Accident Database

Report ID# 114825

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Darkness

Accident Description

Edward James Pinskey, Merrimack Valley Paddlers FB post

Hey y’all. I know I’ve talked to a few of you about the upper gale. No one I have spoken to has run it or heard of anyone running it. I ran it with a buddy last Friday, so i figured I’d post a trip report. The Ammo gauge was at 6 feet and rising which I’d say is a nice flow for the stretch. We put in at Garfield winter parking lot where the branches come together at around 5 pm. We were short on time or we would have hiked up the forest service road.

I checked google earth and as far as I could tell from there to the end of coal hill road is about six miles, and drops about 350 feet. The first half was fun nonstop class 2 with beautiful, remote scenery. Then we got to a spot where a log jam forced the river to jump its banks and became braided. We were being very careful because of all the wood and narrow river width. We portaged several strainers and were staring to get worried about getting benighted (no headlamps...classic).

We portaged one last strainer, and down below I could see where the river came back together to full width. So, I seal launched off a bank into an eddy, peeled out trying to miss a root ball and series of strainers along the river bank. Unfortunately, the root ball flipped me and I was pulled under the strainers. I swam and was flushed out under the trees.

When I surfaced, I came around a bend which we had not scouted and saw where the river piled up against a bank making a hard right. The bend had collected a bunch of wood and was trying to suck me under it all. Luckily after a few moments thinking that it was the end. I was able to crawl up on top of the pile. Lost my boat, paddle, phone and ripped my dry suit (we retrieved the boat). My partner heard me yell and luckily did not run that section. So I ended up jogging the last few miles out, which looked like great class 2-2+ for miles.

I definitely suggest this section of river just be very mindful of wood through the braided section of river; hopefully it will clean up with time. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful mellow run. If anyone runs the gale and finds a paddle with bomber gear pogies I’ll buy you a 12 pack of your choice if returned. Happy paddling all.

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