot mountains rising on the horizon in almost every direction. Likewise, the many vacation homes and condos near Loon Mountain are hard to ignore, but parts of the run still feel remote and pristine.

I don't recall ever running the EBP as low as is was yesterday (750->700 cfs), but it was plenty challenging, dropping - as it does - 70 feet per mile for 6 miles, with innumerable small and medium sized holes to toy around with, and a handful of large holes to try and avoid. In Eric's honor I paddled the Outrage (OC1), and only truly once had a boatful of water (no swims). I wish I could say the same for Eric, but he still had a good time and would do it all over again, I'm sure. Early in the day I commented that the inflatable kayak with Eric at the helm seemed like a perfect match for the EBP, but as the day progressed its penchant for sticking to rocks, wrapping around rocks, and getting sucked into retentive holes helped Eric justify his audacious ice cream cone (a "small") at Big Cones in Wells River. Order a large at your own peril!

Upper New Haven
Sunday Apr 21, 2019
Organizer: Tony Shaw/Eric Bishop
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low
Author: Eric Bishop

Tony, Jamie and Jim showed up on Easter Sunday and we had an enjoyable paddle. This is a 4 to 5 mile stretch of the New Haven above the Ledges section, with lots of class II and three pretty challenging Class III drops.  This would be a good section for someone ready to move up to Class III as all three of the challenges can be carried and/or scouted.

A Joe's Brook Trip That Wasn't
Saturday Apr 20, 2019
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: high
Author: Tony Shaw

All three rivers that flow west through the spine of the Green Mountains to Lake Champlain were at flood stage by the end of 4/20 on account of a soaking rain Friday night on the heels of a warm and windy Thursday/Friday that set the stubborn snowpack in the deep woods up the feeder valleys a-melting. North Williston Road and Rt. 15 in Cambridge were under water by day's end. And although I never laid eyes on Joe's Brook I'm positive it was too high for any of us to want to run it. So instead I spent the morning driving around up north looking for something that seemed reasonable when virtually everything was too high. Call me weird, but I have to say road scouting 8 or 10 raging rivers with coffee and doughnuts on board was almost as much fun for me as actually paddling one. By 11 am, after looking at Mill Brook (in Jericho), the Lee R., the Browns R.(in Underhill), the Seymour R., the Brewster R. (all probably reasonable), followed by the NBL @ ~4 feet, the Gihon, and the Green R. @ 4.5 feet (none of them reasonable), I drove up the Mountain Road in Stowe (VT108) as far us Notch Brook Road, and shared my plan to run the West Branch of the Little River (WBL) in a group text.

More rain arrived as we were suiting up to paddle, but once you're in your drysuit it really doesn't matter. There is a convenient put-in eddy under the VT 108 bridge on river right, upstream from the Matterhorn Restaurant and Bar, at the confluence of Ranch Brook and the West Branch, with a place to park vehicles at the foot of Ranch Brook Rd. At high water the paddle from this confluence down to Taylor Park (the "Stowe Peace Park") is 2.5 miles of non-stop, FUN boogie water. FU rocks and strainers were a non-issue, except for one obvious river-wide (large) tree trunk a few inches above the waterline, where the river and rec path converged.

The main stem of the Little River in Stowe Village had crested just over 3000 cfs at 9am, pretty big for such a little (get it?) river. The one WBL feeder stream with a real-time USGS gauge - Ranch Brook at Ranch Camp - had crested overnight at 360 cfs (dropping to 240 cfs when we met at 1pm). The WBL only dropped 1" during our run (according to my rudimentary stick-in-the-mud gauge at our Rusty Nail/W Br Sculpture Garden take-out).

We ran into Ben and a crew of hair boaters as we were changing back into our street clothes after our run. They were setting shuttle to do the same thing, except they were going to start even higher up, on Ranch Brook. Prior to our run, I walked up to look at Bingham Falls, which was quite impressive.

It was a fun day!

