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Trip Reports

Find trips reports from 2001 and prior in the Bow & Stern Archive
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Ball Mt. Brook Saturday Apr 3, 2004
Huntington River Saturday Apr 3, 2004
Gihon River, upper and lower Sunday Apr 4, 2004
Upper Mad Sunday Apr 4, 2004
Schroon River Sunday Apr 11, 2004
Lower Lamoille Sunday Apr 11, 2004
Bingo Creek Wednesday Apr 14, 2004
New Haven / Lower Mad Saturday Apr 17, 2004
Dog River Saturday Apr 17, 2004
White River Saturday Apr 17, 2004
Joe's Brook Sunday Apr 18, 2004
Lower Lamoille Wednesday Apr 21, 2004
White -> Lamoille Sunday Apr 25, 2004
Middlebury Gorge Wednesday Apr 28, 2004
Hudson Gorge Saturday May 1, 2004
Browns River Saturday May 1, 2004
Lower Hudson Sunday May 2, 2004
Upper Pemigewasset Thursday May 6, 2004
Hudson Gorge Sunday May 16, 2004
Big Branch Monday May 17, 2004
Big Branch breakfast run Wednesday May 19, 2004
A Little Piece of the Cold River Monday May 24, 2004
WB Deerfield Monday May 24, 2004
Cold River Wednesday May 26, 2004
Otter Creek Monday May 31, 2004
Otter Creek Tuesday Jun 8, 2004
Lamoille (Bootleg) Thursday Jun 10, 2004
Kennebec Thursday Jun 10, 2004
Montreal: Expo 67, Lachine & Valley Field Saturday-Sunday Jun 19-20, 2004
Swift Water Rescue Course Saturday-Sunday Jun 26-27, 2004
Quebec Friday-Sunday Jul 9-11, 2004
Le Taureau / Le Malbaie Saturday-Sunday Aug 7-8, 2004
Guide to Costa Rica Saturday-Sunday Aug 7-22, 2004
Maine Friday-Sunday Aug 13-15, 2004
Upper White Friday Aug 13, 2004
Beaver Meadow Brook Monday Aug 30, 2004
Upper Mad Thursday Sep 9, 2004
Hole Brothers Saturday Sep 18, 2004
Ball Mt. Brook Sunday Sep 19, 2004
West River Saturday Sep 25, 2004
Moose Fest - Lower Moose Saturday Oct 16, 2004
Guide to White Nile, Uganda Thursday-Friday Dec 16-31, 2004
WB Deerfield/Cold (MA) Sunday Dec 26, 2004


US Olympic Trials / West Virginia
Friday Apr 2, 2004
Organizer: USOC
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium
Author: Alden Bird

I took some time off to compete in the US Olympic Trials for whitewater slalom this past weekend. I broke up the long drive to South Bend Indiana by stopping in West Virginia to do some creeking on a gem I had long heard about, the Lower Big Sandy.

It was fantastic -- warm and sunny. So sunny, in fact, that I redeveloped my "hand tan" again. Warm-weather boating has begun! We camped at the put-in and played our way down the river. We carried back up and ran Wonder falls about five times, and laughed the whole way down.

I drove from there to the man-made whitewater river in South Bend, and spent several days training in the slalom gates before the race, exploring the city, and of course hanging out in the hot-tub!

Race day brought big crowds and lots of cameras (and a big hole surf for some unlucky boaters at gate 11!) Racing down through what seemed like a tunnel of people lining the banks and cheering from the bridges is something I will remember for a long time.

Everyone paddled incredibly well, but the guys and girls at the top are unbelievably skilled. It's really something just to watch. I think everyone had a good time hanging out and racing in South Bend, and I hope to race as much as possible next year!

See yall at the Fiddlehead . . .

Ball Mt. Brook
Saturday Apr 3, 2004
Organizer: Jim Z (K1)
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jim Z

Low broachable, I mean boatable level. The narrow steeper drops had plenty of water, but the wide easy parts were too low. The bridge "gauge" was showing either 5.25 or 6.25 blocks....I'm never sure whether to count the big top block. A challenging run at any level.

Huntington River
Saturday Apr 3, 2004
Organizer: Jamie Doaln
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jamie Dolan

We knew it was going to be a low rider day and it was. Water was flowing about 8-12 inches below the top of the gauge rock. But this was the first paddle of the season for all of us and we were determined. We put in at the Audubon parking lot. While we never had to walk the boats, the river is now blessed with some additional coloration from the bottom of them. Below the bridge at Hinesburg Hollow road the play wave was still there but with a bit less water. And at this level you get to see what makes the ledge by the rock wall towards the end of the run. The toughest part of this trip was the opening on Dugway road. It was in the full glory of mud season. We all had a good time, didn't get wet and didn't loose any axles.

Gihon River, upper and lower
Sunday Apr 4, 2004
Organizer: James Raboin (K1)
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: James Raboin

An uneasy feeling driving to the river anticipating high water was quickly turned to joy when driving up 100C and seeing the last drop, Sunset. It looked beautiful from the road, a perfect medium level was seen on the flat rock gauge we use looking up powerhouse rapid from the covered bridge. After some good info from local resident boater Jim Andrus, we got to know the names of all the lower rapids and where to avoid trees. Everyone agreed to the idea of snow trudging while scouting and portaging, and we loaded up. The upper proved to be very challenging, the first drop with a six foot boof drop is my favorite drop on the river. The second is a solid 15 - 20 foot total drop with conseqences when hitting the fold, as Dave found out and went over head first. After seeing 3 other sucessfull runs of it I braved it for the first time and it went perfectly, unlike the rest of my day. We all portaged the big one on the upper, Mustang, it could be in a video.

On the lower, 3 tried the first drop, Bedhead, all 3 doing mystery moves and showing up at the bottom upside down. After scouting the second drop myself I tried to show the line, missed it and hit the hole of Eldorado, flipped and proceeded to poorly try to roll, and swam. I got to shore and watched my boat go over the next double drop, luckily it caught the eddy next to the old power house. We all reunited and went down to pin cushion, where Dave found his boat had broken and his day was over. The four of us continued down powerhouse rapid, where Scott C. said that was one of his favorite rapids. The Sunset drop gave me a vertical stern squirt, a fun way to end the day.

The Gihon offers a lot of action in doing both upper and lower. A good time was had by all.

Upper Mad
Sunday Apr 4, 2004
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

Mike Smorgans

This is ALWAYS a fun run. But don't be fooled by its "novice whitewater" designation -- the intermittent easy ledge drops and rapids en route from Warren to Waitsfield can upend unsuspecting novices abruptly -- and frequently do. Today was no exception. But with support and encouragement from our admittedly over-qualified party (including two Grand Canyon veterans and two denizens of the New Haven Ledges) a remarkable improvement in boat control among our party's novices was apparent by the end of the run.

Eric flipped and swam immediately above the constricted Butternut Rd. ledge drop (practicing self-rescue skills?) but the drop itself was successfully run by all who attempted it (6 of 8). The landing for this carry before the bridge (river left) has been stabilized with rip-rap since the last time I was here, making it easier to identify and negotiate.

The low level made it necessary to run single file most of the way down, and in fact we split into two groups of four to give everyone a bit more breathing room on this small and pretty stream.

Schroon River
Sunday Apr 11, 2004
Organizer: John Barrows
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium high
Author: Eric Rossier

We hit the Schroon last weekend, what a great river. It marked the first trip of the year for Stephanie, and the level was nice and high. Air temp was around 40 deg and the ice had not gone off the lake to make the water temperature a bit chilly as well. We did not have any icicles in the eddies though. The run started at the put in above the telephone marker on the river side of the road. Uncle John said that if we parked down stream of that marker, we would get towed. The entrance rapid had one great wave with river left eddy service. We got a few good rides including a surf by Paul. The level flushed much of the catch on the fly waves and reduced the smaller shorline eddies to make our group size a bit too large for the run. It would have been best paddled with multiple groups of 3. The one drop the river had to offer was scouted by all and ran by all. It was a shallow hole that started center left and widened as it met a 5 1/2 standing wave. This wave represented the main flow of the river and had terrific speed. Several surfs were had on this one from two members of our group. It was possible to drop into a smaller hydraulic above the lip of the drop to zero out the downstream momentum. At that point I was able to drift down the drop into the foam pile of the main hyrdulic and blast surfers left onto the main face of the wave. The riot air 55 went into bounce mode and was ready for arials. I however was not. Got some clean front surf on and another member of the group got a series of nice flat spins. Great wave. Nice park and play opportunities.

Lower Lamoille
Sunday Apr 11, 2004
Organizer: Richard Larsen
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium low

We shuttled cars with the assistance of Frank Wells, who was on call and could not paddle. We put in below the dam at Fairfax, and had a 2.5 hour paddle down to the normal takeout between the bridges. The weather was a mixture of sun and clouds, and seasonably cool, with temperatures in the high 40s. The water flow of 1600cfs was low to the normal of 2400 cfs on the date. It was a pleasant early-season paddle, with a lot of mergansers on the river.

Bingo Creek
Wednesday Apr 14, 2004
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

Today we ran Bingo Creek, a beautiful little secret down in Rochester Vermont. It's one of the many, many White river tribs that comes up with rain and sees only a few boats per year.

This cl. III river is a gem -- beautiful green water and many, many ledge drops. Even still there is plenty of challenge -- with both the boaters having to "practice" their rolls!

All in all, it was a very good day.

