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


Lower Mad Sunday Apr 9, 2017
Shepard Brook, on our day off Tuesday Apr 11, 2017
Cobb Brook Tuesday Apr 11, 2017
White River - Stockbridge to Bethel Saturday Apr 15, 2017
Joe's Brook Saturday Apr 22, 2017
Spring Green Release Sunday Apr 23, 2017
Mill Brook, Brownsville to Windsor Thursday Apr 27, 2017
Saranac River to Redford (#1) Saturday Apr 29, 2017
Mill Brook Tuesday May 2, 2017


Lower Mad
Sunday Apr 9, 2017
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

This trip was scheduled for the Upper Mad, and trip reports from years past have us on the Upper Mad at flows as low as 750 cfs, though 1100 cfs is more of a medium level for the Warren to Waitsfield stretch. Not to be deterred, the Lower Mad is a nice consolation prize when the Upper Mad is off the table.

We let the day warm up, meeting at noon for a ~3 hour paddle - out long enough to get a sunburned nose if you (like me) forgot about sunscreen. When the day dawns below 20 degrees it is easy to forget the sun on April 9th is as hot and high overhead as it is on Labor Day.

The level dipped below 700 cfs ever so briefly before turning upward again with melting snows higher up, and the mercury in Middlesex had reached 60 degrees by the time we took out.

There were too few women on the trip - zero in fact - but otherwise it was an upbeat and handsome bunch. No one ran Horseshoe river-right, but the throw bags saw some action anyway, there and further down as well. In all, a very pleasurable knock-the-cobwebs-off season opener.

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.


Cobb Brook
Tuesday Apr 11, 2017
Organizer: Mike M
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Mike M

The second week of April brought our first good round of true spring snowmelt.  On the afternoon of the 11th folks were planning to hit Ridley.  I wasn't too bitter about being stuck at work since I was pretty sure it'd be too high.  But that means Cobb would be good and Scott was game to meet me there for an evening run.  Of course this had me a little nervous - I think Cobb is sweet and all, but it's short - and Scott has run a lot of creeks in Vermont and had high standards.  So I hoped he'd think the drive was worth it and headed for the takeout.


You can drop into Cobb from up top on Trapp Road, but I usually hike up river left from the bottom.  The first few ledges you'll see aren't especially stacked but they look good, and Scott indicated he agreed.  Then the gradient really takes off and by then I think Scott was pretty much sold.  I think all total the creek drops around 200 feet in about a half mile.


I usually put in just a little ways below the primary confluence.  You can go higher up but it gets pretty small pretty quick and is fairly dechannelized up there.  Below the confluence, you get a few hundred feet of warm-up before the gradient really starts.  It's all steep bedrock, pretty clean and well channelized, with enough (but just barely enough) eddies.  


There is one marginal rapid here where you have to drive right across a shallow slide to avoid falling into a menacing crack.  It looks like you'd still go through if you missed the line, but let's just say the Republican health care plan wouldn't pay to have your arms screwed back onto your shoulders.


There are a few other big drops down here too - one big chunky ledge where I landed in a pothole sideways and Scott briefly disappeared into a boat-width bedrock trough, another one that has a flake that could be a piton or could be a boof (hint - it's a great boof), and one final double drop with a surprisingly strong hole for a creek this small.  Other than that there are a whole bunch of great small slides, ledge staircases and even one or two boulder gardens. Most of the drops aren't more than 5 feet tall, but most of them aren't more than 5 or 10 feet apart!


We hit the takeout right before it got too dark to paddle.  I love timing a run like that!

White River - Stockbridge to Bethel
Saturday Apr 15, 2017
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

One of the reasons I lead an early April Upper White River trip, year after year, is because this class II whitewater reach is a perennial favorite. This year, besides a few of the usual suspects, we had 2 Dans with whom I had never paddled, both in open canoes and both jovial. And Max was along for the first time - to entertain us by leaving his mark on virtually ever splat rock he could find.

There was enough sunscreen to go around, and the brisk wind that blew was at our backs most of the way down the river, so we ended up making great time. We stopped at Dean's Corner above Gaysville for a lunch break - liquid and otherwise. I almost put Max's eye out when he peeled off a surf wave unaware that I was accelerating into the main channel just below him from a side chute after lunch. Aside from that one close call there were no mishaps or swims.

CJ recently moved to Bethel, so the White is very much his home river these days. He claims that since tropical storm Irene the couple of miles above Gaysville are so channelized that they can be run in the summer at much lower levels than would have been possible before that storm ravaged the river (and valley).

