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Winooski Falls, first time out in 2019

Wednesday Mar 20, 2019
Kayak: Chris Weed
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium
Gauge (ft): 3.10
Gauge (cfs): 1410
Author: Chris Weed

It was a beautiful early spring day in Burlington, and I wanted to paddle something, after road scouting some of our favorite runs the previous Sunday to see how much the ice had cleared. My message board post elicited no responses, so I headed to the Chace Mill to put on above Winooski Falls. By that time it was after 3:30 pm, and the air temperature was up to about 50 F.

After an embarrassing period of fumbling with my gear, I was ready to put on. My plan was to paddle upstream first. A bystander pointed out a large beaver sitting on the ice 50 yards upstream, and warned me that it might follow me for a while. In fact, it mostly minded its own business, and I got a good conditioning paddle before turning around and heading back to the falls.

At about 1,400 cfs, the falls was at a reasonably juicy but not nerve-wracking level for a solo season opener. I worked my way through the entry rapid above the main drops, doing several ferries for practice, and then ran the falls before my nerves got the better of me. After that came more ferry practice and upstream workout paddling. It became clear that a workout was needed. Long, intense runs will have to wait for later in the season.

All in all, it was a perfect day for a first paddle of the season. There was ice at the takeout by the Chace Mill, but it's almost at water level and easy to pull up onto. I was able to do that and step out of my boat onto crunchy snow, avoiding dunking my dry-suited feet in the ice-cold water. It doesn't get much better at this time of year!

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