The Vermont Paddlers Club

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Browns River p.m. paddle

Wednesday Apr 11, 2012
Kayak: John Atherton; Jim Poulin; Jim Delp; Chris Weed; Ken Emery
Open Canoe: Brock Richardson; Morley Flynn
Inflatable: Dan Sherbrook
Organizer: John Atherton
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (cfs): 3300
Author: Ken Emery

[A comment about the Browns River flow... The Lower Lamoille cfs flow figure on the East Georgia gauge is regarded as a poor indicator of the paddle conditions on the Browns so that figure on the AW website can be misleading. However, you can get a better estimate by looking at the level of change per hour. If the Lamoille is climbing the Browns will likely be proportionately higher and vice-versa if the Lamoille gauge is dropping it will likely be proportionately lower.]

The after-work 4:30 p.m. Browns River flotilla consisted of two canoes, 5 kayaks and 1 pack raft. This VPC scheduled trip was organized by John Atherton, paddling his snub-nose Fuse. The other kayaks were of the mid-size and chunkier variety. An otter launch at the excellent put-in kept most of the paddlers out of the rivers edge muck. The group paddled around below the opening ledge pourovers waiting for our VPC ambassador visiting with a couple paddlers just returning from an earlier run on this 3-3/4 mile section.

Some of the group eddied out to shore scout at the dam after passing under the covered bridge in Westford Village. All but one paddler then picked a line from river-right to left around and over the lead-in ledge pourovers to negotiate the slide on the far left at the collapsed dam. A few rolls and braces were required by the tilted ledge at the foot of the tongue but the canoes and pack raft thumbed their noses as they passed by the toilet bowl swirl that has evolved there.

One paddler portaged and displayed some early signs of difficulty eddying out and negotiating the ledge portage and again while re-launching. There was some question about the challenges ahead for this paddler and some extra time was necessary there before continuing on. The next feature, sometimes referred to as the S-turn Rapid, which is the liveliest (and arguably the only) rapid on the run, led to a couple swims resulting from an encounter between the same kayaker and the Sentinal Rock that guards the main flow as well as the trip leader trying to keep a watchful eye on the capsize. In the sorting out of these swims a decision was made by the paddler to stash his gear and walk out on the nearby road, given the reality that the Browns run becomes more inaccessible from that point on.

The remaining group paddled on as Brock's demure voice (not) and contagious laughter introduced the other open boater, Morley Flynn, a new paddler to VPC, to highlights of last Labor Day's Ottawa River trip. Everyone cleanly ran river-center at the next ledge drop feature, 6-10' left of the large rock (Bare-rock Obama?). A short distance later, the group again choose center-river lines between the tree and island ledge in the 2-step, slide-drop section of this 3-4' drop, that is also river wide. There were a few light scrapping sounds through the shallower section that followed but it was all reasonably fluid. The final double-island feature came up after 1-1/2 mile of flat water and a progressive class I-II lead-in rapid. Some river scouted from an eddy overlooking the river-right slide, and then everyone elected to bounce down through that option rather than paddle the center or left channel alternatives [there remains a tree in the left (main) channel but it is negotiable on river-right].

The take-out bridge came into view, after another 3/4 mile section of flat water, with plenty of light left. The walk-out paddler showed up in his truck so the rest of the group knew he was accounted for. As the group clustered around Morley's van to visit and replace some fluids, Jim Poulin expressed his pleasant surprise at the Browns personality - this being his first run on that section. It was solid dusk by the time vehicles were all heading home. Morley appears to be a new prospective protegee of the venerable T. Shaw.

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