Chris Weed and I did a little road scouting up Locust Creek before the drive home that afternoon. The last couple miles of this creek look continuous, intermediate, and runnable, with the ledges beneath the Rt. 107 bridge being perhaps the most technical.

Joe's Brook
Saturday Apr 22, 2017
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high
Author: Tony Shaw

On days like this one, Joe's Brook deserves (and gets) your full attention. The level was medium pushing medium-high. A smaller party hankering to run Joe's 4 days earlier met in West Danville and agreed the level that day was too stout, so we continued driving east to run the (easier) Moose River from Victory Bog to Concord. High water on Joe's is not for the faint-hearted, and I'm aware that Matt Young, Alden Bird, Scott Gilbert, and possibly others had survived high water runs earlier in April. Scott had warned of the occasional tree trunk or limb in the current to avoid, which is business as usual on seldom run steep creeks.

Though we were a big group - perhaps the biggest group ever to run Joe's - there were eddies (and routes) aplenty. The big slide above the covered bridge at Greenbank's Hollow was run successfully by everyone, but we all walked the long and merciless covered bridge drop, given that the river-right "sneak" route has a tree trunk in it near the top. The two mile long covered bridge section was well-padded and tempestuous. The one river-wide strainer Scott reported in the first big drop below the Morse's Mills bridge had (to our relief) flushed downstream enough to no longer require a portage. Gone too was the impassible ice bridge in the lower "mini" gorge, opening that exciting stretch to the first descents of 2017. Those who ran the serpentine sluiceway of a rapid under the Brook Hill Rd. bridge put on an acrobatic show for those of us living vicariously on the banks, and no one got re-circ'ed in the river-left whirlpool at the bottom. Still, not a bad idea to have your throw bags ready here. I lost count of my swims at about 6, none of which were long or harrowing. Mainly I was getting upended when I'd crash into the big wall of water formed by holes below the steeper slides - always thankfully flushing gently out.

Ten miles, five hours, and 1000 vertical feet later we all washed up on shore at the VT 5 bridge wearing big grins - where cold beers were waiting. There was talk at one point of a Joe's weekend double-header, but 10 more miles on Joe's before Monday sounded overly ambitious. On top of which, a release on the Green River in Hyde Park VT was scheduled for Sunday.

The minutia: 118 cfs through the generator, 30 more cfs through the sluiceway, some ice still on the pond at a height of 5.2 feet, and the bladder partially deflated at 1.5 psi (spilling moderately). The 2 gauge rocks in the water upstream of the powerhouse at the put-in were covered, but a boat going over them would probably scrape. Noah Pollock took lots of cool pictures.

Spring Green Release
Sunday Apr 23, 2017
Organizer: The Tubes
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Mike M

For our first Green release of 2017 we had uncharacteristically nice weather and a solid 1.3 tubes of water to play in.  There wasn't a massive turnout - the Wells race was the same day - but we still had a few dozen folks and everyone who showed up got a really nice day on the water.


I hung around the takeout for awhile getting folks set with parking (a huge thanks to Morrisville Auto for letting us park there, and for having an array of nicely-fixed-up 1980's-era sedans and mid-range muscle cars for us to consider purchasing).  After awhile a particular group of troublemakers showed up and I decided to head up for a lap with them.


There was not much excitement our first lap.  A few folks were here there first time, which is always fun since the river starts off steep and challenging, but quickly becomes very manageable.  So it's fun to watch folks start off a little gripped and then relax and really start to enjoy things.  Things are in great shape wood-wise.  The big flows back at the end of February must have pushed a lot of the log-jams up and out.  But some wood moved out of Young Buck, and the last drop isn't really as ponded up and is actually pretty nasty - we all walked but heard reports of one very sketchy run.


We got to the takeout and found Ryan and his PA buddies getting ready for a lap.  We went back up and had another awesome lap.  There was one minor incident at Lumberyard that actually turned into some great swiftwater rescue practice.  And of course it was nice to actually paddle with the PA guys, being that they are basically legends in the VT boating scene.


So that was a nice Sunday on this classic river.  The day finished with beers and good company in Morrisville.  More please!


Mill Brook, Brownsville to Windsor
Thursday Apr 27, 2017
Organizer: Allan Berggren
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable

Caught Mill Brook at a minimal but manageable level. Starts with a 15 foot slide/falls, then a very pitchy 3-plus first quarter mile that evens out to long 2-plus staircases, with an overall 150 ft/mile descent into Windsor.  No impassable trees.  Lovely aquamarine (duh) water, interesting geological features, ferns, and moss.  Obvious damage from Hurricane Irene: Washed out road, debris islands.

