The Vermont Paddlers Club

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Black River

Saturday Apr 11, 2009
Participants:
Kayak: Allan Berggren, Rick Covill, Bill Ryan
Organizer: Allan Berggren
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium

Rick Covill, Bill Ryan and myself paddled for about five miles from Whitesville to Downer's. Level was 1.5 on the covered bridge gauge, rising to 1.75 by takeout, a low-medium level. Put-in was shared with a concurrent AMC trip of about ten paddlers.

Whitesville has an intriguing feature I had not seen before. A large monolithic shelf results in the flow spreading out and dropping four feet, abruptly on the right and gradually on the left. I chose the extreme right, which curls off a narrow chute about four feet wide. Bill caught a center eddy, then propelled off a right shelf just left of a "bitter ending" rock at the bottom of the shelf. Rick went center left through a 15-ft diagonal wide chute which then turned right and dropped another couple feet.

From Whitesville to the gorge is leisurely Class II, forming gentle s-curves along the highway, but always twenty feet below the roadway, so traffic doesn't impinge on the experience. The last quarter mile above the gorge steepens, with more large eddy rocks and play waves.

As we turned the corner to enter the gorge, we noticed 50 yds behind us a young man in a 12-ft green touring kayak crossing the current.The 1.75 level is perfect for sheer enjoyment of the gorge. Clear green water, large boulders, frequent flushy two-foot drops, no retentive hydraulics, and always the steep banks on the right with moss and springtime ferns.

We were stopped one-third through for yet another of Rick's backrest repairs, when the young man floated by, dressed in cotton and sans helmet, accompanied by his boat, which he was struggling to wrestle ashore, and he succeeded about 100 yds further down. We learned that he is from Massachusetts and was paddling while his brother was flyfishing. Our young man had scouted the river from the car heading upstream, so was unable to see what was in store for him, and so had decided he wouldn't need his sprayskirt! He was rummaging in a dry bag for some clothes to change into, but I suggested we accompany him downstream where the bank was lower so he could carry up to the road and meet his brother. The young man seemed to have pretty good paddling skills, but had gotten side-flipped by a rock at the top of the gorge. When we got to the end of the "action" and lower banks, he saw his brother standing in the water in his waders on the opposite bank.

The remaining mile down to the covered bridge is gentle s-curves and a final two-foot flushing sluice which sometimes has a fast play wave, but a submerged rock just below it at center-right makes play risky unless you have kevlar-knuckle gloves, shoulder and elbow pads and a face mask.

Another pleasant outing with old paddling buddies and an adventure or two.

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