New Haven / Lower Mad
Saturday Apr 17, 2004
Organizer: Jamie Dolan
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium
Author: Jamie Dolan

The scheduled New Haven trip was cancelled due to lack of water. However, the lower Mad was running at a pleasant 3.85 and 500 + CFS. The day turned into a wonderful exercise of boat rescue. Though it could have turned out differently. One of the kayakers started over the Horseshoe falls on river left (the so called "cheat route") but was quickly caught in the somewhat sticky upper hole. She flipped by the rock in the middle of the river precluding a roll and losing boat and paddle. Two of the boaters used a throw rope to rescue her from having to go over the falls. The paddle flushed out in good fashion and was easily retrieved. Not so the boat. After what seemed like ten minutes, it eventually lodged itself right by the horseshoe determined not to move. Two of the boaters ferried above the falls across the river to retrieve it. Climbing down the rock face the boat was reached and tied off with a throw rope. The boat was full of water and very heavy, so it could not be hauled out. The rope was then ferried to river left where the boat was then pulled in. During this time the ducky, which was used to get across the river to rescue the kayak, got loose and also went over the falls. This flushed into one of the rock crevices below the falls and was relatively easy to retrieve. Even after all this excitement Tina, in the ducky, decided to run the falls (river left) a second time. By her own admission it was because she did not want to carry the ducky anymore. The rest of the trip was relatively anti-climatic, though we did get to do another boat rescue. While no one ever was in real danger there was the potential for that and we all acted accordingly. It gave all of us more respect for the river left run.

Dog River
Saturday Apr 17, 2004
Organizer: Eric Bishop
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium low
Author: Eric Bishop

We put in under the bridge on Rte 12 by the town of Northfield offices and garage. We paddled under two covered bridges before reaching Northfield Falls and a mandatory portage. Exit river right , walk past the old mill and down an old road to the river. Between the falls and Riverton there is a fair amount of easy whitewater and two portages (at least for us on this day). After Riverton the river continues with good current but little excitement all the way to the Winooski. We took out about a mile down the side road off Rte 12 at the south base of the big hill.

White River
Saturday Apr 17, 2004
Organizer: Richard Larsen
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium low

The day was unexpectedly warm, with a lot of hazy sunshine. The river was relatively low, reading 2200cfs downstream at West Hartford, compared to 3100cfs as typical for this time of year. We had a 3.5 hour paddle, including lunch at the Gaysville ledges, from the Tweed River put-in to the take-out along the road (Vt 107) a few miles below Gaysville. The only incident of note was that a large tree was across the tight channel as the Tweed emptied into the White, and the tree 'grabbed' and rolled one of the canoes. We had a wet paddler, but the air temperature made this a non-problem. All continued on the trip. It is interesting to note that the river has completed re-routing itself where Stony Brook enters, as it as fully eroded the left bank by perhaps 10 feet, and all the flow is now down that side of the old concrete trestle pilings. There are a lot of trees in the water along the left shore in this area, and further downstream, making a minor risk of strainers.

Joe's Brook
Sunday Apr 18, 2004
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

Old Joe, "the Friendly Indian Guide", wandered out into the Newbury VT woods after a winter storm in 1819 and froze to death. For eight decades he lived an illustrious life, at one point being summoned by George Washington so that the General could express his gratitude for Joe's assistance to the revolutionary cause.

At six years of age, in his hometown of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, Joe was orphaned during a bloody British invasion of his hometown. His life-long hatred for the Brits (sorry, Simon) led him to fight in the French and Indian war, making several raids into Vermont before the American Revolution. When left behind by his retreating indian raid party, badly wounded, he was taken in by a Newbury area family that nursed him back to health and invited him to stay on.

Joe eventually made Vermont his permanent home, but not before wooing a squaw (Molly) to become his wife. They had no permanent home, living sometimes on their Joe's Pond island in West Danville, sometimes in a cave near the Newbury/Ryegate line, and sometimes in a Peacham wigwam. Joe was a scout for General Jacob Bayley, commander of the Yankee's northern frontier forces, and helped map out the historic Bayley-Hazen Road. After the revolution, Joe and Molly continued to wander up and down the valleys of Vermont helping out when they could and making new friends. Joe was always proud of his audience with George Washington, having made the trip with Molly to the General's Newburgh, NY encampment by canoe and on foot.

The Micmac believed in reincarnation, and although we did not see Joe & Molly in their canoe on this trip, we think perhaps they were the two deer we startled standing in the brook near the put-in. Their spirit seemed to infuse our group, urging us on and keeping danger at bay. They sustained our level at 1.9 throughout the day, arguably the ideal low boatable level (with the bladder partially down). A formidable glacial ice bridge in the gorge below Morse's Mills prevented our party from running this stretch, but three in our group portaged by car and ran the stretch from Brook Hill Rd. to the Passumpsic for the first time. Here we found some stillwater, some II, and two more boat-scoutable ledge drops.

Amid the day's "white noise" and serene hush we could just make out Joe whistering our Micmac names:

"Can Spot Sneak Route Through Any Drop - Why Bother?" (Alden)

"A Stretch We Haven't Run - Let's Go!" (Eric)

"One Chin Laceration Is Enough - Thank You" (Jamie)

"Content & Smiling Below Each Big Drop" (Tad)

"Runs Big Drops Backwards - Oh ________!" (Tony)

We also clearly heard him shout the Micmac translation for the brook that bears his name:

"Sipu Nenaqe'g Iapjiw" (Relentless River).

Lower Lamoille
Wednesday Apr 21, 2004
Organizer: Richard Larsen
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium low

This was the first of the Wednesday post-work trips for 2004 on the Lower Lamoille, hosted by Rich Larsen and Ray Ingram. The river had dropped below its average for the date (2400cfs vs 3100cfs), but still had decent flow. The day was warmer than expected, about 60 at the start time, but dropping into the 50s as the sun went behind clouds. The wind was at our back for the whole trip, odd for the Lower Lamoille, so we floated down the river quickly, with extra time for playing at 5 chutes. Some paddlers practiced rolling - some practiced swimming - but there were no problems. The usual river dwellers - Ospreys and Mergansers - were evident in the lower portions of the river..

White -> Lamoille
Sunday Apr 25, 2004
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: medium low
Author: Tony Shaw

Joel George and Adis Zilic

A few callers (Lori Barg, Eliot Lothrop, Deb Kirchway) were disappointed that the scheduled Upper White trip was scuttled on account of the prevailing low water conditions across the state during late April, and that the trip was going to occur instead on the Lower Lamoille. I hope they found somewhere else to paddle or be outdoors.

Those who met to paddle the Lower Lamoille were quite happy with the decision despite low(ish) water and strong(ish) headwinds from the Fairfax dam to Arrowhead Lake. We stopped briefly at Crandall Landing to break up the slumber party, and by and by Maura and Julie Prior managed to catch up with us downriver to join in the play. For half our group this was an introduction to the Lower Lamoille reach, though Joel and Adis had been to 5 Chutes a few days earlier to park & play. None of the features are onorous at this level (unless you count the whitecaps coming across Arrowhead Lake near the takeout!).

Several other parties present on the river gave testament to the fact that the Lower Lamoille is a perennial favorite among novice whitewater enthusiasts.

Middlebury Gorge
Wednesday Apr 28, 2004
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

A particularly memorable trip. The most beautiful day I have paddled! With temps in the 60s, all the time in the world -- and a long gorge filled with many, many distinct challenges -- we had a long, memorable passage from top to bottom.

For two of us, it was the culmination of a long, long quest. This river has been our Stikine, our Tsang Po, our "Last River." There were many hard places, and many strong arms extended in support along the way. When we got to the end, we knew absolutely that four years were not in vain.

We only have two more weeks until graduation, and the rivers are drying up. How fitting to paddle the Middlebury.

Hudson Gorge
Saturday May 1, 2004
Organizer: Rod Wentworth
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium

We met at 9:30 am at the take out and got up to the river just after the release began at 10 am. This was one of those rare, beautifully warm (even a little hot - 70s) days, and we remarked about how that often wasn't the case on the Hudson! I often do this trip around the first weekend in May, and this weather seems to come around 1 year in 10. It made for a great day. There were quite a few rafts on the river but not many kayaks. Andy paddled the only open canoe. The black flies had begun to show up but weren't hungry yet. Another great spring trip on the Hudson.

Browns River
Saturday May 1, 2004
Organizer: Ricky Battistoni
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: low boatable

Assumed to be a little scratchy... and it was. But all agreed to take on the Browns and tack on the lower lamoille after that. No regrets.

It was a beautiful day, and the three boats made the most of it. Only the first drop at the broken dam forced a carry due to low water.

It was here that we picked up another paddler (of the doggy paddle kind). Better than most of us at the ferry, and definately excelled at cleaning up sticks out of the river (his part for green up day, I suppose). He paddled with us for over 1/2 mi.

The couple of ledges were run by all and the double ledge drop after catching Ricky for a moment... posed no problems for anyone, and enjoyment for all.

It is a long trip, and it never felt longer than with a headwind on the lower lamoille. But as the rapids approached all was forgotten, and the boats began playing once more.

We left exhausted (except for Marathon Kayaker Mike Malley, who was using this as a rest day from his normal training routine), but were glad to be on the water on such a day. Trip time approx. 4 hrs.

Lower Hudson
Sunday May 2, 2004
Organizer: Richard Larsen
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low

The trip was scheduled for the Ammo, but moved to the lower Hudson because of low water in the Ammo. (Except, of course, once the trip was moved, the Ammo came up with snowmelt - but we stayed with the Hudson.) The water was relatively low for this time of year, at 4.0' at the North Creek gauge. When we got to North Creek, we learned it was Hudson River Downriver Derby Day - so we raced to get on the river first, then pulled over a ways downriver to let the racers pass. The wind was remarkably strong, and blowing upriver, to the point that the canoes could hardly made progress in the 2 miles above and below Riparius. In Spruce Mountain rapid, boats were literally being stopped and slipped sideways unexpectedly by gusts, in the middle of class II-III drops. One canoe took out at Riparius because of the wind, and allegedly the paddler hitch-hiked to the takeout with some turkey hunters, if the story is to be believed. The winds did abate before the major rapids below Mill Brook were reached. Other than the wind, there were no problems. We saw the usual collection of birds - osprey, mergansers, mallards, and finished at the Glen Bridge after about 5.5 hours on the river. The wind slowed us up by at least an hour.

Upper Pemigewasset
Thursday May 6, 2004
Organizer: Ed Clark
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

The Upper Pemi runs for three miles through Franconia Notch New Hampshire.

This river is WILD! I mean, I was laughing down this thing. I couldn't believe how cool it was the whole way down. I wont ruin the surprise by describing rapids -- suffice to say, it's exciting!

We had some carnage. This river is friendly, but very challenging. Ed took his first swim of the year in a sticky hole. I pitoned off a falls and ripped out my thigh straps. Fortunately a little work had us both going again. This is a river trip you would not want to abandon.

