Sunday, April 15, 2012

Upper Millers - April 14, 2012

Andy and I headed up to paddle with Tommy (and lots of other paddlers from around New England) at yesterday's dam release on the Upper Millers. It's a class II - III run from South Royalston to Athol, MA.

The Upper Millers is a pretty section of river that (depending on the water level) alternates between quickwater, rock gardens and long wave trains. With the exception of a couple of railroad bridges, there is nothing to break the wilderness feeling of the river. The day was sunny and warm. The water level was low (800 cfs), so dodging rocks would be the order of the day.

A crowded surf-spot
We put-in around 10:30 off Blossom Road just below an old broken dam. Fellow RICKA paddler Duke Wavewaker wanted to run the dam, so he put-in a little further upstream at the park on Birch Hill Dam Road. This adds about a half mile to the run. Duke says “there is some decent warm up and waves....and the biggest, hugest, most awesomest drop...the dam foundation!!!!!”

Well, Duke is a better paddler than me, so I skipped the broken dam. He told me that the line is to the left, into a SMALL eddy, and then down the BIG drop. Maybe I’ll try it next time. Then again – maybe not.

For me, the fun began below the broken dam with a long class III rapid just below the put-in. At higher water levels, this rapid is a long wave train with 2 to 3 foot standing waves which are a blast to run. At this level, rocks just below the surface reveal themselves providing lots of opportunities to play. We worked our way downstream catching eddies, surfing, and generally having a good time. We had only one swim to report, but that person will remain nameless. OK – it was me!

We continued riding the waves and playing in the rock gardens for another couple of miles when we decided it was time for a break. We found a spot with a beach large enough to pull all the boats on shore and decided to have our lunch. As we were eating, we watched a parade of groups from MA, CT, and NH paddle by - it seems that everybody had the same idea.

A pretty section of the Millers River
After lunch, we loaded up the boats and continued our trip downstream. After a short section of quickwater called “Lake Superior” by Paul, the fun continued with more wave trains and rock gardens. By the time we reached the take out in Athol, I was pretty tired. Unfortunately, it's a long carry up a steep hill to get back to our cars, but everyone pitched in to help.

Hopefully we will get some rain soon, or even the water behind the dams will run out.

My Pictures
My Video
River description from American Whitewater
Millers River Gage at Birch Hill Dam, South Royalston

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