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New Haven Ledges

Wednesday Apr 17, 2013
Kayak: Jamie Dolan, Justin Crannell, Mike Mainer, Connor, Rogan Brown
C1: Alden Bird
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (cfs): 500
Author: Alden Bird

April 17th began early as and continued through its length being a truly beautiful spring day. Warm temperatures and blue skies beckoned even at 6 am, as I drove to work through the Winooski Valley to Montpelier. It was only then that I realized I had forgotten my boat and would have to return home after work before driving back over the mountains.

The scheduled trip of the day was the Lower New Haven River, an intermediate trip through the town of Bristol, Vermont. After driving home from Montpelier to Randolph, I picked up my boat and sped over the mountains toward Bristol. With Roxbury Gap muddy and Lincoln Gap closed, the drive took me over the Bethel Mountain Pass and then over the Middlebury Gap -- a roundabout route, but on this day a beautiful one. The rivers on the east side of the mountains had more water. On this day the Middlebury River appeared to be running at a medium water level.

The only other scheduled participant I found in Bristol was Jamie Dolan, though we met the usual cast of characters already on lap four or six of the Ledges upstream. With a quick look at the river, Jamie and I decided to join the crowd and leave the lower section for a higher water day.

We put on at Eagle Park and found the river at a nice level. There is always something fun to me about running the first slot at the top of the first boulder field on the New Haven. I still remember my first run through this slot on a February day eleven years ago when the both sides of the slot were fresh with ice. Here the river takes off downhill in a way that is striking for newer paddlers.

Secret Compartment, the third rapid, changed again this winter. The pin rock became more prominent and now the pin danger is greater. At this level the rapid was nice and fluid. A boater-tall wave curls off the "compartment" boulder and curls boaters into the river right eddy at the drop's base. The New Haven Race, coming this weekend, was on all of our minds as we ran this drop, which comprises the crux of the race course. Avoiding the eddy at the base of the drop and remaining in the river's main flow separates the competitive racers from the non.

The s-turns below here were sweet and full of water. The Slides below are another site of choice and separation for racers. Several lines present themselves here, as well as through the next rapid, Oh, By the Way. Hydraulics frustrate the entrance to this rapid and a well timed stroke is required to move right and avoid sinking down the Schott Slot on the left: roughly akin to being flushed down a ten foot wide toilet.

The Roostertail Rapid was impressive as always, post-Irene, and landings off both Toaster Falls and the All-American Boof were softer for the canoeist on this trip than on recent trips.

All that was left at the take out was to hope for snowmelt and rainfall and swift lines for the race this weekend.

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