This is the coolest river I have ever done. Hands down. Life is a novel thing in Franconia.

Hudson Gorge
Sunday May 16, 2004
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

Jamie Dolan

The Indian River is ALWAYS III+. But at 4 feet before the bubble the Hudson Gorge is by and large II-III not III-IV. Still, the holes can impede your progress if you let them. The day began overcast but turned out gorgeous. A slight tailwind helped us onward and kept the blackflies from eating us alive.

In the Paddle Talk/Paddle Pix area I posted a photo of 4 kayakers in our group making their way down "the Narrows", which was the most turbulent rapid we encountered. For three of the four pictured this was their first descent of the Gorge and they all loved it, including John Pandolfo who (remarkably) has been whitewater kayaking for less than a year.

Big Branch
Monday May 17, 2004
Organizer: Jim Z
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: too low
Author: Jim Z

Ran a quarter mile of the Big Branch today at an absurdly low level: 0.5 on the bridge gauge. Started below the old abutments and ran down to just above the take-out bridge. The river was really too low, but in this short stretch I found a runnable line all the way down, and didn't have to walk anything. Like an addict, I've had a small taste of this creek, and now I want more!

Big Branch breakfast run
Wednesday May 19, 2004
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high
Author: Jim Z

I had been thinking maybe I was ready for my first run on the legendary Big Branch. Alden had run it a few times, and seemed to think so too. So after a couple days of storms sweeping through south of Rutland, we decided play hooky for the morning and see if it was up. Up it was, to 3.5, a pretty solid level I'm told.

We put in at 8AM. The run started out well, boofing over an endless staircase of 2 - 4' drops. This is cool! The drops are so close together there's hardly time to think. The scenery is amazing, if you can find the time to look. Blue sky, warm sunshine, lush spring foliage, and a riverbed full of glacial boulders.

Soon we were at the first of the named drops, "Cave rapid". A 6' drop, cave on the right, rock wall on the left, piton rocks in the middle. Tough choices. Alden runs first, taking the middle line. With a thump he pitons into the rocks, breaking both thigh straps. Not easy to roll a C-1 like that, but he tries twice, then he's out and swimming. We recover the boat but his paddle has gotten away. Thankfully he has a spare in his boat, so we jury-rig his straps and continue (I took the sneak route, on foot, boat on shoulder, river right)

Another stretch of steep stair-step drops and we're at "Mushroom", a maze of small boulder drops ending in a couple bigger ones. It's my turn for carnage. All goes well until I somehow find myself running the last 2 drops upside down, lose my paddle, and swim. The boat stays with me but the paddle tries to escape. After a short search we find it and we're off again, dropping and boofing.

At about the halfway point I'm flipped again, banging along through the boulders. Too confused to roll, I pull the ripcord and gather up the pieces. This time I have a firm grip on the boat and paddle, but I watch as some of my outfitting floats away. With a hip pad and my confidence washed away it's time for me to admit defeat. I shoulder the boat and hike the last 3/4 mile to the take-out bridge. Alden finished the run solo, without further incident. Afterwards, on the drive to work, I find my shirt sleeve wet with blood. A quick stop at the doctor's office for a few stitches in my elbow and I'm ready for the next adventure.

What an amazing creek. Far steeper than anything I've been on. Absolutely relentless and unforgiving rapids. Gorgeous green wilderness. Beats the heck out of working! Not sure how soon, but I'll be back again to redeem myself. At a lower level. It's too cool a run not to try again.

A Little Piece of the Cold River
Monday May 24, 2004
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium high
Author: Jim Z

Everything around Rutland was running but not a paddling partner in sight. I couldn't let all that water go to waste, so I ran about a half mile of the Cold River. I parked at the covered bridge and carried up as far as I could. At medium-high flow this section is a technical III+, eddy hopping and hole dodging all the way down. Great fun! The class IV "Asskicker" drop lived up to it's name....thank goodness for padded seats. The gradient keeps up past the covered bridge down to the confluence with the N. Branch (It drops about 180 feet/mile in this stretch). It was tempting to continue; the N.Branch was adding a lot of water. But it was getting dark, the lightning was getting closer, and it's a 2.5 mile walk back from the next possible take-out. A short bushwhack on river left brought me back to the bridge.

The gauge is on the Middle Road bridge, downstream river right.

WB Deerfield
Monday May 24, 2004
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Alden Bird

At 4ft the river is much more powerful than at 1ft, and much more fun. There is much more power to "turn to your desires" (ie control if you can, or get spanked by if not!)

The drops were quite turbulent and some of them were class V. There are so many interesting sections of frothing whitewater flowing over different collections of rocks that I can barely begin to recall it all, much less describe it. It all stands out like a slideshow in my head of vivid, almost magical images.

Some highlights:

"Big-air boofs" (everywhere!), watching Justin disappear over "Tunnel Falls" (only to be quickly engulfed myself), flying down the river (or so it felt) as fast as the cars next to us on the road.

It was 70 degrees, sunny, big water and I was with my friends in Vermont. It would be a good bet to quit paddling today, with yesterday as my freshest memory in the whole slideshow.

But then again, it just keeps getting better and better . . .

Cold River
Wednesday May 26, 2004
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jim Z

Scott Gilbert and I ran the Cold this afternoon. Pretty low level; there was just enough water in the steeper narrow rapids, but too low anywhere the riverbed widened. None the less, it was an excellent run. Soon after leaving the roadside it starts to rock and roll.....bouldery class III-IV drops requiring a lot of maneuvering. The gradient is fairly constant. We boat-scouted everything except the "asskicker" drop (about 1/4 mile above the covered bridge)....a confused boulder pile with a couple places to squeeze through. About a quarter mile below the covered bridge the North Branch spills in, adding some water. A little below there I got the chance to practice a couple class III shallow water rolls...successfully.

There's a few strainers in the last third of the run; all dodgable or duckable at low water, but maybe not with more water. We took out under the Cold River Road bridge to avoid the small dam and the shallows coming into N. Clarendon. The last rapid is a beautiful marble gorge; crystal clear water flowing over white stone in a series of almost river-wide ledge holes.

It's been over 10 years since I first (and last!) paddled this river. I'll tell you what....the Cold is steeper, more continuous, and more beautiful than I remember it. Hard to believe this run is completely unknown. Hard to believe I "forgot about it" for the last 10 years. I won't forget again!

(I'll put a description and directions on the almanac page when I get a chance)

Otter Creek
Monday May 31, 2004
Organizer: Paul Kenyon
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: very high
Author: Paul Kenyon

The Otter Creek often runs when other rivers in Vermont are low as was the case on Memorial Day. The OC is usually considered runable between about 450 cfs and 2000 cfs. Though some paddlers may run the gorge section above 2000 we had not. A look up into the gorge from the pool below convinced us that staying out of it was a good idea.

We decided to play on the last wave train of the rapid below the Belden Falls Gorge. This feature can be accessed by putting in at the take out above the Huntington Falls Dam and back-paddling the mile or so to the bottom of the rapid, or, as we did, by paddling the last section of the New Haven River. We put in at the Dog Team Restaurant and proceded over some very pretty micro drops to the Otter Creek.

At 2700 cfs that last wave train is long and it is possible for paddlers from beginners through at least intermediate level to gain experience with eddys, wave surfing and ferrying in a fast current. The first wave in the train appears enormous from the portage lookout (river right). Looking down on it one would think twice about launching into it. The roar of the water alone is impressive. Beside it in the eddy the wave was sufficiently large, forceful and noisy to present a worthy challenge. It is possible to put in just below the portage lookout and ferry across to the large river left eddy or to paddle the more tiring river left eddy. Play boats will fare better chosing to ferry into the top of the river left eddy from along the river right portage trail.

This wave is sticky at flows below about 700 cfs. Above that it forms and distorts throwing boats back into the waves behind it. It's value above 700 cfs seems primarily to be for practicing bracing and rolling skills. This wave seems to be safe. I, at least, have rolled in it many times and never seen a rock or felt one with my paddle or body. It appears to be, and has proven to be, an excellent place for a new paddler to turn a pool roll into a combat roll.

In it's own right and certainly when little else is running locally, it's worth checking out the Otter Creek for an afternoon of vigorous wave catch, roll, eddy and bracing practice especially for beginner and intermediate paddlers. At high flows the wave train offers smaller waves farther back and less powerful though still restless eddies to practice riding and crossing for beginner paddlers.

Otter Creek
Tuesday Jun 8, 2004
Organizer: Cheryl Robinson
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium

At a mere 1300 cfs, the thought of running the Otter Creek Gorge didn't seem that Terrifying. Simon kindly nick named it the gorge of Terror after a 2003 late summer run at 2000 cfs when gorge spat out four swimmers out of a group of eight.

I don't know what it is about running this gorge but it is one of my favorite runs it always seems to get the adrenaline pumping.

We played and practiced rolling at the top for awhile before deciding to head into the first rapid...a great place to practice eddying out. We take a quick glance at the gorge before Simon and I decide to run it. This gorge is always full of surprises, it often throws you a wave or boil that unbalances you which a trusty braces keep you from flipping over. All five emerge upright and unscathed...a successful run...yippee!!

The next rapid is really fun and just before the final wave train a nice wave had formed on the river was perfect. What wasn't perfect or at least for me was trying to get to it..I managed a couple of successful attempts as well as a roll, but I also managed the only swim of the night..Doh!!

Everyone got a surf and Simon and Eric delighted us with their play boat skills.

I was surprised to see that the main wave below campground was at a good level. We managed to get four people surfing at the same time. Patrick seemed to be at home on this wave and was very protective if someone tried to surf at the same time.(Paddler basher!!!).

A good time was had by all and the night ended with a wash down of special Lemonade and Margaritas with the Mozies feasting on our succulent flesh.

Lamoille (Bootleg)
Thursday Jun 10, 2004
Organizer: Cheryl Robinson
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: low boatable


Well after a high level around 3000 cfs last week. This week's level seemed pitiful and the trip was almost cancelled. Wednesday my rain danced worked and the heavens opened and provided enough rain to bring the Lamoille up to a runnable level. Although I doubted it would provide enough excitement for some of the more experienced paddlers in our group.

