The Vermont Paddlers Club

Meet new friends, and paddle better!
Ensemble - 2011
Talk Paddling»

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 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Past 12 Months...

Shepard Brook, on our day off Tuesday Apr 11, 2017
Missisquoi release Sunday Nov 6, 2016
The Green was gold Saturday Nov 5, 2016
North Br. Piscataquog, Weare, NH Saturday Oct 15, 2016
Ottawa River - Labor Day Weekend Friday-Monday Sep 2-5, 2016
Reintroduction... Monday Jun 6, 2016
The Vermonter and the Spruce Saturday May 21, 2016
Clarendon Gorge Sunday May 15, 2016
Mad River Wednesday May 4, 2016
Midd Gorge Tuesday May 3, 2016

Past 12 Months...

Shepard Brook, on our day off
Tuesday Apr 11, 2017
Organizer: Tony Shaw / Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium high
Author: Chris Weed

On April 6, one of us (Chris Weed) had been browsing the Mad River Valley on Google Maps, and noticed a stream that comes down along North Fayston Road, called Shepard Brook. In an email exchange that day it was discovered that Jim Fecteau had run it many years ago. When Jim was included, he replied with one sentence:  "Yes, boulder garden and somewhat steep in spots with a smattering of waterfalls on the upper side of the run."

The following Sunday (4/9), Chris and Jim talked about it at the Lower Mad takeout. Later that afternoon, Chris drove up North Fayston Road to explore. When Tony proposed that I paddle something with him on his day off (Tuesday, 4/11) I got to thinking about Shepard and Mill Brook, which comes down along Route 17 (and is better known).

Chris, Tony, and Eric carpooled early from Richmond to allow time for scoping out Shepard and possible put-in and takeout locations. It quickly became clear that the creek had plenty of water in it. It also became clear that the chances of encountering strainers was high. Exactly how high would soon become evident.

The takeout selected was a small bridge adjacent to a house just up from Route 100. The put-in options were by a bridge where Center Fayston Road crosses the brook, and farther up the mountain at the Hedgehog Trailhead (Big Basin Road). We tentatively chose the Center Fayston Road bridge to propose to the full group. It is 4.6 miles upstream of the takeout. The trailhead parking area is another 1.1 miles upstream.

With that assessment we headed back to Route 100 and up Route 17 to look at Mill Brook. We then headed back to the junction to meet the rest of the group at the Valero convenience store. The conclusion of the discussion was that Shepard Brook was too interesting to bypass, and might not be runnable after that week, whereas Mill Brook would be benefiting from ski trail runoff for some time. We organized the shuttle and headed for North Fayston Road.

After leaving vehicles on the shoulder near the takeout bridge we headed up to Center Fayston Road, which peels off where North Fayston Road ends. At the bridge we discussed whether to put in there or farther downstream at another bridge, where Airport Road crosses the stream. There was real trepidation about the speed of the flow and the lack of eddies, with the possibility of river-wide strainers on everyone's mind, but we decided to stick with the initial choice.

Within minutes after heading downstream, we encountered our first river-wide strainer (2 closely spaced logs) and had our first swim. By the time the situation was resolved, two members of the group (Steve and Eric) had elected to get off the river, head down to the next bridge, and assess what was to come. The remainder of us started a somewhat difficult hike in calf-deep snow on river-right, on what seemed to be an old logging road. Another river-wide log was visible downstream, followed by another. Most of didn't consider putting on again until Jamie gave us the all-clear, after probing some distance downstream.

The brook at this point was little more than class 1, but was moving at a good pace. We were all on edge in anticipation of more strainers, but encountered none that forced us out of our boats until we arrived at the Airport Road bridge. By that time the gradient had markedly increased, and the whitewater was continuous class 2, shading into class 3.

Approaching the bridge, Steve and Eric signaled from shore that we need to pull out and do some scouting. The reason was another river-wide log, followed by a much bigger and more complicated assemblage of big logs farther downstream around the next bend, on the river right side of a long boulder/gravel bar. On river left was a yellow house. Its occupant came out to cheer us on. (We later discovered that he was the son of the owner, and the house was the former home of Rob and Kay Henry, founders of Mad River Canoe.)

It was becoming clear that the flow was increasing. This worked in our favor, because it produced a runnable flow on the river left side of the boulder bar that allowed us to sneak by the jumble of logs. Otherwise a portage would have been unavoidable.

