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Huntington River

Saturday Apr 4, 2020
Open Canoe: just me
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (ft): 5.35
Gauge (cfs): 5390
Author: Tony Shaw

I didn't invent the internet, but I sure could have used the internet back in the day, when I was new to Vermont with no paddling pals. I would drive all over kingdom come after it rained a bit toting my bike and my canoe, looking for a boatable stretch of river. When finally I found something I could (perhaps) make it down, the bike would go inside the canoe (yep, the 17' Grumman could hold me as well as my bike) and I would paddle until I'd had enough paddling before biking back to the get the car. I logged hundreds of river miles (and many more road miles) through the early years before I discovered the VPC - then called the NVCC. Paddling alone is frowned upon for safety reasons, but necessity is the mother of invention. Plus I have to admit, paddling solo still holds for me a certain quiet, nostalgic, and earth-child appeal.

Where the Huntington is concerned, there is no USGS gauge, so the internet wouldn't have been much help Saturday morning when I couldn't resist the urge to go paddle it. I waited until the temperature topped 50 degrees, figuring it's a rare 50 degree day in early April when the Huntington is too low to paddle. My plan - to start all the way up in Hanksville and run all the way to Huntington Gorge - was thwarted by a lower-than-usual-for-early-April water level and by my late start, so I put in at Horseshoe Bend above the Audubon Center. It was lovely to be out!

Those early days in the 1980's - road scouting until I found water - were bad for my carbon footprint but great for my low water river-reading skills, and negotiating thinly covered boulder fields is like riding a bike - you never forget. It helps that the river when it's running low is also running clear, making the gravel bars and pillow rocks easier to identify, and avoid.

There were only a handful of decent surfing waves at Saturday's level, and I made the most of them. Novices should be forewarned that the Halloween storm of 2019 - a conveyor belt of Canada-bound moisture propelled by a mid/upper level trough that dumped 3-4 inches of rain here over a 6 hour period - took a toll on the banks of the Huntington, leaving scars that will last for decades and dropping at least 3 large trees across the river in foreboding places. Knowing how to spot deadly strainers and how to avoid them is definitely necessary on the lower Huntington - until further notice. The Linda Weiss memorial venue at the Audobon was mercifully unaffected - as pretty as ever.

Dugway Rd. below Huntington Gorge is closed to through traffic because a section of it - in the same storm - collapsed into the river. I can only imagine what the toll on the river was from that calamity. And that final stretch of the Huntington had always been - for me - so gorge-eous, so alluring.

I can no longer fit a bike in my canoe, but I had the road almost entirely to myself on the bike shuttle back to Horseshoe Bend (thanks to covid-19).

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