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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 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Past 12 Months...

Upper New Haven Sunday Apr 21, 2019
A Joe's Brook Trip That Wasn't Saturday Apr 20, 2019
New Haven Sunday Mar 31, 2019
Another Winooski Falls Wednesday Wednesday Mar 27, 2019
High Peaks Creeks Friday Nov 2, 2018
Browns River - Westford Tuesday Jun 19, 2018
Spring Moose Saturday-Sunday May 26-27, 2018

Past 12 Months...

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!

New Haven
Sunday Mar 31, 2019
Organizer: Jamie
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium high
Author: Jamie Dolan

What a fun and exciting day! The LNH was at a nice mediumish level to start (2 ft on Gilbert Gauge) and it was raining lightly but still around 50 degrees. There were 7 thinking about running it and two opted out immediately. Not a bad choice as it was pretty much the first run of the season for both of them. Mike, Will and I had done this run the day before at a much lower level. Jim P and John G were both doing their first run of the season. A lot to be said for the first and second and …well just about any run of the season.

The water was moving at a good clip and getting splashed proved bracing. There were floaters in the river but not too many and they weren’t really a concern. And the rivers’ edge was fairly clear of ice, in case there was a swim. The opening rapid on the LNH is always an eye opener. What a way to start the paddling day. The run proved uneventful from a swim / roll perspective but what a hoot! When we got to South St Bridge Jim P decided his fun quotient was filled and got off. John G decided to keep him company. Meanwhile, as I pulled into the current to start down the rapid I began to hear people yelling my name. Good thing I’m hard of hearing and only heard them just before it was too late. Apparently, just as I entered the flow a large tree came in behind me. When I looked back to the guys yelling at me, I saw the log hitting my stern, Yikes! It turned out, both the log and I had good lines. I scooted far left, the sneak route at this level, with out issue. The log took the center line and ended up rolling a few times but always came up OK. We ended at Lover’s Lane bridge pretty happy with the level. Mike observed that the lower New Haven will undoubtedly become extremely popular in short order as there is a new micro brewery (Hogback Mountain) on its banks. Here's hoping that growlers are available there.

John G unfortunately left his boat a little too close to the river. During our run the river came up to 2 ½ ft. When he went to collect it at the South Street Bridge, boat and paddle were gone. After about 1 ½ hours he and Jim P were able to find and collect the boat. The paddle remains missing in action.

Onto the second half of the outing. Chris W and Chris F both had done this section before though maybe not at these levels. We started out at 2 ½ ft and ended at 3 ft. Our take out would be Eagle Park (the ledges put in). On our way to the put (just before the corner of Ripton Rd and S Lincoln Rd.) we scouted for both dangerous ice ledges (there really weren’t any), river wide strainers (none) and drops (three). On our scout of the ledge drop there was an easish line down river right. At lower water this line could be IV. But at this level it would be straight forward (HAH!). And due to the river side ice and water level, there was no stopping and scouting. You either ran it from the start or walked it.   We also checked out a few other drops. Once we put on, which was downstream of the normal spot due to snow / ice, we had an easy warm up to the first III rapid at Garland’s Bridge. We got out and looked at and each chose a different line. I took hard right, Chris W took hard left, Chris F took the dry way. Each line worked out okay though the first two had a little bit more excitement then expected (read that as we screwed up a bit). The next rapid is where the river splits due to an island. The left line was open and it usually isn’t. So we opted for the left This line involves getting by strainers on the river left bank (which you are beiing pushed into by the water), pushing past the flow which is driving right at this point(you want to go left) and lastly ensuring you don't broach on the rock that is at the head of the island (or the rock that is just past that as well), We all managed with varying degrees of non-finesse. But we were upright. After this we had relatively flat water until the ledge drop that we had scouted earlier. We were all set for our easy river right line but little did we know that due to the increase in river volume the rapid changed. No longer was it the easy tongue with small curlers. But we were in it and, wow, suddenly there are some big irregular waves, some noticeable curlers / holes and nary a tongue. I was able to watch Chris F come through the meat of it looking very stable. After this we were treated to some nice wave trains and hole avoidance through to the take out. Chris W gave us some excitement right at the end when he wet exited a bit prematurely but no harm, no foul. The run is officially recorded as no swims / no rolls.



Upper White River - Stockbridge to Bethel
Saturday Mar 30, 2019
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

I return to the White River around this time, year after year, partly out of nostalgia. My first ever bank loan (1982, for $300) was to buy my first canoe, a used 17 foot aluminum Grumman with a keel. It was a downriver boat to be sure, wide enough to put my 10-speed inside for shuttling at the end of a solo outing, well-suited to the wide, lovely, and mostly gentle reaches of the White. That said, my nascent self-rescue skills were called upon regularly as well (though I never ever lost the bike)! I always brought along a change of dry clothes in a knotted garbage bag, just in case. This was all before I beat that Grumman mercilessly - coaxing her (tandem or solo) down the Saco, the Ammo, the upper Lamoille, the Mad (upper and lower), the Huntington (including the lower gorge), the West, the Dead, and even the New Haven through Bristol.

