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Green River Garfield to Lamoille

Friday Apr 15, 2011
Kayak: Dave, Mic, Art, Brenton, Hippie, Ryan
Organizer: Ryan
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (cfs): 127.40
Author: Ryan

The PA crew (Mic, Hippie, Brenton & Art) was in town on their annual pilgrimage to The Green Mountain State. This would be the 4th year in a row the core of them has made the trip up to paddle VT's snow melt in the prime of the creek boating season. The first day if the trip each year is usually started at the Coffee Corner in Downtown Montpelier with me meeting up with them and setting plans for the day. This year was no different than any other with a hearty breakfast and some creek names thrown around, the goal for this year was to hit as many micro creeks as possible. The flows on the smaller drainages were marginal though.

Off we went to check Nasmith Brook in Marshfield. It was at a bare bones level that left most of the guys turning their noses up at it. This was fine by me because with more flow this is an unfinished gem. So we headed up over the ridge through East Montpelier to the North Branch Winooski where flows the preceding days were especially high filling Wrightsville Reservoir. I luv this run and will poke down it at just about any level, extreme low to meaty high. A few in the group are also of that mind set... However; we had a voice of reason with us this day. As much as I am willing to point my plastic down any lubed stretch of rock, Dave Packie was with us that day and for the most part is of the mindset that the boating is much better if there is less chance of rubbing rock - true enough. Especially if there are options that would make it silly to bang down something more terra-firma than aqua.

Driving past the outflow to Wrightsville, Dave came up with a rather logical idea....All of the reservoirs are full around here and are struggling to get the levels down to a reasonable elevation...In other words what a great day for a release river and the best and closest one was the Green River in Wolcott. Just so happens that Dave and I have been trying to get on this river for the better part of 2 years and are actively working with a local group and American Whitewater to secure whitewater recreational releases through the FERC relicensing process with Morrisville Water and Light, the owner and operators of the hydropower facility that dams up the Green River to great the Green River Reservoir. It is really easy to see if it is flowing by driving over the river on route 15 next to Morrisville Auto. If it looks like you can float a boat then it is boatable. So we headed to the power transfer station that is about 200 yards west of the river to set shuttle, change into boating gear and park the return vehicle(great designated parking area btw).

Once loaded up we headed up Garfield road to the ghost village of Garfield where the road crosses the Green River. One time in the distant past this area was supposed to be a thriving village center during the logging boom period...working mills, school house, general store, etc... Now it is a rapid flowing into a culvert where the river drops in excess in 40 feet on to a jumble of road rock and rip-wrap to dissipate the power of the river when it falls from the "tube". Getting geared up some of us looked at the culvert drop and it's unrealistic line. However, there is always one crazy in the group. Surprising no one the youngest and most talented boater in the group decided it was a runable drop. We all were kind of in shock and set safety. While at the bottom ready to pick up the pieces, I was sick to my stomach that I was going to witness a very serious injury at best and quite possibly a death at the other end of the spectrum. On the upper end he took off and was almost flipped in the class V lead in rapid to the culvert. A trip through the culvert upside down would assure some form of bodily harm. Brenton righted himself and was on his way through the culvert like a shot. When he exploded out the downstream side he was air-born for close to 20 feet before he landed flat and bounced another 20 feet to the bottom where he landed flat and his skirt imploded. The sounds of both landings were harsh and we were sure the boat was broken. Brenton struggled to get his bearings and couldn't make the simple eddy I was in and seemed dazed as he floated by flailing in his boat, very uncharacteristic of him missing multiple eddys on his way to a nasty strainer. I ran down stream as fast as I could to watch him suck under the strainer and come up on a rock without his boat and paddle, head in hands. He was OK or so it seemed. I think all of us witnessed one of the most committing things we had ever seen someone do in a boat. I am not a solid class V boater but will boat some class V rapids from time to time when posed with the right conditions. But boat on enough creeks with class V rapids to know what they look like and what they entail to paddle successfully. The drop through the culvert is not class V, I am not sure it is class VI and someone that paddles that class VI water would most likely walk away from a drop like that looking at the jumble of junk in the bottom of it saying it was more or less a boat breaking man-made mess not worth the potential outcome. Young and full of gusto were definitely the drivers behind Brenton running to which he very quickly admitted was a HUGE MISTAKE and an unnecessary risk, putting himself, the boaters he was with and any future potential recreational releases in jeopardy.

After everyone get their stuff together and we made sure Brenton was all set we boated a few hundred yards downstream to the first horizon line. What is nice about walking this river first is you know where the rapids are and cues of where to get out. Both Dave and I have walked this river to scout it out during releases and in dry weather. This first drop is a ledge that the water falls off of, approximately 12 feet in height. It is a tricky drop because the water is all sliding from right to left and the left corner of the drop is messy. The move from what we could make of it is a MONSTER boof going left to right into the pool where the river drops off of the ledge into the river right pool. There was some potential wood that may have come into play in the pool in addition you absolutely had to boof and land flat or risk a HUGE piton. We all walked to just below the ledge and put in the pool just below for a series of smaller ledges ending in a constriction with an undercut boulder. Before we headed down stream Brenton chose to walk off leaving Dave, Art, Mic, Hippie and myself to work on down the river. The double bounce Brenton had survived had done a number on his back and he thought it best he walk off the river before he stiffened up or worse...