At this point the gradient increased more. We were now in fast-moving class 3, with the same ever-present concern about wood. The next example was a large log suspended above a right-to-left bend, with a pourover on river left formed by another log mostly buried in gravel and cobblestones. The big log was high enough to run underneath, as long as one didn't get too far right. Behind the pourover was an eddy, where we gathered our wits for what would prove to be the most intense whitewater of the run—solid class 3 shading into class 4, with a flow of at least 700 cfs. During this sequence we had two more swims, which prompted the swimmers to end their runs. (One of them had taken a hard shot to the head in the initial capsize.) The rest of us (the kayakers) finished out the run at the takeout bridge. It should be mentioned that near the finish was yet another river-wide tree with attached branches, mostly submerged, that provided a reasonably safe slot to pass through towards river-right. At lower water this might not have been an option.

Later examination of Shepard Brook's course on Google's terrain map indicated that it drops about 360 feet from the Center Fayston Road put-in, i.e., over a distance of 4.6 miles. Only about 60 of those feet occur in the first 1.75 miles or so, so the gradient in the remainder of the run is about 100 feet per mile.


Missisquoi release
Sunday Nov 6, 2016
Organizer: Bob
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Mike M

Never one to be happy with the weather, all week I had been looking at the forecast and surprisingly, there was a solid 1+ inches of rain forecast for Friday morning.  I say surprisingly because most of VT was in a severe drought and we'd only seen appreciable rainfall once since April.  We had a Green release Saturday which got me thinking... we could have a Missisquoi release on Sunday!


Bob got in touch with Enel and they were on board and even willing to drop to minimum generation to get us enough water.


I showed up around 9:00 and found a decent minimum boatable level already going over the dam.  The dam operator, Travis, showed up a little later and gave us a little extra water.  Enel has a lot of this automated and I think they can do this all remotely, but they always send someone up just to make sure everything is good with us.  Good customer service and we aren't even customers of the normal sort!


There were about 15 of us and per Missisquoi tradition we did laps as a giant group.  The level was on the lower end, but that's fun because you can go for a lot of different moves that might be a little to exciting for higher levels.  I think we did 4 or 5 laps.


As an FYI, this was our first release up there this year (largely due to the drought, which has meant this was the first weekend there was enough water for a release).  Still, we don't nearly use up our allotment of release days in a given year, so if you want a release up here, let us know!

The Green was gold
Saturday Nov 5, 2016
Organizer: MWL
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Author: Mike M

There's been a lot of talk about the Green and our ongoing appeal on the river.  This trip report is not about that.


This trip report is about a whole bunch of boaters having a great time on a great river.


So MWL was kind enough to get us a release day this fall, and even better, they said they'd probably get both tubes running.  Up until now, we've pretty much only gotten one tube (140 cfs) for a release - which is fun, but pretty low.  I got to the put-in early and was happy to see the gauge around 2'10" - about 1-1/3 tubes, so a little bit less than we thought but still plenty of water.  I skipped the first lap to say hi to folks, make sure they didn't mess up the parking and get donations/AW memberships.  There were tons of folks up here - some folks said nearly 100 but I think it was closer to 70 or 80.  Regardless, folks came from far and wide.  It was actually fun to see folks coming off the river - a lot of folks were sorta wide-eyed and pretty surprised at how good the run is.


I hopped in with the usual group for the second lap.  Nothing much to say other than that the added water was just great - it's a really high-quality IV+ creek at that level and it reminded me why I was so excited 5 years earlier during my first runs here.  With the low-volume, schist ledge-drops and mossy woods around, it really is a classic VT run with a classic VT feel that you just won't find anywhere else.


At the take-out folks hung around socializing for awhile then headed for Morrisville for a beer and some food.  I got a little lost finding Lost Nation, but as I drove around town I was pleasantly surprised to see cars with boats on the roof all over the place.  Downtown Morrisville establishments were literally full of boaters enjoying some classic VT wining and dining after enjoying some class VT creeking.


Now that is how to have a scheduled release.  A sign of things to come?  I hope so!

North Br. Piscataquog, Weare, NH
Saturday Oct 15, 2016
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Tony Shaw

The sky above was robin's egg blue, the trees enshrouding the diminutive NB P'Cat were all decked out in their fall finery, and their leaves were falling by the bushel like multi-colored snowflakes, piling up on nearly every horizontal surface, including our spray skirts. For a tiny river with a scheduled release at the end of one of the driest New England summers on record, the P'Cat was surprisingly uncrowded. It was the inaugural trip here for all 6 of us who met up for the trip, and we were a little disappointed to discover that the release would not be as generous as in years past (though for obvious reasons). Honestly, I would be surprised if we were getting more than 150 cfs out of the Lake Horace dam tailrace. Still, it was adequately fluid for our morning and our afternoon runs (and never particularly threatening).

