Sunday, April 17, 2016

Outnumbered again – Knghtville section of the Westfield – April 16, 2016

Jim O'Brien Memorial Paddle Group Photo
I got together with Dan, Pat, Paul and Andy to run the Knightville section of the Westfield for the Jim O'Brien Memorial Paddle. This is an annual trip in memory of a local boater who died six years ago in a tragic whitewater accident. Once again, the open boaters were significantly outnumbered on this trip – 34 kayaks to 3 canoes. Still, it’s a fun class II/III run, and I’ll paddle with the yakkers if I have to.

The level was about 5’, 1,000 cfs. – a typical dam release level. We put in at the picnic area at the base of the Knightville Dam, and took out at the Gazebo on Route 20. The river is mostly class II rock dodging until you enter the Gorge in the Gardner State Park.

Dan approaching the Gorge Drop
There are two drops in the Gorge section. The first is an unnamed rapid that is about 25 yards long that I ran to the right (there is also a trickier shoot to the left that I ran a few years ago with Glenn). The second is a 3-foot ledge known as the Gorge Drop. It can be seen from upstream by a big rock in the middle of the river. You run this just to the right of the rock, and move left to catch the eddy, or at least avoid the big haystacks downstream.

From the Gorge Drop down to the take out there are some nice rock gardens separated by sections of quickwater.  Run took about 2 hours at a leisurely pace.  No swims to report.

Racers swimming the Hill & Dale Rapid
The good news is that there were plenty of canoes on the river (mostly tandems) for the Westfield River WildwaterRace. Supposedly, this is the oldest consecutively run canoe race in the US.  On the way home we stopped at a rapid called Hill & Dale on the novice course to see some of the carnage – we weren’t disappointed.  A pinned canoe in the middle of the river told us that the safety boats had been busy.  We saw about 10 boats come through in 15 minutes, and half of them dumped, and there were plenty of gunwale grabs on the rest. 

At the put-in - photo by Paddler Shawn

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