West River, Vermont, US
|Usual Difficulty||III (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||58 fpm|
|Max Gradient||71 fpm|
|WEST RIVER AT JAMAICA, VT|
|usgs-01155500||1000 - 2500 cfs||III||00h25m||221 cfs (too low)|
Put in elevation........829' Take out elevation......668' Total drop..............161' Average drop/mile.......58' Mile 1 drop......71' Mile 2 drop......49' Mile 2.75 drop....41' Distance................2.75 miles River width average.....160' River geology........... medium to large granite boulders, ledge at dumplings River water quality.....good to excellent. Scenery.................Beautiful forested scenery Wildlife................Deer, Merganzers, Hawks, Blue herons.
Jamaica, Vermont is a popular destination for its annual spring and fall release weekends. The main attraction is the release from Ball Mountain flood-control dam operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The spring release is usually scheduled for the last full weekend of April; the Fall release falls on the third full weekend of September. This release allows boating on two sections of the West: The Upper West, class III; and the Lower West, class II. The termination for the upper and the start for the lower are located at Jamaica State Park, which lies just to the north of Vt. Route 30. Camping is available at Jamaica State Park, but you will need to make your reservation by the afternoon of January 2 to be assured of a site for the weekend. No reservations are accepted until the new year. Call 1-800-299-3071 to make your reservation early or 1-802-874-4600 during the camping season to try and get on the waiting list for a cancellation.
Another alternative to Jamaica State Park is Winhall Campground, located about 10 miles farther north of Jamaica on route 100. Winhall Campground is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers and used to be free to spring and fall campers up until 5 years ago. More and more people have been coming here over the last few years but as of last year the campground was still only about half full. To guarantee a spot or particular campsite call 1-877-444-6777 or go to Reserve USA website
At Jamaica State Park, Vermont state workers operate a shuttle on the Upper West during the fall release. Shuttle fees are $10 per trip or $15 for unlimited trips for the day. There is no spring shuttle since the shuttle route utilizes an old railroad bed that is usually too muddy in April. You can also hike over Ball Mountain dam using a new well-graded trail. To get to Ball Mountain dam continue north on Vt. Rte. 30 past Jamaica approximately 2 miles, look for a small sign on the right for Ball Mountain Dam. Take a right and travel approximately 1 mile. Just before the end of the paved section of road take a left down a steep, narrow (but short) dirt road to the parking area located in the spillway of the dam.
There is no organized shuttle for the Lower class II section of the West. Your best bet would be to hook up with one of the guided trips offered by the MVP or one of the chapters of the AMC.
The shuttle access is located at the pavilion parking lot in Jamaica State Park. Access to Jamaica State Park is $3.00 per person per day unless you are camping there. There Parking is also available in a school ball field just before the entrance to the state park. Parking here costs $2 per vehicle. This parking lot is more popular for people running the Lower West and latecomers to the state park once parking there is filled. About half a dozen vendors set up at Jamaica selling boating gear. There is also a food stand with hot dogs, burgers, hot and cold drinks. Saturday evening the town of Jamaica puts on a Spaghetti supper for the boaters. This is usually located at the church at the intersection of VT Rte. 30 and the Jamaica State Park access road. There are a couple other eating establishments right in town; more are located 5 to 10 miles north and south of town. If there have been recent rains (especially in the spring), other rivers in the area could also be running such as Ball Mountain brook , Winhall, Wardsboro, Rock, and the Londonderry section of the West.
Campgrounds / Lodging
-- Jamaica State Park Campground - Jamaica, VT 05343 Ph: 802-874-4600
-- Winhall Brook campground: Rte 100, Winhall VT (877) 444-6777
-- Townshend State Park Campground - Townshend, VT 05353 Ph: 802-365-7500
-- Camperama - Depot Road, Townshend, VT 05353 Ph: 802-365-4315
-- Bald Mountain Campground - 1760 State Force Road, Townshend, VT 05353 Ph: 802-365-7510
Interstate 91 to exit 3 Brattleboro Vermont.
Take a right on Vermont route 5 (south) 2 miles.
Take a right on Vermont route 30.
Approximately 25 miles to Jamaica.
For the first time in decades recreational whitewater releases are in jeopardy on the West River not from drought but because of new policies the US Army Corps of Engineers have decided to embrace. The following post is from American Whitewater representative Jason Robertson.
On November 24, 2003, a reporter for Vermont's Rutland Herald, Peter Crabtree, reported that "Boating groups are protesting a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restrict whitewater releases on the West River. The Army Corps cut the fall release at the Ball Mountain Dam from two days to one in September, affecting hundreds of paddlers who turn out for the annual event. The Army Corps also intends to cut back flow levels for the spring release in April, making the river less challenging for whitewater enthusiasts."
