Sunday, September 27, 2009

West River - September 26th

Some people say that whitewater paddling is 70% skill, 30% luck, and 90% driving. I think that’s probably true. I got together with Tom, Paul and Jim for a couple of runs on the upper section of West River in Jamaica, VT. The drive is almost three hours each way, but it was worth the trip.

I had paddled the lower section of the West (Jamaica State Park to Route 100) several times in the past. Its an easy class II - nice scenery, but not very exciting. This would be my first run on the upper section (Ball Mountain Dam to Jamaica State Park) which is a nice class III. We skipped the shuttle from Jamaica State Park and hiked down the Ball Mountain Dam to the put-in – that’s a long carry.

The first rapid below the dam definitely got my attention. The AMC guide calls it the Standing Wave Rapids. On American Whitewater its called Initiation. Whatever its called, its a half-mile of continuous 2 to 3 foot waves - what a great ride.  The fun continued for the next couple of miles.

The West is a mixture of rocks, ledges and long wave trains. At 1,500 cfs, the water was a little too pushy for me to do too much playing, but the weather and the scenery more than made up for that. It was a beautiful day – 65 degrees and sunny. The leaves were just beginning to turn.  The river was crowded, but everyone was having a good time.

The most difficult rapid on this section of the river is called the Dumplings.  The Dumplings are a group of large granite boulders plopped down in the middle of the river. There are two routes through the Dumplings – run the three foot ledge on river right, or perform a more technical but less dramatic “S” turn through boulders from river left.  I opted for the “S” turn, and swam on my first attempt when I didn’t quite make the second turn. I had better luck on my second attempt – it wasn’t pretty, but I made it through.

I always enjoy paddling with Paul – he is always looking to paddle bigger rapids. It was great to meet and paddle with Tom and Jim. Fortunately, Tom had paddled this section before and he got us through with no problem.

River description from American Whitwater

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