We got some not-so-great advice on where to take-out, and as a result we missed a few features that grace the river in the last 2-3 miles to the Lake Everett dam impoundment. The 4 mile stretch we did run (twice) was plenty of fun, with a gradient averaging 50 feet per mile including lots of continuous class II punctuated by several steeper pitches. Self-rescue, when needed, is quite a lot easier in such low-boatable conditions, but then, too, the rocks aren't nearly so well covered if you do happen to swim!

The good folks from the Merrimack Valley Paddlers had been to Weare mid-week and spent a solid day or two opening up channels where river-wide strainers had taken up residence, which made the whole day more enjoyable for all. One full-size tree trunk did somehow manage to strand itself (pointing upstream like a shish kabob skewer) in the hole at the bottom of the first drop, "Slab City", between our first and second run. And because of the horizon line as you approach (and the clean line we enjoyed there that morning) we didn't know about (or anticipate) it's presence until it was too late. It flipped Eric, and I think maybe Brock as well, but Brock got his revenge - wading right out beside the hole with his long legs, roping the log like a feed lot steer, and liberating it from the hole before it could upend any more unsuspecting boaters.

It is an easy ~2.5 hour drive to Weare NH from Richmond VT. I would certainly be game to run the P'Cat again when it is releasing next fall, getting to know it at a somewhat higher level next time, Mother Nature willing.

Ottawa River - Labor Day Weekend
Friday-Monday Sep 2-5, 2016
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low
Author: Jim Poulin

Twenty five folks and a dog named Kala made the annual journey to the Ottawa River in Forester Falls Ontario to test their mettle against these might rapids. As usual, there were some interesting stories but the vast majority of the weekend was spent with good friends enjoying whitewater as well as non-whitewater time together.

But you, my trusty reader, do not want to read about how Boater Bill made a clean run down Death & Destruction Rapid. You want the fun and interesting details. So I will provide both!

So let’s start with a description of our more illustrious dirt bag boaters this year. For this edition we had two unemployed boaters (world traveler Sarah and recently retired John) and one homeless boater (soon to be Connecticut resident Brock).

Then some new milestones for 2016. First off, the largest crowd ever! 25 strong! Plus on either end of the spectrum, we had our oldest participant – Barb at 85, and our youngest – Cooper at 8! Then we had that person with boater identity issues, Tony ran with both a kayak and a canoe over the course of the weekend. Finally, we are starting to look like a real paddling club when John showed up with a boat trailer hauling 6 or 9 boats!

Friday, September 2nd

River Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 70

The early arrivers (Brock, Ken, John, Sarah and Jim) took in an afternoon run on the Middle Channel. While McCoy’s rapid did get everyone’s heart beating a bit faster, the Middle provided a good opportunity for a warm up.

This was a burner run that included no scouting (other than McCoys) and no mishaps on any of the major Middle Channel rapids. There was one incident of note. After Big No Name and technically the end of rapids for the day, there were some adult beverages cracked open. Brock decided that his run through Black Velvet didn’t require a spray skirt to be attached or his beverage to be stowed. This combination caused his boat to fill with water and Brock was unable to brace appropriately while hanging on to the can. So Brock had the good fortune to swim a rapid he had never swum before! And the beverage was not lost so Brock has his priorities straight!

Back at camp others started to filter in and dinner was prepared in the waning Ontario light. The clear dark night put on a stellar show!

Saturday, September 3rd

River Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 75

Morning Run

The gang’s all here!

Since it is easier to list who wasn’t on the water, I’ll do that. Mark, who had not yet joined the group, was the only one missing from the morning run. So we have 17 paddlers on this run!

We opted for the Middle Channel for a warmup for the entire team.

There were a few newbies and we spent a good amount of time reviewing McCoys rapid and all its various features for them (Satlers, Phils, Corner Wave, Left & Right Horseshoe, Baby Face). Some ran the meat while others decided the Zoom Flume might be the most prudent first rapid of the weekend.

After that, it was a glorious run down the Middle with fun and play had by all.

Got back to camp for lunch and naps. Then it was time to head back out!

Afternoon Run

There were twelve hearty souls ready for round 2!

We shortened the run by bypassing the long flat water slog from McCoys to Upper Lauren (Garburator wave). A few jumped on Garb, which is in at this level. Mark jumped on Garb and then ended up swimming off and downstream. His wife, Cindy had hiked in to take in the action. Mark mentioned later on down the river that he was sure Cindy was on the phone with the Canadian 9-1-1 folks as the last she saw of him he was swimming for his life. I countered that Cindy was on the phone alright – with their life insurance agent – and was already planning that Caribbean island purchase!

