Deerfield, Massachusetts, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||17 fpm|
|DEERFIELD RIVER NEAR WEST DEERFIELD, MA|
|usgs-01170000||400 - 20000 cfs||I-II||01h14m||2020 cfs (running)|
|Upper limit for best boatability uncertain. Please help your fellow boaters with a comment or report.|
After launching from Wilcox Hollow, there is a 1.7 mile stretch of flat water above the No. 2
station dam. The flat water area is frequented by fishermen in canoes. This section is peaceful
and undeveloped with the exception of a rail road line on river right. There is a nice waterfall
on river left after the 1 mile mark where the power lines cross over the river. Keep to the right
of the small grassy island after going under the power lines. The take-out for the portage around
the No. 2 station is on river right just before the power company’s ropes across the river.
It is a small, rather steep, but short gully in an area of pine trees.
At the top of the portage take out, the paved power company road (private) crosses over the rail road tracks. Walk your gear down the road about 800 feet. If you have a canoe, a set of wheels will come in handy for this part.
At the end of the road, keep to the right and stay away from the No. 2 station facility. Carry your gear up over a low concrete wall around the right end of the fence. This is where the portage gets interesting. Once around the fence, there is a steep, 90 foot long path back down to the river, which descends about 50 feet in elevation. The top of the path is soil, which changes to gravel and finally boulders as you descend to the bottom. Watch out for the poison ivy patch about ¾ of the way down. A rope is handy to have for lowering larger boats down over the path. Well fitting, non-slip foot ware is also highly recommended.
As you push off the bank into the water, there is about 75 feet of swift flat water before the first rapid. No. 2 station rapid is a strong Class II and the biggest rapid in this reach of the river. It is a breaking wave train 200-300 feet long. The breaking wave after the first hole can swamp an open boat if you are not careful. Below these rapids, there are about 2 miles or so of swift water to Class II.
At the 2 mile mark below No. 2 Station, the river flows under power lines and takes a 90+ degree turn to the right. There is a stretch of Class I+/II- starting at the power lines and continuing for about 1,500 feet until you go under a railroad bridge. Below the railroad bridge the river is swift water for about a ¼ mile. Just before the Bardwell Ferry Bridge, you enter a stretch of white water about 500 feet long that culminates in a Class II rapid. Keep to river right for the best waves as you approach and go under the bridge.
The stretch between the No. 2 station and the Bardwell Ferry Bridge is very remote and infrequently used. Below Bardwell, the character of the river changes. It becomes flatter and more frequently used. On warm summer days, Bardwell is used as a put-in for folks tubing the river down to Stillwater. There is parking for approximately a dozen cars along the road at the Bardwell Ferry Bridge.
About 1.5 miles below the Bardwell Ferry Bridge the South River joins the Deerfield on river right. The stretch between Bardwell and the South River confluence is a mix of flat water, swift water, and class I. There is an interesting stone railroad bridge visible up the bed of the south river on river right, located in the South River State Forest. Below the confluence, the river is again a mix of flat water, swift water, and Class I. About ½ a mile past the South River there is a USGS gauge station on river right.
A mile below the confluence with the South River and 2.5 miles below the Bardwell Ferry Bridge is the last significant rapid on this reach of river. There is a camping island on river right with a great view of the rapid. Although the rapid is not very long (about 200 feet), it is a Class II so attention to the river (and not the campers) is a good idea when entering the rapid. After the rapid, the river turns sharply left and enters a stretch of flat water about ¾ of a mile long. The river is deep in this area and is frequented by swimmers. There are bedrock ledges on river left that people jump off. There are a few rope swings, too.
You can take out at the Stillwater Bridge or paddle another ½ mile to a takeout under the Interstate 91 overpass (river right). The stretch of water between Stillwater and I-91 is moving water becoming swifter as you approach I-91.
Call 888-356-3663 for release information from the Number 2 dam.
There are two gauges that measure flow on this stretch of the Deerfield. The first gauge is
maintained by TransCanada, the power company that owns the No. 2 station facility. This gauge is
part of the Waterline network, and provides flows below the dam in near real time. The website
which provides readings for this gage also provides a forecast for possible future water
The second gauge is located near the end of this reach of river and is maintained by the United States Geologic Survey in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. This gauge provides readings at 15 minute intervals and also records the levels and maintains a database of flow readings through time. There is generally a 45 to 60 minute lag between the recording of the flow information and when the information becomes available on the USGS web site. [waterdata.usgs.gov]
Releases from the No. 2 station seem to take about 2 to 3 hours to travel the five miles downstream to register at the USGS gauge. An accounting of data from both gauges in the summer of 2008 indicates that there is approximately a 40% difference in the flow readings (in cubic feet per second) between the gauges, with either the No. 2 station gauge reading 40% high, or the USGS gauge reading 40% low.