Playing Hooky on the Deerfield

The forecast for southern New England on Friday was sunny and in the 70’s. I had nothing on my calendar at work, so I decided to “play hooky” and join a couple of friends for a run on the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield.

Deerfield River arises in southern VT and flows 76-miles through VT and MA to join with the Connecticut River in Greenfield, MA. We would be paddling the Fife Brook section, which is named for the Fife Brook Dam that controls its flow. This is a class II run with a significantly more difficult class III rapid at the end – Zoar Gap.

The Fife Brook Dam was releasing at 1,400 cfs, which would be the highest level that I had run this section of the river. We put in at around 11:30 and began working our way through the class II rapids before pulling over above Zoar Gap. We had scouted Zoar Gap in advance and decided that we were going to pass. With the higher water level, only three paddlers in the group, and my mixed record running this rapid (7 for 14 with 5 swims and 2 walks), I was OK with that.

At Zoar Gap, the river constricts through a gumble of rocks. The “beginner” line is to ride the tongue on river right and then punch through the waves and holes below. Conrad explains it here:

The “advanced” line is to catch the eddy at the top and then go right into the eddy below the drop, or run the drop on the left. You can see an open boater style the right line, and me swim the left line here:

Temp’s hit 74 degrees, so it felt like spring even though there was still snow on the ground. Few other pictures here:

NIce trip.

My batting average through the “Gap” is probably 60/40 upright. It’s a fun challenge, especially with the calmer stretch below for easy swim or rescue.


Do I recall it correctly that Irene most altered the line on the right? Guessing the Oh Shit rock as you exit the left is still in the same relative position to the flow there?
Other days in my life. Doubt my current weight is a match for the old Innazone.

Nice shots. Interesting how much milder it looks in the pics from the road than when you are in it.

I am now 7 for 15 running the Gap with 5 swims and 3 walks. We looked at it on the way up and with only three in the group, the higher water level and my mixed record running this rapid, we decided to walk.

Hate to admit it, but by by the time we got to the end of the run I was ready to give it a try. The river was moving pretty good, so if I swam and lost my boat it would have gone for a while. Sometimes it is good to stick to a plan. :wink:

The sneak line on the right got filled with rocks when they rebuilt the road above after Hurricane Irene - that was my line for years.

“Oh Shit” Rock is still there - right in the middle - bounced off it many times with bad results.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but when you see someone run it right it still looks easy.

One trip, I watched a Herculean effort by four or five paddlers trying to dislodged a Coleman canoe that had been folded against that rock by the current. Kind of “staring at a car crash” scenario, I watched for a bit and then decided that I had better hightail up to the dam launch before the flow got turned off. Figure when I get down there, there’ll be some indication of whether that canoe had been freed. It was, tho’ I highly doubt that the “rescued” Coleman would be water-worthy afterwards.


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