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

Past 12 Months...

Browns River - Westford Tuesday Jun 19, 2018
Saranac in May (1) Sunday May 13, 2018
Lower Mad River Wednesday May 9, 2018
N. Branch Cold River / Cold River Monday Apr 30, 2018
Patterson Brook (and people to boat with) Wednesday-Sunday Apr 25-29, 2018
Mascoma River - from Mascoma Lake Saturday Apr 7, 2018

Past 12 Months...

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.)

Saranac in May (1)
Sunday May 13, 2018
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Chris Weed

The Saranac had been running high for over a week, but by the week of May 6 showed promise of coming down to a sensible level, with little rain expected for the next several days. I posted about a possible trip, and Charlie expressed interest. By Thursday Jeremy had emailed me about the trip. Early on Friday I posted a plan to meet on Sunday morning, and Chris signed on.

By that time the gauge was down to 5.5 - 5.6 feet, a nice medium level. I hoped it would hold into the weekend, and it did. Saturday was sunny but chilly, but Sunday looked ideal, with a forecast high of the 70 or above.


Lower Mad River
Wednesday May 9, 2018
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jim Poulin

Ten of us gathered on a warm (80 degrees) spring day.  This was the "Team Edition" trip.  We had the following "teams":

Team Centrifuge: JimF & Max  (they were fun to watch flopping all over the place)

J-Team: JimP & John

Eddy Hop Team: Hugh & Steve

Team Chris: ChrisW & ChrisM

Father / Daughter Team: Paul & Rita

And we will not make mention of any swim team members...

Since it was so sunny and warm we took our time getting through the first few rapids.  Yes, there is still wood in the S-Turn rapid but we all missed it.  We burned so much daylight by the time we hit the Route 100 bridge we needed to hustle a bit to get to the take out by sunset.  We made it with a few minutes of daylight left.  By the time we took out the temps were still in the mid 60's!

Everyone has a great time.  Why can't all days of paddling in Vermont be 80 degrees with enough juice to get us downriver?!?


N. Branch Cold River / Cold River
Monday Apr 30, 2018
Organizer: Scott G
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Scott G

In the winter of 2018, after spending most of my adult life living north of 89, I moved to Middlebury.  This move placed me in striking distance of a whole new cache of creeks and streams many of which I had never paddled.  On the afternoon of Monday April 30th, after missing the peak runoff event of the past week (visiting family in NC) I took the opportunity to explore one I had been wanting to check out for a while - the North Branch of the Cold.  

The North Branch is a small stream tucked to the southeast of Rutland in a surprisingly remote valley.  Its waters originate on the northwest aspect of Killington and travel south before meeting the main branch of the Cold just below the Brown Covered Bridge. 

The put-in I chose was where Notch Road crosses the river just below Mclaughlin Falls - a potentially runnable 2-stage falls dropping perhaps 30 feet in total.  As I was travelling alone it was something I didn't inspect closely.  From the pool at the base of the falls it is a little over three and a half miles to the main branch of the cold with an elevation loss of 650 feet.  The first mile drops 200 feet and contains fun constricted boulder and bedrock rapids.  Wood was an issue in some, but otherwise it was surprisingly decent boating.  Unfortunately the quality boating ends and for the next 2 miles the creek was shallow, gravely and wood infested, the sort of tiring and boat abusing stuff that deters one from returning.  Redemption is found in the last six tenths of a mile after Mendon brook enters on the left, adding flow.  Below here the creek drops 170ft over small and continuous boulder rapids, reminiscent of the Big Branch only tighter and slightly less steep.  Of the run I found this to be the most enjoyable and a great way to dull the memory of the previous 45 minutes in the flat section. 

While the boating on the North Branch had its highlights, as an overall run it is not something I would likely recommend.  That being said the valley has a very remote feel and contains a beautiful birch and maple forest.  Something about it reminded me strongly of the White Mountains.

At this point you are deposited into Cold River proper.  I chose to hike up from the confluence another 3/4 of a mile to add a bit more to the afternoon.  From here down to the Cold River Road bridge it was an incredibly fun III+ romp.  There was one dangerous river wide pine about 1/2 mile above the covered bridge directly after the river makes a nearly 90 degree turn to the left.

This section felt like a smaller E. Branch of the Pemi both in character of rapids and scenery.  The 3 miles contains continuous wave trains, small holes and a few boulder strewn rapids to maneuver through.  With the flow on the low end of the spectrum it was low stress - aside from worrying about wood.  If you were to find this with a lot of water it would be a fantastic run, but also more serious due to its continuous nature and the likely addition of a few sizable holes.

At the take out bridge I was worn out.  6½ miles of boating, plus a good amount of time with the boat on my shoulder had drained me.  Unfortunately the real fun was just starting with a nearly 8 mile bike shuttle up some seriously steep back roads still to be done.  The shuttle back to the top is rather indirect, requiring you to travel north into Rutland before back-tracking south and up Notch Road where there are a couple of gut-busting hills to impede progress.  I'm not too proud to admit I was forced to dismount for a time.

Finally arriving at the car, out of water, stamina and daylight, was a relief.  In total the adventure took about 4 hours start to finish.

Was I glad to have done it?  Definitely.  I can't think of a better way to spend my free time than exploring a secluded river valley tucked into the Green Mountains.  Will I be back to the North Branch?  Definitely, except next time will be with a fishing pole and a backpack with beer.

As for the Cold proper, as has been stated before, it is an underrated, often passed over run that I would argue ranks as one of the best class III runs Vermont has to offer.  At higher levels it would sure to please those looking for more challenge and serves as a great backup to when the Big Branch is too high.

