Can’t beat summer whitewater

There are lots of dam-release options for summer whitewater paddling around here (New England), but there are also a lot of rivers that rarely release in the summer. With the torrential downpours that we had on the 4th of July, a lot of dam operators had to release water this week, and a lot whitewater rivers were running that don’t usually run this time of year. I was lucky to get on one of my favorites yesterday – the Upper Millers.

The Upper Millers is a 7-mile run with a little bit of everything. At yesterday’s level (1,000 cfs) it is a class II+ run with lots of eddies to catch and waves to surf – for me, a perfect open boat level. Nothing like summer whitewater. Few pictures here:


Nice. Millers is a fun run. Hope you gave room to the flyfishers, and vice-versa!


No fishermen out yesterday - in fact didn’t see anyone. Sometimes you will see hikers at Bearsden. We were the only boaters - lots of paddling options yesterday.

In the West spring snowmelt is the best whitewater. Only the large rivers are runnable in the summer. We do not rely on dam releases much.

Around here, spring snow melt is the best whitewater too. There are some rivers - especially up north - that are natural flow. A lot of rivers around here have dams that simply overflow when the level goes up in the spring. There are also a lot of dams that that regulate the level of the pool behind the dam for flood control or recreation, so you get bigger or unscheduled releases when the level goes up from snow melt or excessive rain like we just had.

There are a lot of spring/summer dam releases around here. I’m sure I’ll get out to the Deerfield sometime this summer. I would like to get up the Dead in ME, but I don’t know if I am going to make it. That’s why this run was a nice treat.

That is surprising! The Millers in the Bearsden area is probably biggest, high flow trout river in southern New England. It compares almost to the Androscoggin and upper Connecticutt, except the Miller’s water temps run higher and thus less optimal for trout, particularly brook trout.


I have to say, I don’t think I have ever seen a fisherman on the Millers, so I was surprised to hear is is such a storied fly fishing area. I googled it and found this.

What he calls the upper or Bearsden section is definitely the Upper Millers run. After looking at it, it makes sense since the river is a series of rapids and pools. We are more interested in the rapids. Fishermen are more interested in the pools. I think this is what he describes as Buckmans Run - that is definitely the second railroad trestle.

One of my buddies calls it Lake Superior - a long flatwater section, and one of the reasons he is not big on this run. I suspect we don’t see more fishermen since there is no easy access there - it’s a long hike in so they would have to be pretty determined. Also one of the reasons boaters need to be careful on this run - it can be a long hike out.

Exactly! There are actually gravel roads through Bearsden wooded area that get close to the river. I am not sure if these are gated or not, but the Bearsden is a conversation area and is opened to public hiking. I keep thinking of taking my ebike up there and see if I can locate the access points. Otherwise, it is a long hike in on the known trail that runs along the River at the beginning of Bearsden.



Here are the access points.

Yes. It’s great map. The unknown is whether those gravel roads are gated on the southern side of the river. If so, it’s a pretty long walk in. Thus, the ebike!


Hey Ppine. I just talked to my mom in Carson City. Sad news, she said 1 or 2 people were trying to go down the Carson at flood stage and didn’t make it. Tragic news. Have you heard anything about that incident?
Just last week we had 2 kayakers (fishing kayaks from what I am told) who didn’t bother with PFD and we had one of our mountain winds kick up suddenly. Both went in, but only one made it out.

I get a knot in my gut every time I see or hear of folks going out on water and not taking or wearing any PFDs.

Your last sentence doesn’t hold true for all Western rivers. There are some rivers subject to dam releases which do determine when WW boaters have good conditions.

Of course, it still all goes back to winter and spring snow accumulation higher up.

VT just had another 1,000 year storm - seems like they have them every 10-years or so. They will be releasing water from the flood control dams in NH, VT and western MA for a while. There will be whitewater paddling for the next couple of weeks, but I’ll be on vacation at the beach in South County RI.

Central MA and NH took a pretty good whack as well. White water paddling, especially in VT, would be inadvisable with altered stream beds, debris and downed trees, never mind washed out roads.

Wonder how western ME fared. The road from my camp in western ME that goes over the notch down to Lake Umbagog and Errol washed out with Hurricane Irene. Took weeks to restore. This recent rainfall was as bad if not worse in the northern New England states.


Sorry - posted this on the wrong thread originally.

The ACE announced this morning that they might start emptying water down the spillway at the Ball Mountain and Townshend Dams on the West River in VT. Just to give you an idea of how big Ball Mountain Dam is, this is the view from the top with folks on the portage trail going down to the river below.

They later said that it won’t happen, at least not for a few more days. That’s a lot of water behind that dam. Going to wash a few fish downstream if they open that baby up. :wink:

I don’t suppose there are too many Vermonters thinking of whitewater paddling right now. And they may too busy digging out mud. We returned home from a vacation in northern VT yesterday in the middle of the storm and things looked increasingly dire as we drove south.

The ground in northern VT was already saturated before the big t-storms came through on July 4th. The rivers stayed up the rest of the week as there was enough scattered afternoon thunderstorm activity to sustain it, leading us to postpone and then cancel a day trip on the Lamoille river because it was too high for the casual float we planned.

We were at Smuggler’s Notch, which was in an odd dry spot until late Sunday. By the time we went to bed, we had only got a little rain while the rest of VT was soaked. So I was surprised the next morning when the little brook running near our rental had turned into a raging torrent.

As we drove through the notch, we saw that the cliffs up above overlooking the notch had turned into huge waterfalls. It was an awesome sight and there was nobody up there to see it, so I kick myself for not stopping to snap a video, but I was thinking more about the health of the road and my windshield wiper than my family’s oohs and ahhs.

Down in Stowe where the Little River is a gentle stream that meanders between sandy banks on a normal day, it was roaring and stressing a road bridge. That’s about where my windshield wiper flew off. I had noticed it oddly tilted back in the notch. I had to drive in the rain down to Waterbury with no wiper on the driver’s side. At the Mobil station where I scored a new one, they were scrambling to move things to higher storage. We stopped for a nice lunch, and on our way out of Waterbury we could see the station already flooding.

As we departed on I-89 towards Montpelier, we followed the Winooski river, which was way out of its banks, putting parts of Rt 2 under water. At that point, we were pretty sure Montpelier was already flooded and just hoped we could pass through. Fortunately, I-89 was built with its valley mate in mind and carried us safely over the flood around the Montpelier water treatment plant.

After that, the highway climbs out of the valley away from danger. Further south, we noted closures of roads headed to central VT towns like Rutland, Killington, Ludlow, Woodstock. They supposedly got it worse than what we saw around Montpelier.

The total damage from this storm could be bigger than Irene because the heavy rains were over a wider area.

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Wow - I was just looking at some of the videos - that is amazing. Very sad for the people going through it. I remember Irene because of the damage it caused on the rivers that I paddle - especially the Deerfield, but I don’t remember cities and towns flooding like this.

I didn’t mean to put a damper on your paddling ambitions. I hope you enjoy the whitewater where you find it. I think summer releases may become more common. The snow pack isn’t what it used to be, but the springs and summers in northern New England seem to be getting wetter.

But if those Vermont dams spilled, you wouldn’t want to be on the other side.