A few of our team more took turns at Push Button and then we were off to run the rest of the river – Butcher’s Knife, Normans, Coliseum, Dog Leg and Blacks.

All had great lines and a wonderful time. OK, maybe a certain paddler did spend a bit more time in the river left eddy in Coliseum. But who’s counting!

And to make the evening even more complete, we were greeting at the takeout beach by many of our non-paddling contingent.

Another beautiful Canadian night with bright stars and inflated stories around the campfire.

Did I mention campfire? Staying in Pet Haven afforded us the ability to do some “trail maintenance” and gather almost all the firewood one would need. So we had fires not only in the evening, but in the morning too to ward off the chill! (or the effect of the evening before? Either way)

Sunday, September 4th

Water Level: -1.25

Weather: Sunny and 80

Morning Run

Someone had the great idea of getting going early for a quick Park & Play (Park & Watch?) at Baby Face before breakfast. Eight of us rose to the challenge. We were on the water about 8:30am with a foggy mist leading us to McCoys. It was quiet and beautiful. Then all heck broke out.

Jamie flipped in Baby Face and his camera (which is secured to his life vest for easy access) came lose and bonked him in head. He rolled up all bloodied from a small head wound near his eye. Sarah, our resident river nurse, advised she and Jamie should head back to camp to clean up the cut and get it closed.

The rest of us hung out a bit longer, but once the rafts starting coming around the bend we knew our time was up.

Back at camp Jamie got patched up and we all tucked into some breakfast. Then some serious lounging was starting to happen!

Afternoon Run

There did not seem to be heightened energy levels so the group opted for an easier Middle Channel run. Chris was not feeling well so sat this one out. This meant we had 17 paddlers as Mark was now at camp.

But we had a group of “non-paddlers” paddle down to the island by McCoys so they could see what all the fuss was about. This included Deb, Cooper, Tina and Christine in various water crafts. They watch us run through McCoys and stuck around to see a few surfs on Baby Face before they paddled the flat water back to the put in.

Another great afternoon on the Ottawa in warm water and sunny skies. The group made its way down all the Middle Channel rapids. Brock managed to keep his skirt on for a successful run of the mighty Black Velvet rapid. Again, there was a continent of folks who were waiting at the takeout to greet their heroes.

The Sunday night tequila tradition ensued and stories were exaggerated and maybe even some stuff was made up. But it was a great night with good friends in the wilds of the Canadian woods.

Sunday, September 5th

Water Level: -1.35

Weather: 85 and sunny

Some folks had a long drive, some folks left the night before and, I am sure, some folks had just had enough. Enough of the Vermonter’s shenanigans, whitewater, tequila, I am just not sure. So not as many participants for the Monday morning run.

There is a saying that a trip leader that ends with the same number of paddlers that he/she started with had a successful trip. So by that measure I did great! Now there is that one little detail that the 9 paddlers that started were not the same 9 paddlers that finished…

We picked up a new paddler at the campsite, Brian from Wisconsin, to run the Main today. He had never done the Main Channel and I was up for showing him the lines. We were in the staging eddy discussing the line at McCoys (no scouting on this trip!) when something caught my eye. There was a beaver swimming down the rapid. No wait, that’s not a beaver, that’s a helmet. Hold on, that’s one of our group! Hey, that’s John!

So three things to point out here.

1. I have been coming to the Ottawa for 30 years now and have never seen someone swim the entire McCoys Rapid. Most folks at least make it to Phil’s Hole upright before heading into the drink!

2. We all know (or have heard) about the infamous Phil’s Hole. Well John floated right into the meat of Phil’s Hole. While John didn’t stay long, Phil did manage to suck the spray skirt right off John!

3. This was a new First Swim Descent at least as far as I know. This caused Brock a bit of a concern as he likes to be the first one to swim certain portions of a rapid. For a moment I thought Brock was going to jump out of his boat and swim McCoys top to bottom in solidarity with John. But he came to his senses and instead, nail it!

So by now you are wondering how John managed to get into this predicament. He was trying a few practice rolls at the top of the rapid. Hind sight tells him he was too close to the flow as when he missed a practice roll and needed to swim, he was already committed to the rapid. There is some cruel irony in there somewhere.