But I digress. The White from Stockbridge to Bethel is less lovely since its wooded banks and meanders were ravaged by tropical storm Irene in 2011, but I still like it. This year it was fun having first-timers Sarah and Rooz on the trip, along with three upper White River veterans. The afternoon temperature topped out at 41°, a full 10° or more below the forecast, but at least it didn't rain (and no one needed their dry change of clothes). The upstream USGS gauge on Ayers Brook in Randolph came up nicely the night before our trip (100 CFS late Friday - and falling slowly to the mid-80's by noon Saturday). All the ice had come off the river a few weeks earlier in a late-winter flush. Still plenty of dense snow left up in the headwaters, I'm sure.

Another Winooski Falls Wednesday
Wednesday Mar 27, 2019
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Chris Weed

I was running home from the Chace Mill to get my boat and other gear at about 2:30, and passed an SUV loaded with boats coming from UVM. A signaled and asked the driver (Conner) if they were headed to the falls; he indicated yes.

By the time I arrived at the Chace Mill's back parking lot (~3:00 pm) Matt was about to put on and everyone else was on the river. I launched at ~3:30 and headed down the falls to join them. We spent the next 1.5 hours doing repeated runs of the Horseshoe or practicing attainment in the rapids below the falls. After everyone else left I hiked back to the put-in and did a conditioning paddle up to the Lime Kiln Dam and back, and after that ran the falls again on the far right side.

The weather was cool (mid-40s) but the sky was cloudless. There were some broken ice floes coming down the falls around 4:30 or so, continuing until after 5:00, but very little ice on the river overall. A later visual check from Riverside Park confirmed that Salmon Hole below the dam is completely free of ice. It was a perfect day to be on the river.

Winooski Falls, first time out in 2019
Wednesday Mar 20, 2019
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Chris Weed

It was a beautiful early spring day in Burlington, and I wanted to paddle something, after road scouting some of our favorite runs the previous Sunday to see how much the ice had cleared. My message board post elicited no responses, so I headed to the Chace Mill to put on above Winooski Falls. By that time it was after 3:30 pm, and the air temperature was up to about 50 F.

After an embarrassing period of fumbling with my gear, I was ready to put on. My plan was to paddle upstream first. A bystander pointed out a large beaver sitting on the ice 50 yards upstream, and warned me that it might follow me for a while. In fact, it mostly minded its own business, and I got a good conditioning paddle before turning around and heading back to the falls.

At about 1,400 cfs, the falls was at a reasonably juicy but not nerve-wracking level for a solo season opener. I worked my way through the entry rapid above the main drops, doing several ferries for practice, and then ran the falls before my nerves got the better of me. After that came more ferry practice and upstream workout paddling. It became clear that a workout was needed. Long, intense runs will have to wait for later in the season.

All in all, it was a perfect day for a first paddle of the season. There was ice at the takeout by the Chace Mill, but it's almost at water level and easy to pull up onto. I was able to do that and step out of my boat onto crunchy snow, avoiding dunking my dry-suited feet in the ice-cold water. It doesn't get much better at this time of year!

High Peaks Creeks
Friday Nov 2, 2018
Organizer: Jordan
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high
Author: Mike M

Lots of water around this fall.  I awoke bright and early Friday morning thinking about the New Haven, but with Ranch Brook well over 100 and heading straight up it seemed there might be better opportunities.  I knew a few folks would be over in the Adirondacks, so headed over to Keene Valley, past a fluffy-looking North Fork Boquet and many waterfalls around Chapel Pond to John’s Brook.  There I found two New York Justins and a Vermont Jordan and a John’s Brook that was at the very high end of runnable.


An easy choice was made to head back to the NoFoBo.  This wasn’t my first time on it, but the general quality of the run still surprised me.  With a nice mix of big boulder gardens, constricted bedrock and sloshy mini-gorges, all connected by juicy class III, it is varied, fun and not too gnarly, at least at a good medium level.  We took out at Andy’s hole, which looked deadlier than anything we wanted to deal with at that time.


After the NoFoBo we headed back to John’s Brook, which had dropped into a juicy runnable range.  We used the lower put-in, about a 15 minute walk up from the trailhead. The first quarter-mile had a lot of walking (partly because there were terminal log jams every 200 feet and partly because overall, there was a lot of water and a lot of gradient and it all seemed kind of scary).  After the fourth log jam we were able to stay in our boats and actually got to enjoy some of the awesome boulder gardens the lower half of John’s Brook is known for, though we carried the two biggest ones. We took out a little ways down the Ausable. Jordan hit the road fast since he had to be in Burlington in an hour (it was Kristen’s birthday and yes, Jordan had the day off and he spent it all paddling) while Justin and I headed towards Vermont for what we were sure would be a great weekend of boating.  


On a side note, apparently if it’s your wife’s birthday and you’re planning on going boating, you can just let Justin know and he’ll notify the appropriate parties.  I don’t know how much he charges for this service but I hope it’s a lot.