So the next time the water is up down south, make sure to give yourself time to get a run in on the Cold.

Patterson Brook (and people to boat with)
Wednesday-Sunday Apr 25-29, 2018
Organizer: Late snowmelt
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Mike

Heading back from field work in Montpelier on Wednesday, I noticed that all the little creeks in the Mad River Valley were starting to fill up.  I made a slight detour to check Patterson, finding it at a pretty much perfect level… with no one to paddle with of course. Sort of the story of spring 2018… not really much of anyone out boating, despite the extended, late, healthy snowmelt season we enjoyed. Fortunately, a few emails later Chandler was heading over.

With one to two inches of water running over the gauge rock this run is amazing!  Things are not too big but everything is nice and fluid… a true perfect medium. We did two efficient laps on this wonderful creek, stopping to check for wood in a few places.  Things are actually in good shape wood-wise, though there is some wood hanging over the runout of the diagonal holes that looks like it will fall in pretty soon and make a nasty log jam.  Other than that there is just a lot of green moss, a few waterfalls dropping into the river and some really nice class III-IV rapids… like there’s always been.

On Thursday Robyn wanted to head over, and brought Catherine, Tom and Anders as well.  The level was a little bit lower but well within the nice medium range. We did two more really nice laps.  An added plus this time was how clear the water was. It’s hard to convey just how good this run is at a nice level… it’s active, interesting paddling but really forgiving… you’d be hard pressed to find an undercut, sieve, pothole or bad pin spot on the run.

I paddled elsewhere on Friday and Saturday, but folks were interested in heading back Sunday morning.  We had myself, Tanner, Anders and… Dave! It had been a few years since I’d boated with Dave, and in fact it was Dave who had shown me this run 8 years ago.  The level was a fluid low, just spilling over the middle of the gauge rock. We did two more laps on this surprisingly chilly day.

After that I went to take a quick look at Thatcher Brook down in Hancock.  It is a very interesting looking run.

So that is how to enjoy snowmelt, and it’s also nice to see folks actually out paddling after work!

Mascoma River - from Mascoma Lake
Saturday Apr 7, 2018
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

I put an early April Mascoma River trip on the VPC spring schedule hoping for a 70 degree day. Instead we got barely more than half that, topping out at just 40 degrees. The sun shone brightly all day, which helped a great deal, and the wet snow that had fallen overnight clung to the trees prettily during our first run. The rail trail that parallels the river and crosses it several times was covered with enough snow that a x-c ski shuttle would have been possible, though we weren't prepared for that. The Mascoma here is maybe 25 feet wide on average - free of river-wide strainers (today). There were 4 kayakers for each of our 2 runs (Chris F., John, Sarah, and Tony in the AM, with Chris W. subbing in for Sarah in the PM). The state of NH funds the real-time river gauge (de-funded years ago by the USGS) which looked plenty fluid online throughout the week. But then mysteriously Saturday morning the dam operator lowered the flow from 700+ CFS to approximately 475 CFS - still fluid but rather tame from start to finish. The paddle through the woods is attractive and we enjoyed the many read-and-run II-III rapids, the most technical of which is the final one - Excelsior. Be sure to scout the low head dam (a mandatory portage) from the take-out, whether you choose to park on river right in the posted "lot" near the rail-trail bridge or on river left in the swimming pool parking lot a couple hundred yards downstream. Dartmouth holds a slalom race on this stretch of the Mascoma each April - the same weekend as the Wells River Rumble.

White River Watershed Not So Micros
Friday Mar 30, 2018
Organizer: NOAH
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Noah Pollock

With spring finally starting to emerge from the snow drifts, Anders and I made a plan for some Friday afternoon paddling. With the demands of law school, Ander's paddling is basically limited to the White River watershed on most days, so we chose two rarely run runs - the West Branch of the Tweed and Locust Creek. Mike McDonnell had given me beta and Anders was eager for some obscure boat bashing paddling. We drove to Pittsburg, and left a car at the bridge over the West Branch of the Tweed - the White River Partnership and FEMA had conveniently purchased and removed a house here, and its a great public access point now. The water level looked great! We drove east until the road ended at a snowmobile trail, and then proceeded to drive a little further, Anders testing his 4x4 truck capabilities on the snow covered road. Eventually we stopped and walking our boats through the woods, following  the sound of the river. Behold, there is was! For good measure we hiked upstream, putting in above a snowmobile bridge. The river here is like a mini Patterson - clear, bouldery water, ledgy rock walls, fun little drops. Good stuff. After the obligatory sneak around a strainer we carried on for ~5 miles? There are several distinct drops in this section, which is great for a micro, including a set of ledges right above and below a bridge. What a fun river!

Next stop, Locust Creek, which is visible on Rt 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge near Rt 12. We parked at the gas station to scout the drop below the bridge. Left side looked chocked with wood, but right side was clear, first time in a couple years. Leaving a car here we proceeded to drive west toward Barnard. Gradually the river became smaller and smaller, so before we ran out of water we stopped at a side bridge and set off downstream. The river here was mostly quickwater with occasional Class II drops, made more challenging by a badly leaking boat on my end. Soon we came to a more intense rapid with a horizon line beneath a side bridge, and pulled over to scout. The river here descended a jumble of boulders and through a narrow slot - probably only 5' wide. Class IV+ with pinning potential? We elected to portage and seal launched into the mini gorge. Carrying on to Rt 107, we descended the final drop, which was bigger and more fun then it looked from above. Anders rolled twice here, more times then his entire Grand Canyon trip the week prior. We took out by an old road above the confluence and walked back to the gas station, happy to have explored two, close to home, not so micro creeks!

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.
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