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Joe's Brook post-2023 Flooding

Sunday Jun 30, 2024
Kayak: Ryan Konopinski, Chris Weed
Open Canoe: Tony Shaw
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (ft): 1.43
Gauge (cfs): 166
Author: Tony Shaw

TLDR: pretty summer day, bone zone, 5.5 hours on the water, no one died (or even swam), no shortage of wood (often in bad places).

On Scott Gilbert says to expect Joe's to be running when the Sleeper's River gauge is in the range of 275-900 cfs. That gauge spiked just shy of 500 cfs in the wee hours June 30, but by the time we launched on Joe's at 1pm it had fallen to 166 cfs. Ooof! But being the eternal optimists when it comes to Joe's, and buoyed by the June 29 rainfall totals posted on* in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 inches over in Greensboro and Craftsbury (near the Joe's headwaters), off we went.

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day (I think Chris got a sunburn) and I paddled in my shortie splashtop for the first time this year. It would have made a considerable difference if GMP had been able to restart the generator at their powerhouse for our afternoon run, after it had tripped off mysteriously mid-morning, but the technician working there at the time (my man, Dave) was unsuccessful in his attempt to do so. That turbine, when running at full load, will add ~120 cfs to the downriver flow. I did get a text just before leaving home from Will Seegers whose eye-witness report was "up/boatable" at a "bare minimum" level. Thanks for that, Will! The pond height remained around 5.2 feet throughout the day.

5 and a half hours on Joe's dodging FU rocks and stopping to scout for wood above every horizon line (there are SO many) is physically demanding, and I think we were all dehydrated and gassed by the time we reached the (arguably) worst strainer hazard, a ways below the Morses Mills bridge. Ryan and I were able to charge left to avoid pinning among the half-submerged limbs of 2+ uprooted trees sticking out into the current. Chris not so much. Although his paddle went missing under the jumble, the good news was that he was wedged in his kayak amongst the limbs heads up and stable, giving me and Ryan time to scramble over the log pile and extricate him from the boat. Chris lost his appetite for continuing downriver after this "tragedy narrowly averted", so he carried up to the road through some blackberry brambles and someone's mown field, where he waited beside the road until Ryan and I finished out the run. The lower gorge was free of wood and hugely entertaining (as always), and Ryan had a ballet-worthy run through the serpentine rapid at the take-out bridge on Brook Hill Rd.

Chris evened the score 2 days later, returning to Barnet where he was able to recover his paddle, and subsequently spend nearly 3 hours with his handsaw making that drop safer for the next party who drops in. Thanks for your efforts, Chris!

It's sad that the flooding events of 2023 (July then December) have left Joe's in a somewhat harrowing condition for boating. Getting in there when it drops with saws to make for even safer passage would take a chunk of time and energy, but I think it could be done.

* Searched: Stations in Orleans, Vermont. Report date on 6/30/2024

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