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Joe's Brook - Medium

Tuesday Apr 25, 2023
Kayak: Paul C, Jamie D, Ryan K, Ryan M, Tony S
Organizer: Jamie Dolan
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Gauge (ft): 4
Gauge (cfs): 800
USGS Gauge Name/Link: Wells River at Well's River, VT
Author: Tony Shaw

The paddling season for me is incomplete unless/until I've made my way down Joe's Brook from West Danville VT to the Passumpsic River - a 10 mile day-long adventure that's too dry to paddle most of the year. Most years we stop a couple of miles above VT 5 and the Passumpsic, at the 8 mile mark, where a serpentine class IV rapid under a bridge presents a test of skill (and nerve). Ryan M was the only one in our group today who attempted the serpentine rapid, staying so high/so far to the right of hole #3 that his boat eddied out almost all by itself - avoiding completely (big-boy pants) hole #4.

Creek VT says 275-900 cfs on the Sleeper River USGS real-time gauge near St. Johnsbury is good-to-go on Joe's. The 200cfs reading Monday night did not look promising but ½" to ¾" of rain overnight in Caledonia County (according to observers on CoCoRAHS) on the heels of Sunday's soaking rain brought the Sleepers up to 400 cfs overnight... and away we went.

Will Seegers' first-hand report from his "medium-low" run after work on Monday 4/24 also bolstered our optimism that Joe's would be fluid. Lo and behold, it was.

Of course, Jamie would have been happy to see it higher still. He commented by email after the run: "The level was on the low side and fu rocks abounded. The scraping along the ledges decreased the boat weight so carrying them was a little lighter". Personally, I was happy NOT to see it any higher, given that the temperature stayed below 45 degrees all day under cloudy (mostly) but also sometimes sunny sometimes rainy skies, with one sustained hailstorm in the cover bridge section where my fogged-up eyeglasses added to the intrigue approaching the myriad horizon lines there.

Most will agree there are too many long-ish and long class III-IV slides on Joe's Brook to keep count. Our collective memories of "what comes next" served us well, though Ryan K was no help in this regard as it was his first time running Joe's. Judging by the smile he was wearing at the bottom of every big slide, I doubt it will be his last! There was only one swim and one mid-river rescue required (mine) - immediately below the waterfall in the covered bridge section. Having a strong party on Joe's is something I consider to be essential given its 100 ft/mile average gradient and remoteness (by VT standards anyway).

I do sorta marvel at the fact that - up until a couple of years ago - we bombed down Joe's Brook in open canoes. Seems incongruous, but open boaters in the VPC pioneered running Joe's, back in the day.

J log gauge at Joe's Brook put in -  medium low 4/25/2023There's a cedar tree at the put-in just downstream from the powerhouse on river left and the photo at right shows the level at the end of our run on 4/25. When we put in it was a couple of inches higher - lapping up onto the tree trunk. If the water is any more than 1/2 way up the "J" you best be wearing your "big-boy"/"big-girl" pants as the slides all pick up speed and the holes get stickier/hungrier.

The Wells River, BTW, fell from 1270 cfs to 700 cfs the day before our run, rebounded overnight with the added rainfall to 875 cfs by dawn on Tuesday 4/25, then slowiy dropped to 750 cfs while we were making our way down Joe's. Ryan M has found the Well's River gauge to be another worthwhile indicator when contemplating Joe's.

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