We then did the flat water paddle down from McCoys. Everyone made it through Upper Lauren without issue. John had a bit of difficulty after the Upper and before Lower Lauren and decided he had enough for today and took out. Fortunately another one of our Pet Haven neighbors, Pasqual (sp?) joined us. She had walked into Push Button with her husband and baby. They were taking turns playing on the wave and watching their son. But the plan was for her to join us for the remainder of the run. So as trip leader I was still able to count to 9!

We ran all the rest of the rapids without scouting or issue. Fun was had by all!

Then it was back to camp to pack up and head back home. Sad, but we were all filled with a wonderful weekend memories.

So who’s in for next year!


Short Sleeves and Green Leaves...A solo NBW.
Monday Jun 6, 2016
Organizer: Ryan
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Author: Ryan

Yup - a solo run of the NBW....  I was shocked that I couldn't rally anyone that was able to lap it with me.  But sometimes its just better to have all to yourself.


We got one hell of a rain storm Sunday and then Sunday night.  I was up before 5am to my phone pinging off texts from Mainer about the NH Ledges...  Awesome run but over an hour away.  I looked at the gauges and then at Wunderground Weather maps and saw that Worcester saw and additional 1.7 inches after midnight that other places didn't.  I send out a flury of emails and texts and then loaded up.  I only got casual responses other than Chris Ingram, who was tied up for the early part of the morning with family but wanted to meet up later.


Off I went up route 12 toward the boarder of Elmore and Worcester and the put in for the NBW.  While I was gearing up a fellow kayaker honked at me on his way by to his office.  I was lucky - I wasn't at any office that day, I was in paradise.


Sliding into the river solo, even a river you know intimately is a special feeling and provides an electricity that you don't always get in a group.  All I could hear was moving water, down the channel, off of my boat and paddle and birds getting their day going.  There was still fog in the air after the storm but it was a sunny morning that was cutting through the trees dripping off the last of the showers.  It is pretty dang magical to get to have that to yourself.


I needed to focus though - a solo run on the NBW (at least for me) is not something to take casually.  So the warm up rapids early on should be used to dial in moves and mentality.  I had a great first run, even cleaning up some of my sloppy lines from earlier in the spring.  My second run I cut short because the river had dropped out so fast and lines were becoming more and more bouncy and less fluid.  I told myself I was making a good choice cutting run 2 in half and sparing myself an extended welding session later to repair my cracked and battered boat if I had completed the run.  there was no need to be greedy. I just had the NBW all to myself on a Monday morning, while co-workers were pounding their keyboards and drinking coffee to get their day started....  Paradise - Green leaves and short sleeves on the NBW.


As a side note - there are two new pieces of incidental wood.  One is early on in the run that needs portaged, the other is after the tube and it needs portaged. 

Monday Jun 6, 2016
Organizer: Chris Ingram
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Ryan

Mission Accomplished....


Mellow whitewater, with enough features not to get bored, but make moves, and get comfortable in a boat again...  Chris had been eyeing this stretch forever, and the lower section has seen action for years.  We made a long trip out of it and brought along an old friend that the boating community has sorely missed.


Packie was back on water for the first time in over 3 years...  We had a long stretch of class 2 in front of us to get a lot of strokes in to make it from Greensboro Bend to Hardwick on the upper Lamoille.  The water was a little two low, but the company was top notch, and the weather was idyllic.  


I'd highly recommend this stretch of river to any beginner looking for fun eddy hopping and easy rapids.  Some of the corner pockets have wood and the MASSIVE drop in East Hardwick should be looked at carefully pending the level, but its a pretty stretch that a beginner should check out.  It was also a perfect reintroduction piece for Dave.


Now lets start doing some rain dances and get the flow back in our rivers!


Welcome back to the fold JD.....

A pleasant surprise on the Tourilli
Sunday May 22, 2016
Organizer: Late-season Quebec snowmelt
Difficulty: flatwater
Level: medium
Author: Mike M

On Sunday morning we awoke high up in the Sainte-Anne watershed.  We were pretty beat from the previous day's adventure, but we were in the middle of the Quebec whitewater vortex and it appeared everything was at a perfect level and we had all day to paddle.  Did I mention the previous day's adventure had us kinda beat?


The most appealing option seemed to be the Neilson - a classic run that was at a great juicy medium level.  But as it turned out, we were really close to the Tourilli, none of us had run it, and the whole purpose of the trip was to run some new things.  So we grudgingly sacrificed a great Neilson day in the name of exploration on a run that was described as "less steep than the Dryway".  Oh well... at least days like that strengthen your resolve to get back up there and run something good.


