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Browns River - Westford

Tuesday Jun 19, 2018
Kayak: Tony Shaw, Chris Weed
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium
Gauge (ft): 4.93
Gauge (cfs): 1870
USGS Gauge Name/Link: Lamoille River, East Georgia
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.)

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