Browns River - Westford
Tuesday Jun 19, 2018
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

A summer whitewater outing in these parts requires a dam release or a rainstorm. And rain it did. But the Monday afternoon—and overnight—intermittent heavy thunderstorms were clearly fast-moving and isolated, so we also needed a Chris Weed to read the tea leaves and ferret out a hasty Tuesday paddling plan. Early Tuesday morning the VPC message board started lighting up. By late Tuesday morning the sun had made a return. And about the time we put-on in Westford to run the Browns—1:00 pm—the Lamoille R. at East Georgia started falling from it's peak flow (1900 cfs).

I knew from my own scientific analysis here in Williston ("thousand one, - thousand two, ...") that several potent cells had passed 10 miles or so to our north—over the Browns headwaters. Those fast-moving thunderstorms - the kind that shake your whole house when the thunder hits—were impressive. God I love summer!

I debated between canoeing and kayaking, and I chose the kayak mainly because it is a bit easier to carry and load on the car—and because it was easier to extricate from all the s#@* cluttering up our garage.

So Chris and I took my 7-week-old hip for its maiden voyage in a kayak, and it was great! The Browns corridor below Westford is surprisingly remote and lovely, home to the 2 deer we saw on the riverbank and their compadres, and at least the one coyote we saw SWIMMING across the river! And of course we had the swollen, musty-smelling river thing going on. It's the "Browns", after all!

There is a new river-wide strainer in the first 1/4 mile below the put-in on Rt. 128 in Westford, but other than that all the lines were clean, and neither of us had any difficulty. My hip actually felt really great while boating, and I even went for a mountain bike ride later that afternoon. God I love healing!

It would have been fun to have a larger group on the river, but it was Tuesday after all, and with storms like these you've got to strike while the iron is hot. I think the Browns was cresting in Westford just about the time we put on (2" or so below the concrete footing at the bridge across from the put-in). It was down to 4" or so below the footing as we headed for home around 3:30.

A final note on wood

As already indicated, 40-50 yards above the rapid leading in to the broken dam (the second drop after the put-in) there is a freshly fallen tree spanning the width of the river. (It apparently went down during one of the thunderstorms on Monday, 6/18.) It has plenty of branches and foliage, so it's a bad strainer. It's danger is mitigated by the slow-moving flow at that point (at yesterday's medium level) and the fact that one can sneak past it against the bank on far river right. However, another high water event could move it downstream into the lead-in rapid or the broken dam itself, so it would be good to cut this tree at the earliest opportunity.

There is also some new wood in other locations farther downstream, but nothing that represents a real hazard (for now). However, note that the far river-right sneak route at the river-wide ledge (third major drop) is obstructed by a log at its entrance. That will be an issue if one attempts to use that route during a high water run, when the hole main ledge drop looks risky to punch. (That would be at a level approaching flood stage.)

Spring Moose
Saturday-Sunday May 26-27, 2018
Organizer: Nobody
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Author: Mike M

For the first time in a few years I actually had memorial day weekend clear to paddle, but didn’t really make any plans.  I sorta wanted a big Quebec weekend or something that like, but hadn’t the time to get a plan together. Still, a warm weekend on the Moose in New York seemed like an easy, fun and logistically simple option and as it turned out Tom was on board as well.  I have to admit that while the Moose is not the most exotic or sought-after run, it’s still a pretty good deal… you can camp by the river, run fun, mostly-friendly class IV/V and the pool-drop nature of the run makes it a great social river, especially with the level in the low- to mid-3’s.


On Saturday we had a large but competent group and had a routine run down to Agers.  Some folks went for the hard lines, some didn’t, but everyone was a having a fun, relaxing day.


Things took a decided turn at Sure-Form, when one member of our group, Molly, flipped at the top and washed out the bottom semi-conscious and unable to exit her boat.  I didn’t quite realize what had happened, but fortunately Justin and Jeff picked up on the problem faster than I did and 4 or 5 of us managed to get her out of the current and somewhat stable on a rock, while a few others corralled gear and Greg took off to call 911.  The next big stroke of luck came when a friend of ours, Olivia, who is an ER doc came down with the group behind us, and with her direction we moved Molly to a better position where she regained full consciousness and a little bit of feeling in her extremities. Once the Lyons Falls Fire Department arrived, 20+ firefighters and paddlers carried Molly across the runout of Sure-Form to the back of a pickup truck and thence to an ambulance.


This was a sobering event for a rapid that, while notorious for bloodying knuckles and smashing elbows has never really been viewed as truly hazardous.  To some degree, I think many of us have become indifferent to the shallow-but-not-shallow-enough nature of so many rivers in the northeast and the significant, but unobvious hazard that produces.


As a side note, the ultimate diagnosis was 2 or 3 broken vertebrae, a painstaking but nearly complete recovery and what everyone hopes will ultimately be a strong return to paddling.


Sunday went a bit better, with no real issues.  It was warm enough to paddle in a t-shirt. The best part of the day was when the entire group ran the alpine line at crystal.  In fact, sitting at the bottom watching 10 friends fire it off cleanly was one of the best parts of the season.


Paddling is always about taking the good with the bad and dealing with what the river throws at you.  Be well, be wise, beware, because.


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