Knightville section of the Westfield

I’m an early riser, so I prefer trips that start early, and I tend to get there early. The annual Jim O’Brien Memorial Paddle on the Knightville section of the Westfield usually fits the bill since we need to get on the river early to beat the racers.

Paul and I arrived around 8:30 and had some time to kill before the 10:00 shuttle, so we stopped to check out the Westfield River Wildwater Race. According to the website, this is the oldest consecutively run canoe race in the US. It was nice to see so many canoes, even if many of them were paddled with double blades.

Lined up and ready to go

From there, we decided to check out the Knightville Dam and Reservoir. The dam is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers and includes 2,400 acres of undeveloped flood control land. After hiking down to the reservoir, we drove over to the dam itself, which gave us a great view of the river below.

View of the river from the top of the dam

At 9:30, we pulled into the picnic area below the dam to unload our boats and change in our paddling gear. A small group had started to gather as I headed out to run the shuttle. The Jim O’Brien Memorial Paddle is an annual trip in memory of a local boater who died seven years ago in a tragic whitewater accident. The river is mostly class II rock dodging until you enter the Gorge in the Gardner State Park.


There are two drops in the Gorge section. The first is an unnamed rapid that is about 25 yards long that is run to the right. The second is a 3-foot ledge known as the Gorge Drop. You run this to the right, 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 and surf spots


Few more pictures here:

Nice read and photos. Impressive way to spend the day!

Looks like great fun. Scary fun that takes loads of skills . Super photos.

Thanks - its a great way to spend the day - everyone looks out for one another. One more dam release, and then we have to rely on natural flow, so things will slow down. It has been a great winter and spring for paddling around here.

Whitewater paddling takes some basic skills (especially a good brace) and a lot of practice. Training is a must, and with the demise of local paddling clubs, I think it is tougher to get started now than when I did about 10 years ago. Back then, clubs had training and practice sessions, and you developed a network of paddlers with similar skills as you worked you way up to more difficult trips. Now it is much less formal. The young folks seem to do fine - plenty of new paddlers every year and they seem to progress quickly to the bigger stuff. I think it is tougher for us older folk who need a little more structure. (Since you are here, I assume you qualify as “older folk” . :smile: )