Truth be told, Alden describes the Tourilli as recommended... but somehow the description is just not that inspiring.  Maybe it's because it's accompanied by a story about a hideous waterfall beating.  Or maybe it's that the picture shows riffly class II-III leading up to a drop that looks a little to scary to be fun.  Regardless, it was warm and sunny - perfect for napping and drying gear at the put-in while shuttle is being set.  And there sure were a lot of locals around and they all seemed pretty stoked about the run and the level.  Once on the water we saw why.


Juicy class III started just out of sight of the road, and quickly built into fun, very continuous class III+.  This went on a ways, and in a few spots pinched down or steepened into a little class IV.  There were a few holes or rocks to dodge, but nothing particularly worrisome - just continuous and big enough that I didn't want to swim.  It was classic Quebec whitewater too:  juicy boat-scoutable rapids, impeccable water quality, clear blue sky above and the river twisting between steep spruce-covered valley walls a long way from civilization.  This is why Quebec whitewater is awesome


There was a group right in front of us that we followed so we knew we weren't going to accidentally drop into something nasty.  After about 3 miles things widened out into the aforementioned riffly class II-III for a couple hundred feet and we hopped out to portage the U-Hole.  One of the locals said he ran it earlier that week, but everyone seemed pretty wary, so we followed them off a great seal launch into some solid class IV with a couple real holes to avoid.  Another mile or so and we got out to portage the waterfall.


With all due respect to Alden, no wonder he got a beating in there.  It looks like while it wouldn't hold you forever, it would happily rip off your skirt, shorts, eyelids or shoulder connective tissues and probably fill your stomache with uncomfortable amounts of river water.  Just below here was a great final stretch with some friendly but very rowdy class IV.


At the take-out we seriously considered another run, but enough soreness was creeping back into our muscles to hold us back from a second run on this Quebec classic.


The Tourilli is one of the finest sections of class III-IV whitewater in the northeast.  It usually runs into June, is just 4 hours from Burlington and has a ton of other great stuff around.  Do it!

The Vermonter and the Spruce
Saturday May 21, 2016
Organizer: Jordan & Culley
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Author: Mike M

"Scott, Welcome to the A team"

-Jordan V


"Hah, I'll remind you of that tomorrow when you're sweating yours *$s off thrashing through dense Quebec forest portages.  I'm still game, ***k 10k, I can portage the whole ***m thing if I have to..."

-Scott G


The paddling scene in Quebec has grown a lot the past couple years, from the number of paddlers, to the number of known runs, to how much of a paddling destination Quebec has become.  Of course there's something to be said of the skill of local paddlers - mainly that runs up there will always be harder than you expect.


A long shuttle brought us far up a drainage I had heard of, but never explored.  Yet our goal was not in this watershed, but the one next door - a creek dropping 1400 vertical feet.  It was first paddled a few years ago, and had only seen a few runs each year, but was rumored to be on of the best in Quebec.  Culley and Jordan wanted something new and challenging, and this seemed like a good opportunity.


The hike in started with a mile or so up a logging road - steep but not unbearable.  Then we took a right on an ATV trail and followed this a half mile to a small, very quiet lake.  This was a pristine, beautiful spot - perfect for an afternoon spent napping and fishing.  We paddled across the lake and then thrashed and post-holed through rotten, brushy, surprisingly deep snow for an hour or so.  We got the route just right and hit the put-in lake, had a quick snack, and then paddled across.  There was really no question of where to go - one end of the lake wandered off between mountains, while the other end led to a huge horizon line.  Not the sort of horizon line you get at the top of just a single big rapid.


We made a quick portage around an old crib dam, then routed through a few nice boat-scoutable rapids.  There was a bigger drop - good to go, then a canyon rapid that ended in a bad hole - also good to go although we decided we couldn't spend the time doing a full scout and safety with so much river left.  There was more good stuff below here - reasonable class IV-IV+ boulder and bedrock stuff.  We followed this into a sketchy eddy above something larger - another canyon rapid - doable but terminating just above something truly huge.  I didn't even look at the big one before being sure we wouldn't run it.


The portage was classic Quebec.  Steep, very brushy and somehow extremely hot despite the late-May snowpack.  We dropped down a gulley to the bottom of the massive rapid, which turned out to be a big slide with real gnar above and below it.  I'd guess it drops at least a hundred vertical feet in about the same horizontal distance, and it's hardly clean.  Remarkably, it's been run twice by crazy locals - they call it "Gandalf the White".  This is probably the biggest rapid I've ever personally seen that's been run.