The usual wave at Maura's house was disappointing and just about surfable, but we all had a surf just in case there wasn't anything wrong could we have been. The low water level had diminished the usual rapids to rock fields providing various play opportunities for everyone. A usual sticky stopper which appears on river left provided an ideal opportunity for me to learn the basic techniques for surfing and spinning on stoppers. I didn't want to get off.

By the time we reached five chutes the sun had set. Five chutes never fails to surprise me. At every water level there is something for everyone. Even on this run there were a few nice beginner waves on the left sneak chute and a small hole in the center to keep the experts happy.

All the way down, Cartwheels, stern squirts and bow stalls where being thrown and I am sure there were a few other moves made too.

For a grade 2 river at low water and a bunch of paddlers ranging in experience from grade 3 to 5, everyone came off smiling. A job well done.

Thursday Jun 10, 2004
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Alden Bird

Wow, what a great river! My long-boat friends had been telling me about this for years -- storys about sky-scraping stern squirts, enders with the whole boat out of the water, 8-ft surf waves . . .

Anyway, after walking almost the ENTIRE 5-mile shuttle (although I was at least picked up -- by some blond female raft guides!) I was quite ready to "turn off my mind, relax and float downstream."

It was wonderful. I took off down the gorge with the raft company's "video boater" who needed to get out ahead and stop to take video of the rafts. He was kind enough to show me the gorge. It was the best kind of river-running -- big, harmless and unfamiliar. I think William Nealy, rest his soul, would have described our grins as "illegal!"

This river reminded me how few big-water runs we have in New England. Earlier in the week I had run the Tewkesbury section of the J-C in Quebec, another big-water river. It was nice to be able to take a solid stroke without cracking bottom -- and to be able to fall 8 feet straight down -- off the back of a wave rather than off a waterfall.

The only problem was that I had my stubby little creek boat. Next time I'll bring my slalom boat and get in on those big enders. Or maybe I'll bring my 17-ft sea kayak.

Think about the enders!

Montreal: Expo 67, Lachine & Valley Field
Saturday-Sunday Jun 19-20, 2004
Organizer: Si Wiles
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium

The weekend started in Montreal with Simon and Eric ripping it up on Expo 67, while Steph and I found more dangerous activities like Cycling and rollerblading. Okay so it was dangerous for me because I fell over on my roller blades!! Expo was followed by the smaller aptly named Bunny wave just above Lachine. This is a great learning wave, but what stinks about it is a that if you miss the small eddy you have to pull yourself back up using a rope. The current is really fast and pulling yourself back up is a real effort, the difficulty is increased by an overhanging tree (which the rope is attached to) has to be overcome before you are safely back in the eddy. After ten attempts I give up and carried back to the put in.

Simon and Eric then paddled down to the Big Joe and Pyramid wave on Lachine, I am not sure whether the huge waves tired them out or the long paddle back??

On Saturday night we decided to go to the Valleyfield Slalom site, stay the night and paddle on Sunday. Warning! do not use the directions provided on the Valleyfield website instead I have posted some new ones below. After a drive round we eventually found the site neatly tucked behind a supermarket, overlooked by a hotel and apartments. This is the ultimate urban waterpark. But no camping. Another warning do not for any reason use the KAO site nearby. This Campsite although very picturesque, sits right next to the interstate and the biggest freight train line ever!! We had the worst nights sleep and woke up to a beautiful day feeling anything but energetic!! A few brownies and cookies later we were raring to go.

Oh Valleyfield Slalom site wow!! This slalom site is just pleasurable; it has something for everyone from just straight river running, practicing eddy catching / ferry gliding to rodeo holes and beginner surf waves. The cherry on the cake is the small air slide...which is fantastic!!! Tried and tested by all present.

Eric admitted that at first sight he wondered why we had dragged him from Expo 67 to such a site. The first run changed all that. The site is wonderful although there were plenty of kayakers and the run is short. It never felt crowded and queues for features were non-existent...there are just too many spots, everyone is kept happy.

The air slide provided endless entertainment, many stunts where tried, tested and some failed but it brought a smile to everyone's face. My favorite was Simon cart wheeling of the end while Eric sat at the bottom of the ramp.

The site is excellent, safe and fun...The safety being tested by a couple of voluntary swimmers trying to body surf one of the waves and me just failing to roll...damn that roll!!

The river is deep the rocks smooth, if errors occur there is a nice pool at the bottom to catch you and the excess debris.

We spent all day here and at mid day we fired up the BBQ, bathed in the hot sun drank beers and discussed how great the site was. After a filling of burgers and chicken the second half of paddling commenced. We eventually forced ourselves off the river at 6.30pm. Had we not had a two hour drive home we would have stayed till dark.

The Valleyfield slalom site is free and is fun, fun, fun and even more fun.

Pictures of our weekend will be posted on the VPC picture page.

The directions:- From Montreal

Take the I-20 west to Junction 14 on to the 201. Go over the two bridges and continue till you pass a Subway outlet on your right carry on to the next traffic lights turn right onto Madan street and stay on this until the end. At the end turn right on Dufferin street and take the first entrance into the supermarket carpark. At the left of the Maxi supermarket is a small road, follow this round to the rear of the super market. This is the site of the Valleyfield Slalom site.

Swift Water Rescue Course
Saturday-Sunday Jun 26-27, 2004
Organizer: Umiak / VPC
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium

Day 1 - Saturday 26th

12 varied and rather sleepy participants showed up at the doors of Umiak at 9.00 am. After a bit of herding and pen pushing we headed out back to meet the instructors and each other. I am not sure exactly what I expected on the course, but I knew myself and everyone else had all brought their kayaks along so at first was quite disappointed that the first day would involve no kayaking whatsoever!! No kayaking, but it is a whitewater rescue course ...I need my boat don't I!!!

The first hour we were shown how to throw ropes on dry land. Mark insulted a few of the pitiful throw ropes that turned up and insisted all ropes should be Long and Strong. Oopps I will just hide that rope I found at the bottom of the cupboard from years ago. Emphasis was put on the second throw and we practiced the butterfly and coil technique.

We moved down to a local rapid aptly named junkyard, which it became when 12 people practiced swimming in current and into the eddys. Each person took turns in practicing with their throw line and rescuing the swimmer.

We were amazed when they set up a 'safe strainer' in the middle of the river. Each of us had to swim towards it and aggressively push ourselves over it. At one point we had to let ourselves be sucked under so we knew what it felt like to sucked under a strainer. Mark was quick to explain what hazards a real strainer could have.

After a short rest and bake in the sun we jumped right back in to rescue mode. We worked on Zip lines, wading across a river aided by a paddle and a buddy and the pyramid effect which really brought team working into play. We learnt how to do V-drags with use of a rescue vest. The activity proved the need for a rescue vests, it also highlighted a fault in the manufacture of one vest and in another the need to have them correctly fastened.

The first day ended with knots, not just learning them but in our stomachs after learning what day 2 had install for us.

Day 2 - Sunday 27th

We met at the dam just above the train trestle on Winooski. The sun was shinning and the whole team was eager and ready to go.

For the days events we were split in to three teams of four. Each scenario we would go through would be headed by one team, then helped by the second team and timed by the third.

Before any scenarios started Mark showed us all how to use stabilization lines, drag lines, 2:1 and z drag.

The first two scenarios were done on dry land and involved foot entrapment and retrieving a boat. The scenarios highlighted the issues you can have while conducting rescues, but both teams did well.

We were then ready for our first water rescue...I have to be honest here I didn't know what to expect.

Mark drove down with Ben to set up the scenario, while we paddled down. I couldn't believe how real it felt to see Mark head in water and his foot trapped.

It didn't stop there, we went on to do two boat pinnings. It really showed how communication works and fails, how the adrenaline pumps when stress increases.

The scenarios really helped put the things we had learnt in to actual use in a safe environment.

The next exercise was to practice ferry gliding with ropes across current, the river is pretty wide so at least two ropes were required. It was great to watch each teams different techniques in trying the same thing. Mark raised the stakes slightly by putting a scenario right in the middle of the exercise. Everyone's focus changed straight away and the whole group worked together in retrieving Mark. It was really good as we hadn't expected it and it made us think on our feet.

He didn't just do it once, during our ferry gliding exercise he did it twice...mmm he really was testing our skills. The second attempt we set up a zip line and sent John bungard down to him, We couldn't understand when half way down John came to a sudden halt...Doh who forgot that when you use two ropes together there has to be a knot somewhere!!! Oops. To continue he did hand over hand, till he reached Mark at which point he was able to help release Mark. A rescue well done!!

While we continued to practice ferry gliding with ropes, Mark and Ben set up the final scenario...the most scary and probably the one people see most on the rivers. A log was tied across the river to provide a strainer, Mark then pinned himself and the boat. I know when I saw this I thought oh my god!! This has the potential to go wrong for real we really do need to make sure we rescue him correctly. The first rescue was done in less then a minute a quick ferry glide out to him and Randell clipped the rope to the back of the boat. We did the scenario two more times. Each time something would change either no boats allowed or no wading allowed. These were definitely the hardest rescues of the day. It was also the most real, it felt real and looked real. Everyone managed to work well together. I think the instructors decided to give us a break after that and taught us how to tow and recover someone who is unconscious and upside down using the Hand of God...we all have the power now!!

We all packed up greatly appreciating the knowledge we had learnt and the new friends we had made. I would gladly be rescued by anyone who was at the course.

Throughout the course Mark, Dave and Ben provided excellent instruction and always associated real incidents with each scenario or skill we were learning. It helped keep the focus of why we were there.

Thank You's:

On behalf of all the participants I would like to thank Umiak, Steve Brownlee and VPC, James Rabion for co-ordinating the course. Umiak for sponsoring the course and bringing in such excellent instructors. I would like to thank Mark, Dave and Ben for being great instructors and providing such an excellent and enjoyable course, and for donating their earnings for the two days to VPC for future Rescue training.


The course was in memory of Linda Weiss and I would encourage all participants to donate whatever they can to AW via Umiak.

