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Whitewater! July 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

When water is released through the Dryway section of the Deerfield River in the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts, people come from all over the East Coast to play.

It’s not that it’s the biggest or most spectacular whitewater in the East; rather, this is a Class 3/4 river run, challenging enough to entice experts, but not beyond paddlers of moderate abilities.

Plus, it runs through one of the least despoiled river valleys in the Northeast, where one can paddle or float for miles without seeing a single house:

This is a rapid through a narrowing, where the water drops over boulders, forms “holes” and piles up in “standing waves” which look stationary even as water rushes through them.  They’re ideal for experts to play in, and negotiable for reasonably competent paddlers.

There are several rafting companies operating here which allow folks who don’t have skills or knowledge to experience the river, but this post will highlight the other boaters, the ones whose skill and strength and spine gets them through.

There are kayakers, “K-1” paddlers, who can be spotted by their double-bladed paddles:

K-2 boaters do the same in pairs:

Kayakers paddle in a seated position with their legs out in front of them, though that’s not apparent to the casual observer.

Then there are “C-1” paddlers, in solo closed canoes:

They use a standard single-blade paddle and work twice as hard as the kayakers.  “Twice the man, half the paddle,” they’re fond of saying.  🙂

Canoeists kneel with their feet under them, and have a minimal seat to settle onto when they like.  It’s an ideal set-up for little guys like me; I can kneel up to see over upcoming waves, whereas if I’m sitting on the bottom of the boat, I have at least a foot less height and a LOT less sight distance, which makes navigation much more difficult.

There are also some open canoes which run rivers of this grade, though you won’t see birch-bark canoes or your father’s aluminum Grumman.  Rather, they’re high-tech fiberglass or plastic models, with every unoccupied cubic inch filled with inflatable floatation devices:

I’d say, “That’s a MAN’s boat,”  except that women can and do paddle them as well:

That’s a rotary injection molded model, and though I’m sure that woman can paddle circles around me in it, I prefer the aesthetics of the more classical designs:

Full Gnarlz indeed!  😆

There were also a few inflatable catamarans, like this one paddled by a mixed gender team:

…and a few crazy people paddling those new-fangled stand-up boats, sort of a cross between a canoe and a surfboard, but I was too busy laughing at their swan-dive demises to take a decent photo!

Competent paddlers find a way to thread rapids like this and get to the bottom in one piece; folks with higher skill levels will “eddy out” at every opportunity, then turn upstream and play, paddling against the current to the crest of a standing wave and surfing its upstream side:

Sometimes they’d get eaten and flushed, and roll up downstream; sometimes they’d drive forward into the trough, lean forward to bury their bow and do numerous cart-wheels, then resume surfing – amazing!!!

So here’s the part where I try to get you to hold your breath:

How’d I do?  😆

Well, you can breath now – they mostly  all popped up and paddled away…

I’ll leave you with these last few photos:

…I have a fireworks display to shoot tonight, and I’ve got camera prep and dinner still to do!



1. jomegat - July 27, 2012

I used to do some white water K-1 paddling. I still have my boat, but don’t get to use it as often as I would like. I no longer have the skills necessary to negotiate class IV water.

The air bags in those open canoes are more to keep water out than anything else. Yeah, that’s floatation I guess. In big water like that, even if you keep the gunnels level, the waves can fill the boat in an instant. The air bags prevent that.

Oh – and I never liked those new-fangled boat shapes either.

2. TheCunningRunt - July 28, 2012

j, I sold my C-1 a few years back, and hadn’t used it fir a few years before that. The shoulders, you know, they’ve been junk for a long time, and it was the C-1 roll that started it all.

I’m almost tempted to hop into one of those cool little mini-OC-1s, but I’m afraid I know how that would end!

3. Laura - July 28, 2012

How’d you do? I’m STILL breathless! Thanks for the river trek today.

4. susancrow - July 30, 2012

We’ve seen quite a few sea kayakers on the water around here but what they do looks very tame compared to this. Yes, I held my breath and had not the slightest urge to join them. Great pictures!

5. Rob-bear - July 30, 2012

susancrow sent me over. This is an “active” posting, to put it mildly.

I once went down a Class 6 river in an open canoe with a friend. The interesting thing is that I didn’t know it was class 6. We just went out for a nice paddle down the river. We both survived. As did the canoe.

6. littlebangtheory - August 2, 2012

Rob, welcome! …and Thanks, Susan. {{}}

Rob, I think they call that “dumb luck,” no offense intended – I’ve benefitted from it on numerous occasions myself, though it invariably runs out. Skill, on the other hand, is somewhat more dependable as a life partner.

At any rate, come back often, I try to keep things rolling here, even though I get busy…

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