counter currents in river

We were paddling in a local lake this weekend ( 13ft Neckys)and incountered some “interesting” currents

this particular lake is a small one ( only couple of miles long) located between two large lakes ( dam at both ends) we paddled towards the upper dam like we have done several times before. they were letting a large volume of water thru so we stayed next to the bank well out of the main channel and strong current. it was along a large rocky island/pennisula that we all of a sudden noticed that the current was taking us forward ( the current next to the bank had been a mild one flowing away from the dam)this counter current to the main channel gained strenght frightenly ( to me at least) fast.My fear was it was going to either sweep me into the main channel or catch me between. after a breif moment of panic ( I did not like the feel of “no control”) I did get control of my boat, turn around and paddle back out of it. My question is what would cause this countercurrent and what should we look for to avoid them in the future?



You Hit An "Eddy"
there is probably a point of land sticking out into the main current. The current then bends in around the point and then loops back as a counterflow, the strongest being right against the bank. This can also happen with islands in the current.


Varying factors!
You would need a degree in Physics with a major in fluid dynamics to understand all the given factors affecting this situation. The dam may have had many different ports to open and the water depths at these ports can drastically affect flow rates. The depth of the ports also has a big effect on flow rate. Flow rate will vary at different depths and shallow depths can easily see a faster current flow than deeper depths. Stay away from the inlet side of dams! It’s much more fun playing on the outlet side … but … you can be sucked back into the outlet side if you get too close also.

I’m glad to read you had a learning experience and not an incident. Bob

Link From This Site…
that help you deal with eddy lines:

You need to paddle some running water
Paddle a nice class I river with some riffles etc. Notice the water off to the side where it curls back. These are eddies. Eddies can be friendly or they can be fierce. They can grag an un suspecting paddler and really cause some havoc. They can also be a nice place to pull over and rest.

You really do need to learn how to read them and understand what your boat is going to do heading into them and out of them.

thanks guys

I kinda thought it might be an eddy but not sure.

we were well down stream from the dam and its outflows ( I am not that crazy) so it did take me by surprise. The info links will be helpful. I have only done flat slow water to this point.

will be seeking out some mild white water with instruction


Yep…the lower Niagara has this.
Current nearer the shoreline (say up to 20’ out) actually flows in the reverse of the rest of the river (from Lewiston to Lake Ontario). Has something to do with how much water is being used by the hydro plants or so I’ve been told.