Friday-Sunday Jul 9-11, 2004
Organizer: Brian Frost (but alas . . .)
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high
Author: Alden Bird

This past weekend I met up with some Mainers with plans to run the Taureau. A large rainstorm undid those plans, but blessed us with many other rivers to explore.

We ran the Cache, the Sautauriski, the Blanche and the Tourilli. The Blanche in particular featured the most impressive drops I have ever seen. It looked like videos of Norway. But often the most impressive drops are not the hardest. The Tourilli, it was the Tourilli . . .

The Tourilli had two class Vs. The first proved runnable. The second V was not so friendly.

It was a 20-foot storm. The two main flows dropped into a massive hole. I thought that I could plug the hole, but I was in error. I did my best, but I got backendered and dumped in. It felt like my limbs were being torn away. After several cycles, I pulled my skirt and did not know which way was up or down until my back slammed into the sandy river bottom. After a few more seconds of going limp and awaiting another pummeling, I popped up 30 feet downstream of the falls.

My friends found my boat and paddle, but the hole ripped off my skirt and Adam didn't grab it as it floated by because he thought it was my shorts (and who needs those?) and went for the paddle instead! We never found the skirt.

What was strange was that immediately after I stopped gasping for air and spitting out river water I started enjoying the event. As we paddled across the flatwater at the takeout, and later as we unraveled our twisted route across dirt roads on the way back to town, I experienced a rich feeling.

While at once I felt scared and ashamed - I also felt within myself a new, deeper layer of experience. As they say, good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.

There is a trait among lovers - every part of what they love appears unique and interesting. I feel that way about boating - every piece is something roundly considered. I can be detained for hours in a boating shop trying to determine what gear I need. I just want to slow down my days and savor every detail and explore everyone else's experiences that I might get a little closer and find just a little more joy in what I love.

It is that way with paddling. When a new thing rises with the color of a bad experience, my love of the sport curtains it and bestows upon it a redeemable character. Isn't that why we love talking about our mythical trashings?

So here is to the spirit of expanding. Here's to making our adventures mythical. Here's to hiking into waterfalls during the summer, studying maps, meteorology, using power tools and all that other stuff I never would do if it didn't expand boating and allow me to enjoy boating in yet another facet.

So here's to finding something good about getting held under water!

I feel that I am allowed to savor my trashing as long as I promise to do so forever - that I will not need the joy of another.

Le Taureau / Le Malbaie
Saturday-Sunday Aug 7-8, 2004
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Alden Bird

This past Friday night Justin and Fred and I drove up to Canada and met up with a whole cast of characters to run Le Taureau, a river I had long heard about, but never "closely examined."

The Taureau ("the bull" in french) is 15 miles long. The rapids build for about 5 miles from flat to class IV, and in the middle 5 miles it is entirely class IV and V. There are supposedly more than 100 rapids, and I believe it. There are supposedly 18 class Vs, and I believe it. Paddlers used to run the Taureau in two days, and I can see why. It took us 5.5 hours and we portaged just twice and scouted only four times.

It was a long day. When we got to the lunch spot halfway through the hard stuff, it already felt like a very long, hard river. The rapids weren't heinous -- no harder (except two) than the West Branch of the Deerfield -- but there were so many of them, so many people in our group (which tends to crowd the eddies) and this river is truly in the middle of nowehere. Add all that up and when we got to the beers at the end in my car, I felt pretty accomplished.

Next day we went to the Malbaie, which featured the most adventurous shuttle of all time and a river that is absolutely in "God's Country," as they say. After the challenging hike in, we were greeted with a warm day and a fun river. It was very relaxed compared to the Taureau -- a good way to wind down. The best part of the trip was a clean 30-foot waterfall. Fred went first and landed flat in the pile of white at the bottom. From the cliffs above we all heard him yell "It's SO SOFT!" So I went ahead and charged off. It was like jumping off my house and yet landing in powder. I swear I didn't even feel it. We even went back for a second run off it.

All in all, it was a great trip. I'll be back to that friendly addiction, that Taureau -- with a smaller group and smaller number of flips!

Guide to Costa Rica
Saturday-Sunday Aug 7-22, 2004
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium

In August 2004, Me and Six guys headed out to explore the Costa Rican rivers. The ability of the group was hugely uneven, me a beginner grade 3/4 and the others hardcore, no messing grade 5's...great was I actually going to get some paddling done? Thankfully one of them had invited me to go out and week early and paddle some of the easier rivers.

Most people tend to think you need to be guided down a river, believe me if you avoid this you will have a far more cultural experience, and paddle a much larger variety of rivers. This guide is aimed to show how easy it is.


Two of us flew from Montreal to San Jose using American Airlines. The flights were $650. The check in girls were unfazed by the sight of my kayak and worked hard to get me the lowest possible price. Outbound we were charged $80 CAD and in bound $70 USD for each kayak. Our friends flew in using British Airways and were not charged anything, Mark had even brought two kayaks, a creeker and a playboat.


Because we were traveling around Costa Rica, we had to have tetanus, polio injections and Malaria tablets.


Generally I found most Costa Ricans (Tico's) to be friendly, however being a female and white, I attracted a lot of unwanted attention particularly in bigger towns such as Turrialbla . I quickly learnt to dress modestly anytime I had to walk into town. Beggars are present in every town, and we had a couple of experiences: one tried to sell us a puppy.

Another actually tried to steal our shoes as we were loading up our kayaks on the van. Basic Spanish is very helpful.

Some places (hotels etc) will except dollars but the currency is Colones.

Note: If you are taking a credit card as advised by the guide books, please be warned some banks do not allow the use of their cards in Costa Rica due to the amount of fraud. We found cards issued by Star to be a problem.


Quepos, we stayed at Quepos Hotel, this was cheap at $15 per night per room with on suite, but it was awful definitely one to be avoided.

Turrialbla, Hotel Interamericano. The guys shared a room for $10 each per night while Simon and me had a double for $20 a night.

Sarapiqui, We stayed at the Sarapiqui outdoor centre, $10 each per night.

Domincal, We stayed at Carabina's San Clemente for $30 per night per room.

Some of the places served breakfast for a small price approx $3 each, but generally for lunch and evening meals we went in to the local towns..Highly recommend the Coffee Shop in Turrialbla (near the internet cafe) for coffee and cakes.

For a last night treat we stayed at the Best Western Irazu in San Jose $80 per room. I appreciated the first hot shower for three weeks, comfy bed and to top it off a casino to spend them last few Costa Rican colones. The airport shuttle will also take you and your kayaks for free to the airport.


This was our biggest expenditure of the Holiday. Airport transfers were haggled with the local drivers, costs were one way $100 to Quepos, $70 to Turriabla and $100 from Domincal to San Jose. In Quepos we used H2O / Rio Tropicales for our shuttles, generally charging $25 - $35 including food on the river. for the rest of the trip we hired a driver called Martinez, we booked him via the hotel Interamericano. He charged us around $100 per day and when we needed him over night we paid for his accommodation. His transport isn't luxury more of a cattle wagon with a scrappy double cab...we ended having a rota for sitting in the comfortable seats.

The transport sounds expensive but when you divide it between seven people it works out fairly cheap.

Kayaks & Gear:

All the guys brought creek boats and you wouldn't want anything less for the type of rivers they did. Mark also brought a play boat (kingpin) and I had a river runner (I3). These were okay on grade 3's and Ocean surfing.

If I returned I would definitely take a creek boat.

For kayak gear a shortie cag and rash vests are suitable.

Schedule and River Descriptions.

An essential whitewater guide is Chasing Jaguars and is produced by Earthbound sports.

We had an idea of a schedule and what rivers to do before we went. We picked August instead of the typical Dec, because it is at the height of the rainy season and this optimize our potential for paddling all the rivers chosen. We found that the rivers tend to flash flood in the late afternoon and can rise without warning.

Boating based from Quepos:

Rio Naranjo.

A Class 3 / 4, We did the upper and lower section. The start is a technical boulder garden. But the lower is mild short rapids. Like Most of the rivers in Costa Rica it has lots of shoals, which drive in to the river bed out for under cuts. There are different channels on this river and some lead you on a magical mystery tour!!

Rio Savergre

A class 3, very beautiful pretty river with many side streams that you can walk up to view pretty waterfalls.

We started in the middle of the upper section. Watch out for the section named Diablo, we were advised that diablo's mouth is a wonderful play the level we paddled it was a huge hole and a keeper I took my first hole beating here!! And it wasn't letting me go even after I swam!!

There is no technical rapids on this just nice long shoal rapids followed by lots of flat. The lower section is more of a float than a paddle

Quepos beach.

Great surf 2/3 ft, but disgusting water. The town run off leads right into the ocean. But the surf was great and we couldn't resist a couple of sunset paddles. We wore earplugs and nose plugs to prevent any bacteria entering our system. We also washed all our clothes.

San Antonio Beach.

Well the guidebook advised this beach was the best surf on the west coast..but we were highly disappointed. There wasn't much of a surf and it broke near the waters edge. There was bigger surf further down the beach, but it apparently ca be dangerous if you flip as there are huge rocks scattered along the shore...we opted for beer and food instead.

Boating based from Turriabla.

Rio Pacuare

The classic Costa Rican run we had all heard about. A nice enough class 4 run, with two decend boulder drop gorges. We had decided not to do the bottom section, but as we finished early enough, we added the extra 16kms. Luckily we have an all too common flash flood, and the level rose very nicely to help push us through those last miles.

Some fantastic scenery on the bottom Pacuare, as you float through deep gorges, with waterfalls cascading down the side of the cliffs above you.

Rafting the lower Pacuare is a good way to see the river if you don't fancy the paddle.

Rio Toro Amarillo

A nice low volume bouldery run. Would probably be very scary in low water. You can hike up a bit further if you so wish. A few miles of class 4. Watch out for the JCBs in the river digging for rocks.

Rio Sucio

Just a bit further from Turrialba than the Toro. It's a strenuous short trek down from the road bridge to the river, and you start just by the confluence of two streams. The main sucio flow is yellow from some volcanic sulphur emissions. A nice bouldery class 4 run in the main. Except if it flash floods, when it went from a nice tame class 4 to a huge thrashing class 5 monster.