The article attributes the cuts to a change in policy that would protect the river's water quality and ecology by ensuring that releases resemble flows under a natural hydrograph.
The article correctly observes that American Whitewater is critical of the agencies' approach because the river is being artificially regulated, and quotes AW Board Member Tom Chrisptopher, a recipient of Perception's River Conservation of the Year Award, "'Many times throughout the course of the year there are extremely high releases that may be 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 cubic feet per second,' he said. 'Yet the state of Vermont and U.S. Fish and Wildlife have nothing to say about that. It's just done because the mandate of the Army Corps is to protect life and property downstream.'" AW continues to support scheduled releases of 1500 CFS and a restoration of the original release schedule; this release schedule is good for the economy, mitigates for lost recreation opportunities from the construction of the dam, and is consistent with the natural and dynamic flows of the river.
State and federal officials will meet with American Whitewater in the next several weeks to discuss the issue.
For information on what American Whitewater, NEFLOW, and AMC are doing to reinstate recreational releases on the West River and other Army Corps sites please click here.
Posted: November 25, 2003 by Jason Robertson
Contact: Tom Christopher
Posted by Mike Mac on NPMB March 2004
I'm pleased to inform the paddling community that the good people at the Army Corp of Engineers have agreed to increase the hours of operation/acess at Ball Mountain Dam when there are flows greater then 1000cfs. The people and business of Jamaica VT and the ACE came to this agreement to increase access to the dam for weeknight and weekend paddling. Currently the gate to the dam is open from 9am to 3pm Monday thru Friday only (no weekends); that will change starting April 1,2004
April 1 to May 22 and October 12th thru November 1st
Monday thru Friday gate times 8am to 6pm
WEEKEND AND HOLIDAYS 9am to 6pm
May 22 thru Oct 11
Every day 8 am to 8pm
Entrance gate to the spill way will be open as well as the gate at RT 30 and 100 The gate to the top of the Dam will always be locked.
Additionally no overnight parking or camping.
This program may be terminated or interrupted due to governmental security concerns.
Well, I have to say this is fantastic news for recreational river users; having lived in this
area for quite some time it has been difficult at best to access the West at Ball Mountain
This doesn't mean that additional water will be spilled; it means that when flows are greater than 1000cfs, we get access.
If you come to Jamaica and use the resources, thank the dam operators for their consideration!! The coffee shop and general store in town has been instrumental in helping this cause so stop in and say HI and Thanks.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
This is the upper put in at the base of the dam. Requires a hike down from the top of Ball Mtn. Dam or a 1/2 mile hike up from the end of the park shuttle.
This rapid lies just below the outflow from Ball Mountain Dam. If you take the shuttle up from Jamaica State Park carry across the footbridge over Cobb Brook and walk ~1/3 mile upstream to the base of the dam. There is a nice eddy river left of the dam discharge. Just downstream from the eddy put in the river drops through the heaviest whitewater on the West. A center route will take you through a series of holes and standing waves a few rocks are scatered throughout. As the river takes a gradual left look for an eddy on river left that services a nice surfing wave. Below this playspot the river eases up a bit but look out for a couple tough sections especially next to two large boulders the first on river right the next a short way downstream on river left.
As the river approaches the shuttle trail once more and takes a sharp right a large pourover rock is located just to the left of river center. This rock is a popular boofing spot. Just below Boof rock is a series of nice (but difficult to catch) surfing waves.
The most technical rapid on the West. Can be identified by very large boulders blocking the view of the best route downstream. The easiest route through the Dumplings starts out on river left. As the river turns to the right paddle hard to river right to avoid a trashy section on the left side of the channel with a mix of holes and rocks. Eddy out behind one of the "dumplings" if you can. The next section takes you through standing waves and a large hole/wave that upsets many boats just before the ender hole. The rapid ends at the West river ender spot wich can be identified by tourist and an observation platform on river left. The West river ender hole is on river right and is served by a large eddy there. Gone are the days of the long high volume boats which used to get major air at this spot. A more difficult route would take a boater to the right of the upper Dumpling. The most difficult move is the "Twisty Chute" that drops to the right at the top of the first dumpling. If you manage to stay upright through the slot it then accelerates you into another boulder that has a slight undercut on the upstream side.
The traditional takeout during release weekends is at Jamaica State Park. You can recognize it by the gazebos, campsites and stairways on river left. If the park should be full and you are forced to park at the field near the Jamaica school continue downstream another quarter mile and take out on river right just downstream from the bridge.