The Dead Branch is a continuous Class IV boulder garden with one class V rapid towards the bottom. It is swamp fed and can be run rather low the day after a good rain, or it can be run the day of the rain at higher flows for more of a class V feeling.
There is a rapid under the bridge at put-in. This rapid is easier than the meatier rapids in the heart of the Dead Branch. If it does not look like fun, drive over and run one of the sections of the Westfield proper. If there are eddies in this rapid, you should have eddies below. If it is a big, continuous rapid, expect the same (but bigger and longer) for your run. Below the warm-up rapids is a mile or so of flatwater and class I-II before the river picks up.
The continuous section of the Dead Branch is mostly boat-scoutable. It lacks distinct named rapids, and at medium or lower flows has plenty of eddies throughout. At high water (maybe after a Potash lap?), this section is long, non-stop class V read-and-run whitewater with no terribly difficult moves and very few opportunities to stop. Swimming is not advised and wood should be a serious concern.
The river calms down a little before the biggest and most distinct rapid, Vlad the Impaler, named for the ominous undercut rock and cave on the bottom right of the slide. The river turns 90 degrees to the right before Vlad. Eddy and scout from the left.
Below Vlad the river slowly tapers down to class II. Paddle down about half of a mile to your car, which should be parked along side the river on Indian Hollow Road towards the confluence with the Westfield River.
Follow the water down the middle and punch the hole at the bottom. Watch out for the undercut cave on the right and the piton on the left.
People use the Mill River in Northamption. I think 400 CFS is low/runnable.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Put-in where South Street crosses the river in Chesterfield, MA - just east of the intersection with Cowper Rd. Head northwest on South St. for 0.4 miles before turning left on Indian Hollow Road. Drive to the bottom of Indian Hollow Road (1.5 miles). Park at the end of the road.
Nate Warren entering Vlad the Impaler
James Dusenbury in Vlad the Impaler
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
In response to requests by American Whitewater, several affiliates, and other stakeholders, FERC directed Brookfield Renewable to study the impact of its hydropower operations on whitewater boating on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts. Boating groups and our supporters are seeking to determine optimal whitewater boating flows from the Fife Brook Dam and whether changes in hydropower operations would enhance boating opportunities, access and navigation.
American Whitewater, along with other paddling groups and outfitters, filed comments with FERC responding to the Whitewater Boating Evaluation at Turners Falls on the Connecticut River. The study showed that there is strong demand for boating on this section of the Connecticut River if sufficient flows, scheduled releases, better access, and real-time information are provided. The groups filed the comments in order to provide additional information for the environmental review and to respond to the unsupported statements by FirstLight, the utility performing the study, claiming that there is little demand for boating at Turners Falls.
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.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!