Creek Boating Levels Guide
This guide, composed by the Ledyard Canoe Club, is not meant as a substitute for a guidebook, it is meant to provide some insight into the voodoo behind figuring out whether or not creeks are running. For full descriptions, pictures, logistics, buy a guidebook. "Let It Rain" by Alden Bird is a recent and very good one (http://neguidebook.com).
In general, find gauges either on the AW site for NH/VT or on the USGS site. The AW gauges are the USGS gauges, but tend to be updated more slowly, so I usually check USGS directly. You can do that here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/vt/nwis/rt. Switch "vt" to "nh," "ny," or "me" depending on what state you want to look at.
- 1 Vermont
- 2 New Hampshire
Class V. Best run in VT
Levels: Generally, if the New Haven at Bristol (USGS) is over 250cfs, itâ€™s running low. Runs very easily on snowmelt. If it looks runnable at the putin, it is at least low. If it looks fun at the putin, be careful, you might want to scout the gorge. Looking up from the takeout at the last drop, there is a gauge rock â€“ on the river left half at the top of the drop thereâ€™s a rock between two boulders that is a shallow boof with barely any water going over it at low water. The better that boof looks, the higher the river is. If itâ€™s really high, you can put in below the gorge by climbing down; probably a good idea to lower boats in a couple spots. The spot to hike into the gorge is about halfway between the pullout on the south side of the road (a hiking trailhead) and a pullout higher up on the river side of the road. Shuttle: Hitching shuttle up the road is usually really easy.
Class V. Second best run in VT
Levels: There is a rough correlation with the Walloomsac gauge near Bennington, VT (http://newweb.erh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=aly&gage=bntv1). If thatâ€™s over 3â€™, the Big Branch should be running. It doesnâ€™t correlate that well with snowmelt â€“ usually the BB runs in the spring even if the Walloomsac is low. Also, thereâ€™s a rain gauge in Danby, VT: http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=MDFCV1. I donâ€™t have a good correlation for that yet, but 3/8â€ brought the BB up to 2â€™ on the painted gauge pretty late in snowmelt season the other day (e.g. when there was no visible snow left). Look for much more than that in the summer. There's a painted gauge on river left under the takeout bridge. Levels range from 0â€™ (bottom of the rock) to 5â€™ (the fifth line on the rock). 0â€™ is low but runnable (Iâ€™ve run it at â€“1.5â€™ and itâ€™s still OK, though sort of silly), 5â€™ is stomping high, over the gauge is really stomping high. 2â€™ is low stress and fun, 3â€™ is like 2' but fluffier, above 3' it starts to become a little more serious.
Levels: Almost always running if there's been any precipitation. Great run to do after a day of Big Branch laps and before pizza at the Mt. Tabor General Store. Collects iceâ€¦I once portaged two ice bridges in one run of this. The only time I've had to seal launch an ice bridge.
Levels: This run is almost always running. If the Big Branch is going, this will be going. If the BB is low, this will be OK. If the BB is too low, this will probably be fine. The first drop might seem really low, but in the gorges it's fluid even very low. Thereâ€™s a near-mandatory portage right at the entrance to the second gorge. Come through a shoaly section and pull out on your right as the river bends back left dropping into a gorge. You can seal launch, but I prefer the throw-and-go. Apparently there's some landowner issues with the drop between the gorges...either just run it direct (end in the right channel at the bottom) or scout very quickly. Also -- everything goes at super high water, though there are no eddies in the second gorge, so be careful of wood.
New Haven Ledges
Levels: Thereâ€™s a USGS gauge for this run thatâ€™s ~6 hours downstream (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?04282525). Can be run down to 250cfs, maybe even lower, gets fun around 350, gets a little meatier around 600, and gets awesome over 800cfs. If you're really jonesing in the summer I think Toaster can be park and hucked down to 100 or so.
Levels: Hard to gauge. Thereâ€™s a pond with a dam at the top of the run, and you can call the power house 1-888-835-4672 (ask for the Colchester dispatcher) to find out what the lake level is. If itâ€™s over 5.2, the lake should be draining. Generally, your best bet is if somebody posts a visual on VT Paddlersâ€™ Message Board (they usually do when itâ€™s running): http://www.vtpaddlers.net/talk/mb/.
Info: This run is awesome. 10 miles of low stress low angle slides, with one maybe two bigger drops.
North Branch of the Winooski
Levels: Hard to gauge. Really flashy. Hope somebody posts a visual on NPMB or VTPMB. If the New Haven is really high (2000+) itâ€™s probably running. Info: Sweet class IV/IV+ waterfall run, very different than usual VT paddling. Biggish drops, pool drop.
Levels: Has a reasonable correlation with the New Haven and Ayers Brook at Randolph, VT gauges. New Haven correlation isnâ€™t perfect, though â€“ once went when the New Haven was 2000+ and Patterson was barely floatable.
Info: Fun class III/IV boogie. Good at high water. Also, it's not actually called Patterson -- it's technically the First Branch of the White, but everybody calls it Patterson (the name of a nearby creek).
Class II-III (IV+)
Levels: Hereâ€™s the gauge: https://rsgis.crrel.usace.army.mil/nae/pls/cwmsweb/cwms_realtime.ProjectPage?gagecode=NHD. Look at the Inflow column. I think above 350 is generally runnable. Maybe lower.
Info: Well Enough goes much smoother than it looks at 650+.
Levels: Use the USGS Pemi at Woodstock gauge. AW claims itâ€™s runnable above 4.5, Iâ€™ve run it at 5.5 and at 6.5 and I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d go back below 6 (though thatâ€™s just my preference, plenty of people think itâ€™s fun between 5 and 6). Subtracting the EB Pemi gauge from the Woodstock gauge should also give you an idea of actual flow in the Upper Pemi. If it looks floatable at the Basin (at the putin), the run should be good to go.
