Westfield River, Dead Branch, Massachusetts, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|MILL RIVER AT NORTHAMPTON, MA|
|usgs-01171500||350 - 2000 cfs||IV(V)||00h32m||~ 287 cfs (too low)|
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.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|2.5||Vlad the Impaler||5.0|
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.