Below this things dropped into what looked like a deep canyon.  Worried about portage/exit options and not wanting to spend time with a thorough scout, we carried another quarter-mile downstream.  At this point we saw enough of the gorge to regret our decision - it looked like big but manageable quality stuff with plenty of space on the banks.


There wasn't much time for regret - back on the water we got into a section of fast, jumbled boulder gardens that would have made most Taureau rapids blush, then more great bedrock stuff.  This went on for a long time - miles - and it was just great.  Things weren't too stacked, but every couple hundred feet there was a nice, good-sized bedrock rapid - mostly slides or ledge sequences but with some great pinches, boulder gardens and small falls as well, with shallow but pleasant class III between.  It wasn't glacially-polished Pemiqewasset granite, but was pretty smooth for Quebec and made for a lot of really fun boating.  This took many 1-person scouts and plenty of full scouts and every tenth of a mile we hit something bigger that got our attention - I think we carried two more rapids in here.


Of course planting so many awesome boof strokes is tiring and as the afternoon wore on energy levels dropped.  We didn't really know how much more we had left so kept moving.  I had gotten enough of a glimpse at the valley during shuttle to know it did have a steep section near the end.  I think it was around 5 pm that things started narrowing and dropping again.  I was ready to be done at this point and felt like I was tired enough to be an accident waiting to happen, but if anyone else was in the same position they didn't show it.  


This last section was incredible.  Definitely the best of the run and perhaps one of the nicest riverbeds I've boated in.  Nothing big, but constant, engaging, quality whitewater, continuous enough to be exciting but with plenty of eddies and a wide variety of rapids to keep it interesting.  The group did a great job of working downstream with coordinated, efficient, judicious shore scouting and boat scouting.  This was steep too - I think the gradient was close to 300 feet per mile and it went on for probably close to two miles.


At some point Jordan gave some hand signals and I ran down through a blind notch that turned out to be a great angled slide.  A few eddies and boofs later and I was emptying my cracked boat while the rest of the crew came down and then kept moving.  I hopped back in and spent the final 10 minutes fighting with exhaustion with my eyes glued to the stern in front of me.  All of a sudden we came out of a boulder garden and a few islands appeared in the middle and things got shallow - we were on an alluvial fan!  Another couple hundred yards of pin-spot and wood-infested boulder crud and we hit a little flatwater and then out onto the very large Jacques-Cartier at full spring flow.  A quick ferry across the big river and we were at the takeout after about 10 hours of quality boating and Quebec spruce-thrashing.  We were all pretty beat but still had time to grab beers with a couple friendly Quebec raft guides who were hanging around.  This was after I completed the wretched task of taking my socks off - not the most pleasant or sanitary thing to do after spending a full day in a leaky drysuit.  We reversed the 1.5-hour shuttle and were snoozing next to a random logging road deep in the Quebec woods well before midnight.


So I guess the five of us are one more incredible creek run into what's shaping up to be an fantastic Quebec season.  Here's to many more awesome days up there.




Clarendon Gorge
Sunday May 15, 2016
Organizer: Jamie Dolan
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jamie

It’s not often enough that I can get on the Mill River / Clarendon Gorge. With the buds coming out and limited rainfall, we were fortunate to be able to get on this gem, albeit at a low level. We were evenly divided between those that had done the river before and those for whom it was a first. The opening rapids only give a hint as to how steep and tight the coming gorges are. A couple of the guys were a little wide eyed, especially after the opening rapid caused a couple of rolls. Nothing like not having any warm up on a cool day to jump into IV. That was the only real excitement on the water for the day. A few of the rapids gave a little pause (particularly the next to last one). Overall fairly straight forward at this level. The covered Bridge rapid had me turned around a bit but without consequence. The others that ran it were much cleaner. Once again, the owners of the house at the covered bridge came out for some sharing . And we learned Chandler is apparently going to be a diplomat. Noah will hopefully write a short summary of the (overall positive) interaction and post it on the message board. The devil’s gorge rapid had most throwing in their boats and then following. Once again, Chandler was the man as he showed us all how to do a proper back flip. With a few scouts we managed to do the trip in a couple three hours at a very relaxed pace. Everyone managed to leave with a smile.

Mad River
Wednesday May 4, 2016
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jim Poulin

Two sure signs of spring: 1. fisherpersons are now on the river and play boats are starting to make an appearance after a long winter's nap.

And so it was as we met on the lower Mad river on a cool and cloudy day in early May.  No sun to be had and temps lingered around 50.

We had some rain just as we were changing into our paddling gear, making sure that our "dry" clothes were really not that dry.  And then it rained again right as we took off so we needed to change into our semi-dry clothes, again in the rain.  Of course it did not rain while we were on the river and there was not enough rain to give us a juicier ride.