2019 Ledges Race
Saturday Apr 13, 2019
Organizer: Local Boaters
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: high
Author: McCall

April 13, 2019…. We set that date back in October of 2018 as when we wanted to hold the 11th annual New Haven Ledges Race on the New Haven River in Bristol, Vermont. We always set a date for around the beginning of April so we can catch the snow melt bubble coming out of the Green Mountains. Last year we got temps in the 20s and sleet. The year before it was in the 20s and snow. This year……Jackpot! We got a smidge of rain the night before and then it got sunny and temps drove toward 70. Some years you miss it and some you hit it on the head. This year we knocked it out of the park. Some of the best weather and water levels we have ever seen. I should have played the lottery.

The race has really grown into the season opener here in New England and this year we saw our highest number of early registrations. The day before the race there was a flurry of online sign-ups that put us at 47 racers pre-registered. That made for an interesting morning of the race. Since 2012 we have set the max race registration at 60 racers. We have never gotten to that number. Doing the math it works out pretty nicely for each racer to get two laps over the course of the day. It is also a good number to split the field to set half the racers in safety and the other half on deck for their race lap racing, doing this both in the morning and in the afternoon. For this year we were rapidly approaching our max number of 60 and “day of registrants” were still rolling in before our pre-race meeting. Things happen for a reason though…a number of racers weren’t comfortable with the meaty levels for race laps and decided to turn in their bibs. This opened up the opportunity for others waiting to sign up. In the end we handed out 49 bibs to racers.

Our morning started off wet and wild as we sent racers 26–49 down through the course to get to designated safety spots. One of the safety boaters on his way down to his designated safety location got munched in the second ledge about 25 yards below the start ramp. Our team went into action immediately to pull the paddler and his boat from the river. Not even racing yet this was a sign of things to come. Most folks had never raced the Ledges at this level and greatly underestimated what the river was doing.


Our field of racers is top notch. We are seeing top caliber boaters entering this event and it really shows on high water days… We had a shoot out for the top 3 spots this year again with the big hitters. In fact in the top 10 this year, 5 were past winners and two more were top three finishers. That is pretty amazing.


We had a tie for the second fastest time at 1:40 between Ryan Mooney and Jason Kahn. Mooney left after his first lap so did not compete for the tie breaker at second, leaving Kahn with the 1st runner up prize. With the 2nd runner up place, Mooney has placed more in the top three than anyone that hasn’t won over all. Way to go Jason and Mooney for laying down seriously fast laps. However this year we have a new LEDGEND OF THE LEDGES…Congratulations GREG LEE! Greg netted a time of 1:34, setting a new course record and taking advantage of the high water to run a unique line through the ledges to shorten the course to his advantage. Well done!


Our Women showed up to race as well. 3 women raced this year with Leanne Bernier taking the top spot with a time of 2:04. This was not her first rodeo on the New Haven Ledges. She knew the lines and what it would take to pull down a win, not her first for the Ledges Race.


Congratulations to our winners. They all put it on the line and raced in some pretty serious full on conditions.

Every year I thank our volunteers, both on the ground and safety. I once again am grateful to the assistance that the volunteers provide, from setting up the ramp the day before to assisting with the shuttle process, to break down after the race wraps up. Our volunteers are the best.


Our safety is the best as well, they kind of have to be though. They also race. This year they were put to the test with a lot of out of boat experiences in the high water. Our live-bait above toaster saw several rescues. Our safety director, Will Seegers, really does a fantastic job of having our racers in all the right places to make the saves!

Again the race sponsors came though with a good mix of gear for the winners and our raffle that raises funds for American Whitewater. Below is a shot of our door prize this year, a stainless steel pint glass with all of our sponsors on it. Thanks again to all of you and your generosity. Having you on board really does provide a level of legitimacy to this event that otherwise would not be part of the Race.

The day was about as perfect as it gets for holding the Ledges Race. The racers were stoked on the river levels. All the spectators were entertained on the action they were getting watching the racers run some serious water levels. Everyone was smiling about the sunshine and temperatures and yours truly was happy as a clam with how everyone was having a good time enjoying the event. Myself and Will had the pleasure of hearing how this was the “BEST LEDGES RACE YET”… I’d have to say I couldn’t find a reason to disagree. 11 years and running. This seems to be more and more the norm for opening up the boating season in VT and northern New England…you could say tradition? Hope to see you all next year for the 12th annual New Haven Ledges Race.




See you on the ramp next year….Ryan


2019 New Haven Ledges Race





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