Rio Orosi

Lovely short low volume run, which starts with a bang, with class 5 Dinosaur gorge. A good first couple of miles, with a nice hot spring on river left just after the gorge. Then eases off to a fast class 4 with the lower Orosi, which picks up a whole lot of flow from the side stream on river left, which supposedly is a great run further upstream, if you catch it when they are not diverting water. No shortage of water where it joins the Orosi. Its pretty much one long class 4 rapid to the takeout.

Rio Reventazon

We paddled numerous sections of the reventazon. Some of the more classic sections have been dammed, but there is still plenty of good boating to be had. I think in all we did 6 sections of this river, The top sections were low volume, the bottom sections, big volume boating. Generally class 3-4

Rio Pejibye

Upper Pejibye has a short class 4 section, before class 2/3. Lower section class 2. Don't miss the takeout, as you end up on the Reventazon, just before the dreaded lake.

Rio Patria

This was the highlight of our trip. 3 hr hike in, though dense jungle, thankfully downhill, then two days of intense boating. Day 1 has the hike, scrapey start, then huge portage around a gorge and fall, then some good boating. Day two has plenty of classy class 5. Be prepared to run some big class 5 rapids, since portaging is not always possible. Oh and take someone who knows the run, it'll help for the hike in at least. Finishes up on the Sucio for the last mile or so of that run.

Rivers Based from Sarapiqui

Upper Sarapiqui

A few miles of standard class 4 boulder rapids. Nothing too exciting, at regular low flows. Should be more exciting with more water

Lower Sarapiqui.

Class 3+ nice easy river. The rapids are not technical, but some do have holes that may catch you unawares. Most of the rapids a steep shoals sliding into the river bank. This section is quick and can be run a couple of times in a day. The put in is the sarapiqui out door centre

Poza Azul.

A 25ft waterfall, that is spectacular. Even if you don't run it, it is worth going for a look. The run out takes you out to the end of the upper Sarapiqui. Some of the guys ran the section above the waterfall and advised it is grade 5 waterfalls all the way, but very good. Beware the grueling walk in to either the waterfall, or the upper section.

Rio Toro

The upper Toro has a fantastic put in, in a narrow gorge, below some huge waterfalls, and a hydro plant. The whole upper section is sandwitched between two huge gorge walls, but often theres just enough room for a few rocks, or a beach for inspections. A great run, with plenty of action. Mostly class 4 with perhaps some 5. The upper finishes at the Hot springs resort, or you can continue down the middle section, which is much more mellow, some nice class 3 rapids, whilst still in the gorge. There is a lower section, class 1 and 2, but its long and dull apparently

Boating based from Dominical...

Domincal Beach.

Domincal is like a piece of California in Costa Rica...everyone is American. This is surf dude city. The surf is fantastic, and huge. As a beginner to ocean surfing I found I took quite a trashing and swapped the kayak for a surfboard. The guys promptly ripped out my outfitting and made use of the spare kayak. They certainly made every effort to rip it up out there. The beach is huge and there is plenty of space to avoid unwanted clashes with surfers. However this beach has a serious rip tide and it can be quite easy to get into trouble.

Rio General

The General used to be a Costa Rican Classic, and there is opportunity for multi day class 3 run. We picked off the hardest top section, which was tagged onto the end of the Buenovista, a nice easy class 3-4 boulder blast. The General, by the time we got there late in the afternoon was peaking at huge flash flood levels, so was a great class 4 blast ducking trees and dodging enormous stoppers

Rio Chirripo Pacifico

Another run that drops into the General. Since it was this section that had provided most of the General's flood flow, we jumped on it early in the day, and it was a nice class 4-5 boulder run. Some good rapids, pretty low volume. (maybe we should have waited a bit longer)

Other runs:

Well we pretty much hit all the classic class 4-5 stuff in the guidebook. The Patria was certainly the highlight. The Chiripo Atlantico is supposed to be a great multiday class 5 in a gorge. But we decided that the likelihood of a flashflood was high, given the time of year, and the number of times it happened to us, so we skipped that one. Apparently there is a great class 5 gorge that just goes on for ever!

There are a few other runs around, and plenty of easier runs available, but the above are certainly enough for a two week trip given normal water levels.

Other Information:

If your looking for a new paddle, or break or lose one, then local paddler Ferdinand Steinvorth (H20 / Rio Tropicales) manufactures exceptional paddles. Mainly carbon, he charges around $220 for each paddle. The quality is the same as AT's but a lot lighter.

Costa Rica is a great place to sell any of the Kayak gear you no longer want. Local paddlers pay extortionate prices and are only too happy to pay a fair price for your old gear especially PFD's and spray skirts.

Friday-Sunday Aug 13-15, 2004
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Author: Alden Bird

This past weekend I followed the rain to Maine and ran some good rivers. On Friday I ran Walker Brook in Mass. -- a really cool class III-IV creek that some friends told me about. It was cool except for biking the shuttle at the end. I'm no Lance Armstrong. Five miles on a mtn bike with flat tires was terrible. But I was about to find out that shuttles in southern NE are nothing compared to shuttles in Maine.

I drove up on Friday to Maine and ran Sandy Stream, a class IV gem with more 5-foot ledge drops than I can remember. This is my friend's local river, so we flew down it -- but not before darkness set in and I ran the last mile "on verbal directions" . . .

My friend Chris is like The Godfather of Maine Paddling -- everyone knows him and pretty much does everything short of calling him "Godfather." He knows all the rivers like an expert, and with the water flowing on Saturday, we set off from his house towards the good stuff.

We met up with Brad and headed to the East Piscataquis. I didnt really know Brad "from Adam," but I had seen him clean the challenging "Tunnel Vision" a few weeks back, and so we all set off on the East Pis with confidence. The highlight was a huge drop appropriately called "Big Balls Falls." It was truly a leap of faith. Just below we ran one of the gnarliest drops I have ever seen. Later that day we rolled over to Cold Stream and put on for what we thought would be a quick 4 mile run.

Wrong. When we took off, we found that our shuttle driver was nowhere to be seen. To be brief: we had no shuttle and were in the middle of nowhere on logging roads. We ended up stumbling 5 miles through the dark, enlisting several locals for the rescue mission, and finally finding our shuttle driver late into the night. It was quite a night.

The next day Brad and I ran Nesowadnehunk Stream up near the Penobscot -- a beautiful river of granite -- at a surprisingly good level. The rivers were certainly with us on this trip. We camped out that night and met Chris the next day at the famous Gulf Hagas river and enjoyed a day on that fabulous creek. By the end of the trip I was very tired and not paddling very well and looking forward to heading home. The best part of the last day was seeing a moose right next to us on the riverbank.

We stumbled out of the woods tired, exhausted and already pointed towards home. I drove south for a few minutes and then pulled over and took a two-hour nap, but I certainly left Maine many rivers the wiser. A great trip.

Upper White
Friday Aug 13, 2004
Organizer: Jim Z
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: high

What a wild ride! Jim and I decided to start at the bridge in Stockbridge off of VT-107 (not the usual bridge on VT-100) to make it a shorter run since we were short on time. We had heavy rains and the White was running pretty big. There was also a fog on the river that limited visibility to less than 100 yards if I had to guess.

The action started almost immediately. Before long we found ourselves in large standing waves and there were several large, powerful holes I noticed at the last moment as I (luckily) passed right by them. The current was pretty strong and was smashing into many of the strainers but as long as you weren't where you shouldn't be it wasn't an issue.

I had never paddled with Jim before and I decided I would test his rescue skills. Trying to avoid one large hole, I didn't look downstream in time to see another hole waiting for me. The rock-ledge making the hole was near the surface so that when I hit it, I spun backwards and then was neatly gobbled up. I tried to roll but couldn't seem to figure out what was going on so I bailed.

After an ego check we continued downstream headed for S-Turn. After what I had seen so far I decided to take a far left line to avoid the pourover there. I'm glad I did when I saw Jim run through it. The wave/hole whatever was huge. I've never seen anything like it kayaking and have only seen stuff that big from rafts.

Overall, it was a great run. At first I thought I was over my head, but now I think I was just outside my comfort zone. If it hadn't been dark, raining, and foggy it might not have seemed so bad. If I can get my roll back I won't have seconds thought about trying this again.

Beaver Meadow Brook
Monday Aug 30, 2004
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

One last fling before the year begins. The afternoon began with a juicy run down the New Haven with Katie (21 years old on that very day!) and Marshall. I recall: boofing smartly over a large hole in the Playpen, then getting hammered in the hole in Mama Tried.

At the take out we met up with the rest of the gang. My two friends headed off to do other things and I stuffed my boat in the van to run Beaver Meadow.

Beaver Meadow is a trib of the New Haven that dumps in about a mile up from the normal Ledges put in. I had never run it before. It is virtually Ed Clark's personal creek -- he lives there, discovered it and has led most of the few descents.

The water was low, but the river was steep. There were many exciting drops, including a nasty one with a log that we walked. Most of the drops seemed to be about 7 feet tall and contain some variety of hideous piton/pin spot on one dreaded side of the bottom.

In fact, we did have one minor shoulder dislocation and also the most serious pin I have witnessed. I heard Chris yell, "Shit! Pin!" and tried to move smoothly into rescue position. All I could see was the bow of a boat sticking up in the air, and the occupant with his head just out of the water. Fortunately we had plenty of power on the banks and were able to pull him out quickly and safely.

Fittingly, this new gem was my last Vermont river of the summer, and probably my last for a long time. That night I drove five hours home to Connecticut and a week later I moved to DC. This river marked the end of a long, vagabond summer spent running rivers and meeting people. I once read something like, "As an artist, you become familiar with due process. You can't just write people off or send them to hell." Same with boating. You can't go boating alone, despite what some desperate incarnations of ourselves will say. It's been a great summer, and I hope everyone is careful, paddles fastidiously and scouts and sets safety in a meticulous way. Because you know what they say -- if expert paddlers are laughing at you, you're probably being pretty darn safe . . .

Upper Mad
Thursday Sep 9, 2004
Organizer: Goudi
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: high
Author: Goudi Vandal

Water was realy high, and lots of features were washed out. Below the bridge in Moretown was tight, and flippy, as well as the small falls at the Punchbowl, which was worth scouting. Then the last drop was really fun, (below Butternut) with a nice entry and a great turn into a little hole punch and exit. Great trip.

