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Missisquoi River @ Sheldon Springs - Darn Low

Saturday Apr 14, 2007
Kayak: Dan Beideck, Brent Osborne
C1: Tony Shaw
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (cfs): 1260
Author: Tony Shaw

Only once in the past week did the temperature top 40 degrees, and so the snow that fell on and off all week was not making it into the rivers. The only familiar III-IV run that was certain to be running was the Poultney in Fairhaven, but noone seemed too interested in doing this long-ish run on such a cold day, or driving all the way to Fairhaven.

Brent suggested that we try the steep stretch of the Missisquoi that has been a mill site for over a century. This seemed like a superlative idea.

Back in the 1980's the VPC (then called the Northern Vermont Canoe Cruisers) joined forces with the AMC to lobby for recreational releases from the dam at Sheldon Springs, and described this stretch as "by far the largest most difficult rapid in Vermont ... ranging from class 3 to 5 in the range of normal runnable flow levels".

The Sheldon Springs dam (about 10 miles northeast of St. Albans off Rt. 105) has the ability to release water, but it doesn't have much of an impoundment upstream. We had precious little water for the first half of the run, and then the outflow from the Rock-Tenn Mill probably tripled the flow.

We never noticed the parking area and carry trail to the river below the dam on river left. Instead we lowered boats down the class V put-in (after ignoring "no trespassing" signs on river right). We encountered lots of BIG rocks and itsy bitsy drops in the 1/2 mile below the dam (at this level). At high water, these rocks would look smaller, and the drops would be gnarlier.

The East Bershire realtime USGS gauge (miles and miles upstream from Sheldon Springs) read 1260 cfs, and a good part of that water was diverted by the Sheldon Springs dam for power generation and mill use, leaving the main channel immediately below the dam seriously de-watered. Still, we were happy to be out paddling; we all agreed it's exciting to paddle ANY river for the first time. The temperature surpassed 40 degrees (air...not water), the sun actually made an appearance, noone swam, and a good time was had by all...

At this level, it is a class III run.

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