Once on the river we meandered downstream stopping for an occasional play wave or interesting eddy.  But in general at this level, there is not much going on other than dodging rocks. 

Everyone had a great time (measured in smiles) and stories were told in the flat water sections.  There were no interesting events at Horseshoe with clean lines all around.

There was one swim at the last rapid (Old Schoolers like me call it Commotion) but we quickly recovered from that and moved on to the takeout.

The takeout proved to be the most difficult thing we did all day.  In good weather the Winooski takeout is difficult.  Throw in a receding river that exposes some nice mud and a bit of rain to make it even more slick and you've got yourself some fun.  There were grunts and groans and some contortionist moves to get out of still floating boats.  And that was just me!  But no one ended up in the drink so I am claiming success!

Bottom line, a good group of folks running a familiar river in early May at low water.  Nothing to complain about here!  


Midd Gorge
Tuesday May 3, 2016
Organizer: Jordan Vickers
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable

The day before the New Haven Ledges was at a medium flow which generally means the Middlebury Gorge will be good the next day.  We met at 4pm the following day for a typical low water Midd Gorge run.  We quickly loaded boats in Justin's truck and were at the put in in no time.  It was a beautiful spring day with warm temps and sunshine.  We scraped down from the regular put in and were able to get under two logs that are river wide just below the put in.  As you go deeper into the gorge things start getting more constricted and fluid.  Justin had cut a sneak around the first log portage and him and Mooney wheel chaired over the second one keeping it a no portage run.  Arriving at the entrance to the Birth Canal Ryan got out to take some photos and Justin and I were providing beta for Pat as it was his first time there.  I went first and had a less than good boof off fallopian but landed upright and waited for the rest of the group.  Pat came next and had no seperation, melting the falls.  He disappeared for a few seconds going very deep, finally resurfacing upside down toward the river left room.  He pulled his skirt and groaned in pain (shoulder).  I quickly paddled up to the room where he grabbed my boat getting him away from the undercut walls and safely downstream.  Justin and Ryan quickly were there to help assist Pat and get his gear still in the same spot he swam.  Amidst the rescue I managed to look upstream and catch a glimpse of Beckwith with an amazing boof off Fallopian (still not sure how).  After several minutes we were able to get Pat's shoulder back in place and Justin volunteered to walk him out of the Gorge on river right.  Meanwhile Ryan and I had to get both their boats and paddles to river left by Cunnilingus so they could easily get them later.  Catching a micro eddy mid Cunnilingus is not an easy task.  Ryan and I made quick work of getting the gear across the river and turned our focus back to getting downstream.  A quick scout at Rebirth for wood and were were on our way.  Racing down the river to get to the car we came across a couple in a "romantic situation" on a flat rock just upstream and out of sight of "Your Mom."  We gave a hoot and a holler and kept on charging.   We made it to the takeout in twelve minutes from exiting the Birth Canal.  I got in my car to go get Justin and Ryan and as I pulled out they rounded the corner.  Getting Pat to the car we cut his wrist gasket on his drytop and were able to get his gear off.  Ryan made a sling from some plastic (poncho maybe) and duct tape.  Having Pat comfortable I ran Ryan and Justin back up to get the boats we left upstream and I made my way home.  It was a very eventful day on the Middlebury.  I was impressed how quickly Justin and Pat made it up out of the gorge and down to the car.  We had quality gear transferring in the gorge.  Mooney made quite the sling and I am thankful my wife (Kristen) taught me how to reset shoulders.   

VPC trip reports can provide an important historical basis for 'current use', a legal doctrine that can affect the regulatory process - dam relicensing, new dam construction projects, etc. But only (obviously) if we (WE) write them! So, be sure to share and preserve the memories of your latest paddling adventures by submitting a trip report.
If you are a VPC member and you want attribution for a trip report, please login to the website (above) before you begin filling out your trip report. Reports with attribution will appear on the 'My Trip Reports' tab on your 'My Profile' page.
Water Level
River Gauge (visual)
Online Gauge Reading(s)
Table of Contents
Write a Trip Report

Please log in.
For Username, enter either 1) the primary email address you've specified in your member profile, or 2) the Username assigned to you upon joining the VPC.

Once you are logged in as a VPC member, you will have access to your member profile, and members-only content on the website. If your login attempts fail, please email the webmaster. Include your name, and (if you know it) the username you were assigned.

red code
Link Checker Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS
© 1996-2017 The Vermont Paddlers Club
Report a Bug