Hole Brothers
Saturday Sep 18, 2004
Organizer: Cheryl Robinson
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium
Author: Cheryl

Well my first VPC official trip was hardly a successful. So the lack of people forced me to cancel it has a VPC trip.

Me, Myself and I, were accompanied by Randel Sands, and his partner Lana as a spectator.

We headed toward NY state at around 7am. We had to take plenty of Caffeine stops to keep the eyes awake. On the way across we stopped off at High Falls (Chateaugay) a spectacular 120 ft waterfall. Definitely unrunnable in a kayak, but very beautiful to look at.

We arrived at Hole Brothers around 1.30 pm (we stopped for lunch beforehand) and were surprised to find that we were the only ones there. There was a perfectly formed wave/ hole that was just begging for us to surf it. We did it in style. I can't even explain how sweet the hole was it. We ripped it up for an hour an half before taking a breather. Our breather was teaching Lana to paddle in the large eddy next to the wave, she did really well for her first time.

We went back on Hole brothers and joined two other paddlers who were really good. They were pulling off some great moves. They were really friendly and shouted pointers to Randel and me while surfing enabling us to pull off some excellent flat spins...we really did rock. I had my best play experience yet. We set off back home around 5.15pm again stopping for caffeine and some self refueling at an excellent Italian restaurant called Sergio in Canton (a must stop if your ever passing through). We arrived back in Burlington a little after midnight, Still grinning from ear to ear about our time on Hole Brothers.

Ball Mt. Brook
Sunday Sep 19, 2004
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Jim Zamecnik

A day late, a few hundred cfs short.....well into the lower range of the "low boatable" category. Still a some fun, gnarly drops in there where the river chokes down and steepens, but many boney dues must be paid getting there.

Gauge: the entire rt.30 bridge abutment was exposed right down to the riverbed on the downstream side. (you count the blocks down from the bridge to the waterline; 6.5 is typically considered minimum. This was more like 7+)

West River
Saturday Sep 25, 2004
Organizer: Cheryl Robinson
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium
Author: Cheryl

The west river!! A true classic run of the Northeast.

Standing at the top of the Dam looking down at the first rapid is amazing, watching the snake of boats, rafts and etc (meaning other things people decided to take down the river i.e lilo (did anyone else see that)). The first rapid looked huge and at first I was a little intimidated. I was grateful Jim had run it before and didn't mind showing us the lines and playspots.

Simon delighted us all the way down with wave wheels, cartwheels and whatever wheels. He impressed us even more when he did the same on the second run with hand paddles. In one eddy a paddler commented "There must be a fault with that guys boat if he can do that with hand paddles" after watching Simon pull off some flat water cartwheels.

Todd, Dan and Jim made use of Jim's knowledge of play spots and surfed numerous waves and holes. Boof rock was avoided by most of the group, but we had two star boofers Simon and Todd.(we won't mention the one swim here).

Dumplings seemed to be over hyped in the book and Jim showed us through with a relatively easy line, while Simon opted for the slot chute. On the second run Jim and Todd opted for a harder route on the right side. I opted for the same route and obviously became a little lapse as I thought I made the line only to sidle into the hole and slam into the rock, I didn't want to go over so used my paddled as a support on the rock and slid around it to make a nice recovery.

I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the West river, although myself and Simon couldn't convince the rest of the group to paddle a third run on just the lower section.

On the lower section we were joined by Ray Ingram, demoing a new espirit canoe, I hand paddled and Simon complained how flat it was. (he was warned it was only grade 2).

We took the right channel which proved to be continuous but rocky and very low..whoops a few scraps added to the demo canoe. A huge smile spread across our faces when we hit the last rapid before the take out...not because the run was over, but because we had just come across, probably the best play spot on the whole of the West river. It made Simon happy!! I took out and ran it a couple of times with the hand paddles. It had a couple of nice holes to surf in, both Simon and Ray had a happy time in there.

We eventually took off around 5ish...ready for the long drive back to Burlington.

Moose Fest - Lower Moose
Saturday Oct 16, 2004
Organizer: Cheryl Robinson
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Cheryl

So Saturday 16th of October we all meet up at the cottage in Old forge. Four intermediate boaters contemplate running the Middle and Lower Moose. The big hardcore guys listening to out conversation seriously advised at the current levels to skip the middle and just run the lower...we all felt we wouldn't get the warm up required before plunging ourselves down a grade 4 run. We opted for the last 3 miles on the Middle followed by the Lower. We were sooooo glad we didn't run the middle.

More flat, flat sucks, I hate flat...if I see any more flat I am taking off and hiking out...where's the take out I am sick of flat...and flat sucks...they were many of the comments heard from our mouths as we run the lower section. I have to say out of the 13miles we run only about 1 mile was worthy of being classed as white water and worthy white water it was. We managed to catch the last few grade three drops on the middle which wetted our appetite for the big drops to come. We remembered the other guys warning us of the first drop and we should scout. We eagerly scouted from the bank, it looked fairly straight forward. The fact you couldn't see all the drops made it difficult. The last being the most difficult, the line was hard right, if you took the left you were sure to be eaten in the hole. Two out of four made the incorrect line and got munched and the hole managed to spit out one swimmer. The other two made the correct line by strangely following someone who they thought was me??? Only to realize it was somebody else in the same boat. The next was rooster tail. We saw people scouting so thought it would be sensible to scout as god it wasn't worth the effort of squeezing ourselves out of our boats feeling the chill of the cold air to realize this drop was super easy with a huge fluffy rooster tail dead centre which was our mark for lining up to run problemos.

Have I mentioned the flat bits...low, flat and some places if we didn't quite follow the main current we would find ourselves beached and have to scrape and drag ourselves to the safety of not much deeper water.

The next drop was froth hole...a scary diagonal ledge drop with a nasty piton rock to the right. We scouted it carefully and took the advise of other paddlers on what line to take. Will runs the perfect line leaving Luke and Me in the eddy above looking for the perfect line...which I couldn't see. I neared the edge slowly in the hope that someone scouting would direct me...they sort of waved at me...oops I was a bit too close for my liking to the piton rock, but I survived and was quite chuffed I made it over. Luke despite following me made a nice line.

So the monster of all holes appeared next, Mix Master. I was way too tired by now to even considering making the necessary line. Dora agreed and we portaged around to watch the guys . Will did it with little effort. I then wished I had done it for all of about two seconds. As we all watched Luke flip in the worst possible place and take a huge hole beating. He flushed rather regrettably as a swimmer.

We came upon the last drop Elevator shaft. By this time I was too tired to even get out of my boat to scout it from land. I edged my boat up to the two options of drops and decided one was too nasty to even consider, I paddled to the right and noticed a lovely drop, a nice couple waved at me from their open canoe to take the line, so I did and it was fantastic. I shouted to the others follow, but I noticed Dora had nicely spotted a easy sneak chute which she took.

We thought we had finished and prayed for the take out which as per usual was a couple of miles of flat first....I HATE FLAT, FLAT SUCKS.

We were advised to take out above the bridge, but the last rapid at the take out bridge looked way to good. It looked the perfect way to end then run. We ploughed down through the ledge drops to finish the run at 4.30pm....definitely a good job we didn't run the middle we would have been taking off in the dark.

Personally I wouldn't consider running this again unless the gauge was showing around 3.5ft and above.

Guide to White Nile, Uganda
Thursday-Friday Dec 16-31, 2004
Organizer: Simon WIles
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high

Guide to Uganda, White Nile.

Flying: we used British airways (from Newark - USA), no hassle or charge for the two kayaks we took. The flights were expensive at $1300, but we booked late. It was sweetened when we received an upgrade from Heathrow to Entebbe then Heathrow to Newark.

Transport: we arranged transfers in advance from the airport to accommodation as taxis with racks can be difficult to come by. The cost is around $35 per person.

Accomodation: Again we booked in advance and opted to stay at NRE (Nile River Explorers) for five Nights (day 1 section). Then at Hairy Lemon (day 2 section) for Five days then back to NRE for the remainder of our holiday. Both sites are different but offer similar accommodation, Bandas, camping and Dorms. Hairy lemon is a little more expensive but food is included (3 cooked meals a day). Both offer open river view showers. NRE also has a more exclusive resort area that you can stay for $80 per night which provides you with a rather nice river view banda with private bathroom and shower, breakfast and exclusive use of the pool. NRE offer two places to get meals; the bar (which can get quite rowdy) or a restaurant. Both reasonably priced. Hairy Lemon is an island on the Nile and can only be reached by boat, they won't take walk ins so it essential to book in advance. We preferred Hairy Lemon, it is more of a paradise island and has a very relaxed feel to it.

Health: Uganda has a very high Malaria rate and you can guarantee someone you know or meet will get it while you are there. Before we went we had to be immunized for Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Meningitis, Polio, Tetanus and Yellow Fever. We also had to take Malaria tablets I opted for Malarone (daily) while Simon opted for Larium (weekly). Neither of us suffered side effects and neither did we suffer any health problems while we were there.

It is advisable to wear both ear plugs (highly recommend doc pro plugs) and nose clips to reduce taking on any bacteria from the water.

We took lots of suntan lotion factor 30. We did burn despite efforts of applying lots of lotion. The temperature varied between 84f and 94 f.

We wore long sleeves and trousers at night to prevent any nasties biting. We took our own mosquito net and used it despite them being provided in the accommodation (they looked very holey and our friends got badly bitten when they used them).

Culture: Uganda is a very poor country, but don't compare it to nearby countries such as Sudan or Ethiopia. These people are not starving. The economy is just third world. The people are probably the nicest people you will every meet and they will go out of there way to help you. The children will run to greet you and shout "Jambo Muzungo" which translates as "hello white person". The glow off their smiles when I waved back at them will sit in my heart forever.

At the takeout, I often got asked to have my kayak carried for me. I usually got charged around 1000 shillings about 50 cents...and believe me it's worth it after a long days the local people are so appreciative of the money, I even got some local language lessons included one day. They also asked us for our water bottles that we had purchased from the bar. We originally thought this was for the clean water (most homes do not have running water and so they either go to a well or use the river), but it turned out they wanted them for recycling to earn money.

