Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dead - Spencer Stream to West Forks – July 6, 2013

At the bottom of Spencer Rips
(Photo by Tommy Taylor)
The Dead has been on my list of places to paddle for a long time.  I remember my first canoe trip with my father on the Androscoggin way back in 1990.  The Boston Chapter of the AMC ran that trip, and many of those members talked about running the Dead.  It’s apropos that our small group (Mike, Earl, Tommy and me) hooked-up with the Boston Chapter (Donna Jean, Rod, Deb, Barbara, Ken and Scott) to do the run. 

We arrived at Riverdrivers around 8:30 and loaded up the boats for the shuttle.  With all the rain, we were concerned that the level might be significantly higher than the scheduled release of 1,800 cfs.  Andy at Riverdrivers told us that the dam release would be “an honest 1,800 cfs”.  With another 550 cfs coming from Spencer Stream, we estimate that the total flow was 2,350 cfs – a solid class III. At lower levels (1,200 cfs to 1,800 cfs) it is primarily class II except for the very first, and last couple of rapids.  At medium levels (2,000 cfs to 3,500 cfs) it is class III.  At higher levels (4,500 cfs to–8,000 cfs) it is class IV (and well beyond my skill level).

Running the slot at Elephant Rock
(Photo by Tommy Taylor)
The Dead is one of the longest continuous whitewater runs in the Northeast with approximately thirty rapids along a fourteen-mile stretch.  The river is mostly boulder type rapids with lots of holes and pour-overs. The shoreline has thick vegetation that grows right up to the river's edge that can make it difficult to rescue swimmers or bail out an open boat.  The major named rapids are: 
  • Spencer Rips – deep water is right, big eddy below on left to stop and regroup.
  • Minefield (2 miles) – long boulder garden with big waves and lots of holes – difficulty increases where the river turns left.
  • Hyden’s – also know as Humpty Dumpty (3 miles) – run in middle, stay out of holes.
  • Gravel Pit (4.5 miles)
  • Enchanted Stream (7 miles) – good lunch spot.
  • Elephant Rock – (7.5 miles) immediately below Enchanted Stream is a river wide ledge – blends into Enchanted Stream.  Can run the ledge, but usually run on right between Elephant Rock and the rock wall.
  • Mile Long (8.5 miles) – another long boulder garden with big waves and lots of holes – filled up my boat here – twice!
  • Upper Spruce Ledge (10.5 miles) – stay out of hole bottom left
  • Lower Spruce Ledge.
  • Upper Poplar Falls (11.5 miles) – Stay  away from holes upper right and lower left – stop in big eddy bottom right.
  • Lower Poplar Falls (12 miles) – left is hero line with lots of dangerous holes.  The right line through the boulder garden can be boney, but much easier - I took the right.
We made it through without too much trouble.  We had just one major swim in the Mile Long Rapid – and it wasn’t me! 

Mike running Minefield
(Photo by Tommy Taylor)

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