Monday, August 15, 2011

"Easy" Whitwater on the Lower Deerfield - August 14, 2011

When it comes to cancelling a trip for bad weather, it’s often a crap shoot. Do you run the trip and hope for the best, or cancel? I usually run the trip. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Fortunately, it worked out yesterday.

Approaching the first rapid
Once each summer, RICKA runs and “easy” whitewater trip for experience flatwater paddlers on the lower Deerfield River. We usually run the section from the Zoar Picnic Area down to the Charlemont Academy – about 7 miles. It’s a pretty section of river with lots of quickwater and a couple of easy class I/II rapids.

The forecast called for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. Rain doesn’t bother me, but thunderstorms sure do. It’s a 2 ½ hour drive out to the Deerfield. Driving all that way only to have the trip cancelled because of the weather would be a real bummer. I called Andy, and we decided to run the trip anyway. We did have a couple of people cancel, but that's understandable.

When I arrived at the put in at around 12:30, everyone was already there. We had 10 boats – 1 canoe (guess who) and 9 kayaks. We ran the shuttle, did a short safety talk, and got on the water around 2:00 - 3 hours after the start of the 850 cfs release from Fife Brook Dam upstream.

Most of the class I/II rapids come early in the trip. There are three rapids in quick succession just downstream from the put in. All three can be run easily straight down the middle. By the time we completed the third rapid, everyone was feeling comfortable, so we stopped at a wave to do some surfing.

Surf city
For the next few miles, the river is mostly quickwater with a few easy riffles. We spread out and enjoyed the views as we approached the last major rapid. Everyone made it through without difficulty and we paddled the last mile to the take out.

As it turned out, the predicted thunderstorms stayed well to the south. Except for a short sprinkle, it didn’t even rain while we were on the water. It turned out to be a great day on a beautiful river – lucky for us.

Happy Erik
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