If you're looking for a big water run in Vermont, you'll quickly come to realize options are limited to combined week or so of days when runs such as the Mad, North Branch of the Lamoille, Ball Mountain Brook and Wardsboro or Lower New Haven spike big. Enter this stretch of rapids. It may be short, but it provides a rare opportunity to boat class IV big water on a relatively frequent basis.
Found in the lower reaches of the Missiquoi River, this run has a large drainage. It would run at a good level nearly 100 days of the year. Unfortunately it suffers the same fate as nearly every other stretch of large volume river in Vermont blessed with gradient; a dam. That being said it likely runs at a worthwhile flow a good 50 days of the year. The dam is what they call a run of the river dam, in that aside from the regulated fish flow they are required to spill (75 cfs in this case), the power company will use all the remaining water (up to capacity of nearly 3,000 cfs) to generate power. Therefore, for a good level below the dam, you are going to want at minimum 1,000 cfs spilling. There are two USGS run gauges on this river, one in Swanton about a dozen miles downstream, and the other at East Berkshire somewhere between 15-20 miles upstream. The run I am basing the description on occured with what I consider to be a on the high end of medium. The Swanton and East Berkshire gauges were reading 7,500 and 4,800 respectively. I would imagine you could go down to something like 4500/2500 on the gauges, but the lower and upper limits will have to be worked out.
Starts off with a dam, this may be runnable at the right levels but certainly something that would necessitate some heavy scouting and safety. Class V+ at the level we saw it at.
After the dam there is some moving water followed by some class III intro rapids, make your way right for the start of the first rapid.
Rapid 1: Tetanus Schott
Start right work your way around, over or through a couple big wave/holes (this will probably depend on the level as to what forms here) and through the big crashing wave train runout. This is followed by a pool and might have decent surfing at the right levels.
Rapid 2: Big Schott
After the pool comes Big Schott, avoid the big hole by heading right or take the Big Shot line and punch through it. Just be ready to get left, at good levels a big hole lurks just downstream on the right. Eddy out on the left or go straight into...
Cut left around the big hole on the right, but be ready to punch another one. You can eddy out on the left or run...
You're gonna wanna skirt most stuff to the left, couple of big holes in the center. Still some good crashing wave holes to punch in the left line.
Park in the single car dirt area just on river left of the dam, make sure to talk with any dam employees walk down past the concrete barriers and put in at the pool below the dam. To the takeout go out over the bridge (north on shawville road) and take the first left down the long winding road the outlet of the dam. This will be your takeout, make sure to park out of the way.
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The long awaited first releases on the Missisquoi River in Sheldon Springs, Vermont, were cancelled due to a lack of rain in the northeast. The releases were scheduled for the first 6 weekend days in May, but we were forced to cancel the first three weekends while we wait for the rivers to rise. So put on your booties and do your best rain dance so we can enjoy this big water Class IV run in the bypass reach of the Sheldon Springs Dam.
The mighty Missisquoi, running along the Vermont/Quebec border, finally saw its first releases this fall, nearly 30 years after they were first promised. After a series of disappointing attempts to schedule releases earlier this year that were canceled due to low flows, we finally got our opportunity this fall and we were able to arrange for several weekend releases with the help of the Vermont Paddling Club. These first test releases demonstrated that the Missisquoi is a first class paddling opportunity unique to Vermont.
The Vermont Superior Court sided with American Whitewater in a long-running dispute with the state over whitewater boating on the Green River in Morrisville. The Court overturned state restrictions that would have eliminated any meaningful opportunity for boaters to enjoy this extraordinary river and required scheduled releases in a ground breaking decision.
In response to of the state’s draft basin plan for southern Vermont, American Whitewater and scores of boaters pressed the state to support the expansion of releases on the West River. Restrictions by the Corps of Engineers and Agency of Natural Resources have led to the elimination of nearly all scheduled boating opportunities on the West River over the past two decades, eliminating recreation opportunity and hurting the local economy. AW and its partners have been working to restore these releases.
A hardy group of northeast boaters climbed into the natural river channel below a hydropower dam to participate in a flow study designed to assess whether whitewater flows should be restored to this dewatered river reach on the Connecticut River. While significant obstacles remain, this site has the potential for providing instruction, playboating, and a big water feature that that could be run throughout much of the year and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.
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