The Vermont Paddlers Club

Meet new friends, and paddle better!

Shepard Brook - Trick or Treat?

Sunday Oct 31, 2021
Kayak: Paul C, Maddie C, Jamie D, Chris F, Ryan K, Ben M, Tony S, Thatcher S, Christian S, Chris W
Organizer: Jamie Dolan/Tony Shaw
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: high
Gauge (ft): 5.24
Gauge (cfs): 1980
USGS Gauge Name/Link: Mad River near Moretown VT
Author: Tony Shaw

This was the highest level any of us can remember being on Shepard Brook, and for some in our group it was their first descent on this seldom-run micro that drains the Green Mountains (Burnt Rock Mt. and Big Basin) in Fayston. We knew ahead of time there would be wood. Wood aplenty, as it turned out. And the real danger is not the paddling over/under/around the fallen trees here and there blocking the main flow (or carrying - in 2 or 3 "big" cases), but swimming a rapid containing wood (if you are unlucky enough to do so). Skill...and luck...of course are factors.

The first logjam came almost immediately below the Randell Rd. put-in (a mandatory portage). The gradient climbs to over 100 ft/mile for the first time approaching the Airport Road bridge, and after that my memory starts to blur.

I know the rain had stopped. I know there were swims in each of the steepest sections (Jamie says nothing above class 3, but jeez-Louise, at this level and given the wood I think you could say at least 4-). I remember a bunch of us scrambling around on islands and on shore contemplating and ultimately recovering boats (one boat in particular) plastered onto a submerged log and later broached on a large rock. I remember making it safely through the S-turn rapid below the Henry place (where the yellow house sits up high on river left)  where I pulled off—shaken—in the middle of my only other Shepard Brook outing in 2017.

One enduring memory will be the serious looks on everyone's faces at the take-out, relieved I imagine that we started the trip with 10 paddlers and ended with the same 10 paddlers (and 10 boats). I also won't soon forget the ~2 mile long continuous (FUN!) class 2-3 well-padded boogie water below the S-turn which brings you pretty much all the way to the take-out.

USGS gauges around the state on Halloween tell the story: single-day real-time flow in cfs climbed by factors of 8 to 20 (New Haven 150 > 3,000, Passumpsic 300 > 3,800, Mad 400 > 4,000, White 1,000 > 8,000, Winooski 1,000 > 13,000). 3 inches of rain the last week in October will do that (and also bring creekers out of the woodwork).

"Trick or Treat!"


Editor's note:  On Google Maps ('Measure distance' function) I just traced the distance from the Airport Road bridge to the take-out. I got 2¼ miles, which consists of non-stop whitewater. The section from Randell Road to Airport Road adds 1.16 miles. If you put in at the Center Fayston Road bridge the distance down to Airport Road is 2.33 miles.

Putting in at the Hedgehog Brook Trail Head on Big Basin Road adds another 1.2 miles. That section starts off with a steep Class 4 descent over a long series of ledges, and then levels out to Class 2 boogie water before Center Fayston Road. I walked it a few years ago, and there was a lot of wood to contend with.

   — Chris W.

Please log in.
For Username, enter either 1) the primary email address you've specified in your member profile, or 2) the Username assigned to you upon joining the VPC.

Once you are logged in as a VPC member, you will have access to your member profile, and members-only content on the website. If your login attempts fail, please email the webmaster. Include your name, and (if you know it) the username you were assigned.

Page Views: Link CheckerValid XHTML 1.0Valid CSS
© 1996-2023 The Vermont Paddlers Club
Report a Bug
The 'My Favorites' list uses cookies...
Add this page to 'My Favorites' Remove this page from 'My Favorites' Trip Reports Message Boards Site Map
Current PHP version: 7.4.33