From the first Big 12 ft ledge the river is in a tight gorge with beautiful geology, mostly ledge rapids with large sized boulders mixed in the rapids. This goes on for more or less ¾ of a mile with quality III/IV- rapids. Everyone was smiling at this point enjoying the rhythm of moving down a river in your boat. One ledge in particular did a good job of tricking two of us into riding a beautiful curlier up and over to the right side only to end in a vicious piton. Out of the two of us that hit that line, I was lucky enough to stop dead on pour over and get a good long surf in the hole while waiting for someone to pull my bow loop and yank me out of the hole. No such luck I was sucked deeper into the hole and ended up with a great hole ride and a silly swim into calm pool - Doh!!!!! A few more rapids later and we were to the inner section of the run floating through the flatwater portion where both otters and beavers have been spotted.

At the end of the inner flatwater reprieve the Lower action starts in earnest with what I could consider the most committing "runable" rapid on the river, a class V gorged in rapid that has several vertical drops/ledges and sculpted rock and for good measure potholes that actually don't have bottoms, forming sieves. This rapid constricts the average width of the river 25-30' down to 8-10 feet in width as well. There are several large pieces of wood in this rapid rendering it unrunable at this time, but some minimal woodworking would open this gem up. It is easily portageable on river left and advised until the wood is yanked. At this point Dave was on a time schedule and need to get off the move was to paddle down ahead of the group and portage quickly the drops that were class IV or higher...He made quick work of the river and was off in time for daycare pickup. This left our group with 4 remaining boaters on the river, Art, Mic, Hippie and myself.

The river opens up directly below the rapid and next short stretch is fun class III boogie water until the river constricts again. This is a fun sluice onto a beautiful fanned out waterfall. The sluice has a piece of wood along the left side but can be paddled past into the drop. The waterfall plops you in a deep pool with the right side of the pool containing a downed hemlock tree leaving you with an urgency to roll up immediately after you plug the drop. One of the more cleanly runable waterfalls I've seen. Art fired it up and plugged it going REALLY deep followed by a speedy roll. The rest of us portaged on river left, again, an easy portage. We put in, in the pool and were immediately presented with a 5 foot ledge drop and then the best stretch of class III/IV continuous rapids on the river for about a ¼ mile. It was non-stop ledgy fast read and run action definitely having great rhythm to it. As this action settled out we started to get into more of a pool drop nature to the river with ledges that were larger and spaced out.

The next note worthy feature was the Green Logging bridge. This is the first sign of anything manmade in along the river you will encounter until the take out. This bridge also demarcates that the river is picking up in amplitude again with more stout rapids. The next rapid below the bridge is worth a look see. The river necks down (surprise), and separates into two distinct channels around a rock island. The rapid is also choked with wood but can be run in the left channel, albeit a log slide and two limbo moves. Two of our group chose to probe the river left line. Looking like an easy line to fire up but also one that didn't leave a margin for error if you messed up two of us hit the river right portage trail. Art cleanly ran the drop making it look easy, Jason on the other hand slid off the log slide and flipped hooking his skirt on something submerged and snagging up. After a few terse moments and an abusive swim through this rapid he was on shore with his boat, separated from his torn skirt and paddle. This rapid is easily portaged on river right but better scouted on river left. There is some work that needs to be done in this rapid as well. Both sides of the island would go cleanly with less wood and more water.

Following this rapid there is a funky little drop that can be sticky and tricky. We all ran it on the left to avoid the slotty/seivey part on the right. At the flow this day it was fairly benign. With a higher release it would be one to see before running it blindly.

The action keeps up with class III/IV rapids and a couple more substantial drops leading to the last of the big drops.

This final drop is easily recognized by the river banking off the left wall and charging right. Get out well above the right hand turn in the river on river right and scout. As soon as the river has made the turn there is a 6 foot ledge that has several locations where you could piton or worse. On the day we ran it Art ran it way right with a huge boof into the eddy. The lead in is messy with several reactionary waves and holes so setting up for a good line is crucial.

Below this drop the river has a few more class III-ish rapids and then settles down to swift water before it goes under Route 15 on its way to the Lamoille River. You can take out at Route 15 and walk west to the power transfer station or float to the Lamoille and get out below the junk yard and walk up the hill to the transfer station.

Thoughts on the run in general... It was at about as low as I would like to run it. The rocks are very sharp and the rapids could use more flow to either lube them up or pad them out. A call to the hydro project manager the following Monday revealed that they were producing 750kw at the power plant. I did a rough correlation. The max power generation at the plant is 1.7mw and the max outflow for the state permit is 288cfs through the penstock. So do the math if 1.7mw = 288cfs, then 750kw = 127.4cfs. It is a fun run and when cleaned up and a little more flow it will be a full on classic creek boat run. At the 127.4 cfs it was a little manky but definitely boatable. I, for one am looking forward the flow studies on this river to see how the boating is at different levels. Having boated it at what I would consider the lowest level I'd want to run it at and having walked it at the max 288 cfs and seen that flow, I think there are a lot of levels in-between that would make for a great VT creeking experience.

Pix at links -

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