Runs only a few days per year, but well worth keeping an eye on for western NH, eastern VT paddlers.

[Also see this report from 6 years ago.]

Saranac River to Redford (#1)
Saturday Apr 29, 2017
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Chris Weed

With the Adirondack snowmelt largely over, we did a first run of the season on this section of the Saranac at a medium to medium low level. A weather transition was under way as we traveled to Redford late on Saturday morning. By the time we reached the takeout at about 1:00 pm, it was sunny, windy, and warm (~72 F).

With 7 paddlers the logistics and shuttle took a while. In the middle of the process Max arrived at the put-in on Casey Road from an unexpected direction at just the right time, having traveled through New York from well to the south of Burlington. We ended up together on the riverbank at the end of the 150 yard put-in trail at about 3:00 pm.

4 of the 7 participants were new to the run (excluding Chris W., John, and Tony), and the level was perfect for it. As usual, things got really interesting at Tefft Pond Falls. At levels above 5.5 feet this had always been considered a mandatory portage, but Max and Noel scouted it and Max decided to run it left of center. He did it without mishap, reproducing Jamie Dolan's 4/17/2016 run of the falls, which is the only previous run I'm aware of.

A variety of lines were chosen on the big staircase rapid that comes up a few hundred yards downstream of the falls. There was one roll and one swim, the latter with a quick recovery. At 4.9 feet this succession of drops is much less intimidating than at 5.75 feet or above.

After that we had an extended period of enjoyable class 2/3 boogie water paddling, until we came to the last really significant drop, where the river splits around a small island (big enough to support a few small trees). Chris W. chose to just boat scout and run it, having done it 4 times since 2011. That wasn't the most prudent decision, with several others in the group unfamiliar with the drop. Tony brought some sobriety to the proceedings, and guided the shore scouting for Ken and Chris F., while Max, Noel, and John followed Chris W.'s lead. All ran it successfully, and Chris F. even punched the final hole against the right bank that we customarily avoid.

We were completing the final shuttle at dinnertime, with dusk not too far off. It's good to start this run by 2:00 pm if possible, even well after the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

It was a great day. As I write this I'm hoping for a reprise on Saturday, May 27, with warmer water and leaves on the trees. We'll need rain for that, and it looks like we might get it.

Mill Brook
Tuesday May 2, 2017
Organizer: Jamie
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jamie Dolan

A few years back I had the chance to paddle the upper part of this creek. While a good time, particularly the scenery, it was fairly tame with a fair share of portaging over strainers.  We stopped that evening when night fell and had a bit of a hike back to the cars.  Today’s run would be a bit different but some of the same. Will said he had run this section tons while in college and had a fairly good idea of the lines (even after college parties and 10 or so years). Turns out, he did remember the lines pretty well.  From the take out at Rte 2, the level looked to be low-boatable.  And it was low boatable.  A nice level for an introductory run. We started out, following Dick Cheney’s lead  to an undisclosed location, about 1 ½  miles up Tarbox Road. It was a pull off on UVM land that had a path leading to 10 minute walk to the creek.  We put in just after the first, of  what would prove a half dozen or so blow downs.  For the first 10 minutes of paddling it was more of bog with a swift moving stream through it.  And blow downs.  We came to the first legitimate rapid /  drop, an easy III but midway down we had to portage over a strainer.  We quickly came up to the next drop and hey another blow down.  This one was potentially doable but neither of us felt like this might be the best of ideas.  From there down we pretty much only got out of the boat to scout.  The next drop had a nice flake and small pool to drop into Will was very clear to stay center or left…yup, I ended up right. But no big deal.  The wall was forgiving (Yeah).  We quickly came up to the old dam, which we scouted.  This IV drop is followed by boggie II.  IN the middle of the boggie II there was another blow down.  We had plenty of time to get out and avoid the blow down. As it was low, it was hard to get up speed to get a good boof off the rooster tail on the dam. But once again, it was forgiving.  As we went along there was plenty of blow downs which were manageable as they were in slack water where you could find alternatives (which generally involved pushing off with your hands).  The remnants of Irene were still highly visible with at least two massive landslides still evident.  The next to last drop was probably the most fun.   A fairly clean 8-10 ft water fall into a nice pool.  The last drop was a bit manky but doable even at low water.  You kind of drop onto a ledge (well almost) nose first.  There was enough water that we both managed to sort of slide, without damage, pretty much over it.  After that we had a short paddle to the takeout and then we were done! Not a river that runs much but one I would definitely get back on given the opportunity.  I should note that historically, some of the landowners were not too pleased with boaters about.  We did not meet any and so can not comment.

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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