The primary language is supposed to be English, but generally they speak various dialects of Lugandan or Swahili.

So to the Important Part the RIVER .

Despite the Nile being the longest river in the world, the commercial section is only about 36km and the kayak section 50km.

The river is split in to three sections: Owens Falls, Day 1, and Day 2.

The river is dam release and the water fluctuates during the day, generally lower in the morning getting higher around 3pm. On Holidays and weekends the water generally stays a lot lower.

Owens Falls : Grade 2/3

Don't get too excited this section is normally only used as a put in for the commercial rafts or people taking kayak lessons.

I was actually the only person in our group to run this section, and it was very uneventful and consists of 3 easy grade 2/3 rapids. I only did it once.

Day 1: Grade Various including some 6's

This is the section that is rafted by three companies almost every day. This section consists of many channels and I personally never ran this in my Kayak. I did however do it in a Topo Duo with Paulo Bibi, Ugandan's No 1 kayaker and recent winner of the big air competition held there in October.

The put in is NRE's campsite, the walk down is steep and treacherous...many people opt to take the daredevil route and go in off the huge but badly designed scary air ramp...I am a chicken and just let the boat go down it, then struggled down the rest of the way. The ramp is definitely a back breaker if not landed correctly. Simon opted for a nice aerial blunt/ face plant every time. We did witness some crazy guy's using beer crates to go off it...wouldn't surprise me if it makes then next young guns productions movie.

Near the put in there are two nice play spots one a small hole know as the campsite hole and the other known as the back wave, very similar to push button on the Ottawa. I paddled both of these a lot and really enjoyed them, but to get back to the campsite meant either running a grade 5 known as Brickyard or hiking across the island and doing a ferry across the bottom of Bujagali falls.


Before I proceed to breakdown each rapid, it is worth knowing only the first (Bujagali) and last rapid (Itanda) can actually be scouted from land, the rest, well I don't really want to say close your eyes and hope for the best, but it is quite like that. Because of the sheer size and volume it can prove difficult to see the whole or part of the rapids. On your first run it is worth going down with the locals.


Stay close to the right hand bank. Easy class 4, or 3 as the locals call it. Stay away from the undercut tree / island. Unfortunately one of our group didn't. If in doubt portage, on the right, as the rafts do, to lead you straight to:

Bujagali Falls (grade 4/5)

How hard can it be if the local guys swim it on a large jerry can? Inspect from the right side, and get ready to move to the left of the tongue, there is no point in trying to avoid the hole you're going in, then hold on tight through the run out. The boils can provide some entertaining mystery moves!!!


Straight forward class 3 wave train. Or so they say....I never seen a grade 3 with waves this big!!

Total Gunga

Long series of huge breaking waves at grade 5 ferocity. Watch out for the G Spot left of centre, which likes to surf rafts. Long rapid, with some interesting whirlpools at the bottom on the right.

Surf City,

Take the right most fork after Total Gunga. Nice easy class 3 rapid.


Just below surf city, one of the most fun rapids on the river. A HUGE (GIGANTIC) wavetrain (grade 4 / 5), with 4 waves stacked one after another. Very boily at the sides, so best to just run straight down.

If you want a short run, it is possible to arrange a Boda Boda (Moped) (outside the gate at NRE) to pick you up from just below Silverback on river right, five minutes up a path. This avoids all the flat water, and gets most of the good rapids.

There are some easy class 2 rapids, and lots of flat water, before:

Overtime (grade 5)

Usually portaged (on river right), can be run though as long as you hit the line.... Another channel exists further left called the Dead Dutchman. I wonder why??..

Retrospect (grade 3/4)

Just below Overtime on the right hand channel. Straightforward run through the centre tongue of a hefty wide hole. Followed by lots more flat water.

Bubogo / superhole. (grade 4)

Similar to Retrospect, but in a centre right channel. Its another simple tongue through the Hole rapid. Nice surfwave on the lip of the hole. Just after this, head far right, to arrive at superhole, a fun wide playwave.

Lots more flatwater......

Itanda / The bad place

Pull out on the right when you see the mist rising....the monster awaits!!! There is an eddy right on the lip if you so wish....The rafts carry Itanda (grade 6), which is one of the most impressive just about runnable rapids ever seen. A series of massive offset holes, each with their own name, that you have to thread through. Pencil Sharpener, Cuban, Ashtray, Bad place, the Other place. You can put in halfway down, about level with the Cuban, which gives a much simpler run, or a warmup for the whole thing. Trouble is, if you are taking out here, you'll just have to carry your boat back up the very steep path. If you're lucky you can get a local to carry it for a small amount.

Also Hypoxia, Kalaga (grade 6)

Two other channels exist offering other gnarly options than just Itanda. Not often run, Hypoxia is supposed to be the most fearsome of the three, with a massive hole waiting to give some serious downtime. Kalagala (on river left) is a waterfall / big hole affair.

Day two. (All day two rapids are Grade 4)

Can be accessed from either river left or right, as can the day 2 takeout. If staying at and returning to NRE, then you'll start below (or above) Itanda, and take out on river right below Malalu. If staying, or returning to Hairy lemon, you'll probably put in on river left. There are some great views of the river from high up on both sides, and its worth having a good look at some of the biggest rapids around.

Total Vengance

A short warm up leads you to an island. Take the second left channel. A first short section, allows you to catch an eddy on the left to surf the wave / hole. Or you can run straight (look for the tongue) if you miss the tongue prepare to surf big time, and if your caught unawares it can be difficult to get off upright.. (I flipped big time). The second part of the rapid is just a long wave train.

Hair of the Dog

Easiest route is the right hand channel, where you run straight down the massive wave train. There is a large broken wave you can surf half way down.

After a short while, there s a great small playhole on river left, which is a nice spot to practice loops. Then it's a short paddle across a large pool before:

Kula Shaka

You probably want to eddy out towards the right hand end of the large pool. From there you can boat scout your way down. A nice wave forms just above the split round an island. Make sure you end up on the right side channel. Run centre down the big wave trains, and watch out for the pour over on river right...but if like me you end up river right..go hard right and you miss the pour over...the best choice is to head left.

A fair bit of flatwater follows until:

Nile Special

Lovely big surging wave on river right.

The Nile special is comparative to Big Joe on Lachine, it isn't smooth and it has a lot of bounce. The wave is supposedly at it's best early morning, but personally we felt that it was a little less surgy in the afternoon (around 2pm) and a little easier to surf.

Just below here, on the mid stream island is the Hairy lemon campsite.

There is then 6km more flat water, but believe me this flat water is worth paddling to get to Malalu, You can either float down by staying in the current...or you can paddle hard!! But don't waste too much'll want to save it.


is the next rapid of note you'll come across after Nile special. Again there are a number of channels, so make sure you don't miss it. Take the second channel from the left, it starts quite wide, but you'll know you're in the right place when it narrows down. Make sure you catch the eddy on the right, next to the wave, and watch for the boil lines. The best time to be on this wave is anytime after 3pm. The wave is fantastic, I was advised that it would be the perfect training wave, and my first time on it I was surrounded by the likes of Steve Fisher and Rush Sturges. I was begging the water Gods to be on my side, thankfully they were and I strutted my stuff like a true beginner minus the swims!!. The wave is the biggest I have ever surfed, but once you're on it its like being in a comfort blanket, It wants to keep you safe and give you that nice warm fluffy feeling. It also just begs you to keep getting back on and surf it some more, it is very addictive. The problem with this wave is what's behind it. The wave train narrows to form huge boiley eddy lines and is very testing on one's roll and balance. A swim can result in heading down stream along way and mean a fairly difficult paddle back up.

When we were there we generally found we had the wave to ourselves.

Both these last two rapids have great viewing areas that make for a great picture spot or just to get your breath back!!


Both NRE and Hairy Lemon can arrange shuttles for you. My advise for the Day 1 section is join the rafts, for $10 you get shuttle, food on and off the river and Cool soda's and beer at the takeout. If you get a bit bored with all the flatwater on the Day 1 section, you can run multiple Silverback runs in one day, or combine with some play on the backwave. You need to arrange a boda boda shuttle for this shorter section, which is a great way to see some countryside.

For Day 2 from NRE, I would recommend getting a group of four or more and hire a taxi bus (matatu's) with roof racks, it only costs around $40 for drop off and pick up (NRE can arrange). From Hairy Lemon, they will also order you a taxi to the put in, and boda Bodas for the take out. For just a Malalu paddle you need Hairy Lemon to arrange Boda Boda's. We found after the first night you can arrange with the drive to pick you up the next night...and they are very reliable. Tip if there are two of you but the boats on one bike and both of you hop on the other one.

WB Deerfield/Cold (MA)
Sunday Dec 26, 2004
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

Life is different when you have a tradition to uphold.

So it is with Doug and me. It is our tradition to descend the West Branch the day or two after Christmas.

First we ran the Cold River, just over the southern border in the state that, in the words of Bill Clinton "once gave us John Kennedy and now gives us John Kerry." Like winter and kayaking, such connections are perhaps tenuous.

Doug wanted to run the remote upper section that flaps around the back of the mountain. We checked it out, driving my minivan through the snow, but found the water too low at the high elevation.

Soon we found ourselves skating down the regular run. The best rapid was the quite frozen Cold River Falls. The Cold certainly lived up to its name.

We then drove up past the Fife Brook and Dryway sections, past some local ice climbers, to Readsboro. It was getting dark by then and the river was low and starting to get frozen in. We noted a sketchy move to avoid an ice chunk at Low Chair rapid.

Unfortunately the famous Tunnel Vision rapid was too frozen, so we decided to start below the tunnel. From there we boogied down and suitably recalled why this river is an old favorite. After jumping the ledge at High Chair and making the tight slalom move at Low Chair, we took out and found ourselves crackling with ice. It took minutes of thawing in the car to unsling my waist throwbag.

I am afraid that this might be the final day of Vermont creeking, at least for me, for a while. The locals who man the Readsboro General and looked concerned for my safety are perhaps less afraid.

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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