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Lower New Haven: we have water!

Saturday Oct 19, 2019
Kayak: Chris Weed, Paul Bicknell, Chris Frost
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (ft): 5.04
Gauge (cfs): 710
USGS Gauge Name/Link: USGS 04282525 NEW HAVEN RIVER
Author: Chris Weed

The week ending October 19 brought north central Vermont a lot of water. The New Haven watershed apparently received 2-3 inches of rain, and at about 3:30 pm on Thursday (the 17th) the New Haven crested well over flood stage on the USGS gauge, at a reported flow of 9,900 cfs. I was curious to see what that flow might have done to the riverbed up in Bristol.

I touched base with Paul Bicknell on Saturday morning, and we agreed to meet at the church (the put-in) at 12:00 pm. It was to be Paul's first time down the LNH, and the water level and weather were perfect for it — a crisp, clear October day. (It was also ideal because Paul now lives in Bridport, and can get to Bristol in less than 35 minutes.) I posted on the message board, and Chris Frost saw the post and met us in Bristol.

After Paul and Chris set shuttle we put on about 12:30. The second rapid after the put-in is now a straight shot down to the Baldwin Creek confluence. Some large boulders that used to be under the log pile that we have previously passed on the left have apparently been moved downstream, close to the end of the rapid, before the river turns left to head into the next drop. Such changes were already somewhat evident in prior runs this year, but Thursday's blowout flow enhanced the transformation.

Various other sections from there down to the island rapid (next to the Lathrop lumber yard) seem to have changed in subtle ways. At the island rapid itself, we took the middle channel, even though the flow on the gauge at that point was below 700 cfs. It turned out to be quite fluid. I recommended that choice out of concern about possible wood in the right channel. We eddied out at the bottom of the middle channel and walked across the big island to look at the right channel, and found it completely open. However the bottom of it appeared quite different from what I remembered, and looked difficult to get through at that flow. At higher flows I suspect that staying left all the way through (doing less of an S turn) will be the best line.

The remainder of our run went cleanly, despite the low flow through a section strewn with large boulders, which tends to be the most demanding part of the run.

I drove up to Eagle Park after we were done and checked the Gilbert gauge. It was reading about 1.0 feet. I'm guessing it was at 1.2 when we put on.

While I was at Eagle Park a guy named Eric (from up near Johnson) showed up to do a solo run, with shuttle help by Will Parini. He examined the upstream corner of the fishing platform from his boat before heading downstream and saw signs of damage. The river had clearly come over the platform on Thursday, and there was quite a bit of debris on the upstream and downstream sides, with fresh sawdust on the platform itself. Apparently some logs had been cut and removed in the past two days. A Bristol resident who was instrumental in bringing about the construction of the platform in 2012 was also there when I arrived. He was there to assess any  damage that might have occurred during the flood.

The New Haven watershed is primed for a rapid rise and sustained flow with subsequent rainfall this fall. That is what we are getting as I write this (Sunday, October 27) for which 0.75 inches have been forecast. Let's get on it!

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