West River, Vermont, US
|Usual Difficulty||II (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||37 fpm|
|Max Gradient||53 fpm|
|WEST RIVER AT JAMAICA, VT|
|usgs-01155500||800 - 1800 cfs||II||00h52m||738 cfs (too low)|
Put in elevation........668' Take out elevation......551' Total drop..............117' Average drop/mile.......37' Mile 1 drop....53' Mile 2 drop....40' Mile 3 drop....21' Distance................3.2 miles River width average.....170' River geology........... small to medium granite boulders, ledge at ducky dump River water quality.....good, some homes along the way. Scenery.................nice forested scenery Wildlife................Deer, Mergansers, 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 2nd 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 further 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 1998. 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. 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 to the Upper West is located at the pavilion parking lot in Jamaica state park. Access to Jamaica State Park is $2.50 per person per day unless you are camping there. There is parking 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 late-comers 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 has 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: Rt 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 of 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 Christopher, 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.
Posted: November 25, 2003 by Jason Robertson
Contact: Tom Christopher
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.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|1.5||Trailer Park rapid||II|
Just downstream of the bridge and after the ball field put in the river splits. The right channel is smaller and more technical, the left is where the main flow of the river runs. This section is a about a half mile long with waves and a few small holes. It eases up as the right channel comes back into the river.
Shortly after the bridge and ball field put in the river splits. The left channel is where most of the flow goes but the right channel is smaller and a bit more technical. This section meanders back towards a farmers field then turns left back into the forest. It is on this left turn that Mimi Lebeau of the Ledyard Canoe Club became pinned in a strainer and drowned in the spring of 1989. Please be aware of this potential hazard. Downstream from here the river runs under a small covered bridge, just downstream and on river right there is a good play hole at release levels.
Shortly after the channels come back together the river calms down for a short distance. Trailer Park rapid starts at the first mobile home on river right and continues up to the Vermont route 30/100 bridge. There is nothing of any note here except for some large waves and a few small holes.
The shortest of the Lower West rapids but most difficult. The half mile past the VT rt 100/30 bridge is fairly calm water with a few small rips. When you see the rt 100 bridge in the distance and a rock out cropping on the right you may want to pull over to river left to scout. The further left of the rapid you go the easier it is, the right side forces you to maneuver or punch a couple rather large holes. There is a nice recovery pool after this rapid.
Another 1/4 mile will lead you up to the recently used take out on river right just under the VT rt 100 bridge. Note the old takeout a half mile downstream is now on private land and you need permission to access it. Paddlers have since generally taken out across the street from the Gulf station on route 30. Landowners have contacted AW to let us know that this too is PRIVATE LAND and they do not wish paddlers to use this takeout any longer. You can (and presumably should) paddle further downstream and take out at the Townsend flood control dam. This section is long and flat. AW has not confirmed the land ownership situation at the takeout.