Info: Great class IV+ boogie drops, some neat slides, one nasty portage that is best done through the cave on river left (at Sentinel Bridge). The first drop (North Pole) is also often portaged. There are some funky drops at the putin that usually donâ€™t have enough water to look fun.
Levels: If the Pemi is over 6 this is probably runnable. Itâ€™s a tributary into the Upper Pemi just below the putin. Hike up and take a look.
Info: Huge slides.
Levels: Use the EB Pemi gauge and the Saco gauge near Conway. If EB Pemi is over 700 cfs, it should be going. Can be run at a wide range of levels. Itâ€™s really fun at stomping high water. Has its own gauge now, but I donâ€™t have a correlation yet.
Levels: Hard to say when itâ€™s running, but if Baker gauge at Rumney is over 3 itâ€™s probably good. Itâ€™s the flashiest of the Baker Valley runs, so if stuff spikes fast, this is probably the one to go to. Can be run very low. I bet it runs a lot more than people think, including during summer thunderstorms, but probably drops out very quickly, too.
Info: Low gradient, but surprisingly hard. At high water a couple drops get big holes, be careful. That said, itâ€™s awesome high. Watch out for the first significant drop, under the Carraige Rd. bridge.
South Branch of the Baker
Class IV (V)
Levels: If the Baker gauge is over 3, decent chance itâ€™s running. Has a swampy, big drainage, so it holds decently well. Definitely runs when the Baker is lower than 3, sometimes, but it's hard to predict.
Info: Class IV, some slides, some boofs, one big class V (Cannibal Falls). You can put in on the Rocky Branch and run into the South Branch or you can put in on the South Branch itself. I hear theyâ€™re both good, Iâ€™ve only ever done the Rocky Branch.
Levels: Baker gauge over 3, could be running. Bear in mind it has a pond at the top, so it wonâ€™t come up as easily, and it will stay up longer. Note for all three of these rivers that â€œBaker over 3â€ is neither a guarantee nor a necessity. If the Baker is over 3, one of them is almost certainly running, but if itâ€™s under 3, one might still be running. Pond Brook runs all spring, even after the other two drop out, for example. Think about swamp vs. pond vs. flashy and make your decision. Or just go check the level on each one, they're real close together.
Info: Sweet class IV. Watch for wood.
Bloods Brook Ledges
Class IV (V)
Levels: Not really sure. Only been there once in spring, it was pretty runnable but couldâ€™ve had more water. Can be run quite low, probably quite high too. Probably runs all spring. De-ices pretty early in the season, as well.
Info: 4-drop sequence just south of West Leb. One of the first few drops is a sweet 10â€™ boofy thing, the last drop is bigger and gnarly.
Levels: http://americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/4487/. Not sure how good their correlations are.
Info: Pretty shitty class IV creeking. Similar to Halls Brook but easier. Far enough south that it runs in the winter sometimesâ€¦an hour and a bit south of here.
Levels: Not 100% sure, but I hear over 5â€™ on the Bearcamp gauge is good.
Info: Sweet slides, a couple boofs, a neat gorge sequence with 3 consecutive drops and a tricky entrance. Can be run very low (just run the first four drops and hike back up) or very high (awesome! Careful at the gorge, though).
Levels: Look for the Pemi at Plymouth gauge to be quite highâ€¦10 or 11 and rising, I think. Holds OK because it drains a lake, but not well.
Info: Put in on Elbow Pond, off Elbow Pond Road on the way down the east side of Moosilauke on 118. Paddle across the pond, river is on the left somewhere. First half is very steep class IV+/V, kind of manky. Beware the first major drop, a not very steep S-turny rapid that ends with a heinous (but not heinous looking) hole that will make you (or at least, Boyce Greer) swim immediately above a portage. Come to a really gnarly looking portage sequence, trail on river left, and then a bridge with a drop under it (â€œThe Portageâ€ â€“ this drop does get run though). After the first slide below this bridge, watch out for a nasty mandatory sieve sneak/portage on river right. The rest of the river is awesome big slides. The one at the takeout is pretty tricky, everybody hits the rock.
Levels: Runs on the same schedule as Glover, it's the next drainage south. Look for 10+ on the Pemi at Plymouth.
Info: This one's a mission. Only been run a few times, it's 5 miles of a lot of class V. The first drop of the first gorge has always been a portage, though I think if some wood is pulled out it could go. Walk river left from a one boat eddy above a sieve. The second gorge is very cool, but also has some sievy rock formations -- we had a boater flush through one in the last drop, be careful. There's lots of good boogie outside the "gorges" as well (the second one isn't really a gorge, but you'll know it when you see it).
Levels: Thereâ€™s a correlation with the Cockermouth River gauge, but Iâ€™m not totally sure what it is. If itâ€™s spiking big, and still rising, Halls should be running (and possibly flashing). It rises and falls very quickly. Thereâ€™s a gauge stuck to the bridge on the way to the putin. 8â€™ is very low, 8â€™7 is starting to get high. 9â€™ is high.
Levels: If the Saco is rising to 4000, or higher, this could definitely be running. Also try to look at rain gauges, www.weatherunderground.com has lots. Swift and EB Pemi gauges are also useful, but thereâ€™s no guaranteed correlations. Info: A solid step up in difficulty from the Big Branch. Thereâ€™s a painted gauge under the bridge, 4'+ is high, pretty scary, not sure I would run it higher, 3â€™ is a nice, juicy medium, 0 is probably minimum. This is definitely one of the best rivers in the Northeast. Scout the first significant drop, itâ€™s long and has multiple potential lines (including a huge slide on river right).