Posted by Jim Zamecnik on the VPC message board The Clarendon Gorge is a 2.5 mile class 3-4 run (at low water) on the Mill River in Clarendon. It's actually 2 gorges separated by a mile and a half of easy water, which is split by a fun cascade drop half way down. The average gradient for the run is 90'/mile. The put-in is at the Appalachian/Long Trail trailhead on route 103 southeast of Rutland, and the takeout is just off route 7b where the river goes under route 7. There's currently no gauge (I hope to fix that soon), but the level was low: the river above the gorge was too low to paddle. We started just upstream of the suspension footbridge on river right. The entrance to the upper gorge is through a narrow chute that has a few hidden rocks at this level. The gorge is 0.3 mile of class 3-4 pool/drop ledges with a gradient of 140'/mile. Another foot of water would definitely push it up to class 4. The scenery is great--high rock walls topped with overhanging hemlocks. When you exit the gorge there's 0.75 mile of class 1-2 water (barely passable in spots at this level) until you reach the class 4 drop at the covered bridge. You'll see the bridge below and the old mill building on the right. Scout from river left (the mill is now a private residence and the right bank is posted land). The cascade drops about 20' in 3 steps, the last being the largest. At this level you can start center or right, and finish right. More water might open up a left-side option. From here it's more class 1-2, about a mile, to the class 5 entrance to the lower gorge (known locally as "Devil's Gorge"). Take out on the right when you see the walls of the gorge closing in ahead. The portage is also class 5, climbing up and over the slippery marble ledges, then 25' down a muddy crack in the rock and the near vertical gorge wall. (Or maybe otter in if you can find a place to perch on the ledges?) The lower gorge is extremely narrow (less than 10' in places), with higher, darker walls (80-100') and slightly bigger drops than the upper gorge. The gradient here is 175'/mile. Spectacular! You'd never know you were within a few hundred yards of a 4 lane highway and not far off the end of a runway. About 0.4 mile of pool/drop ledges bring you to the end of the gorge, then it's a few hundred yards of moving flatwater to the take-out at the rocky beach on river right upstream of the route 7 bridge. Jim Zamecnik
3, with several 4's. One of which is not portageable... Also, don't miss the takeout for the Must portage... It has been run, but from what I hear it wasn't pretty. At the level I saw it, I was not tempted to run it...
Note: there are issues with scouting on this reach. In particular, much of the river-left land is posted, and the river-right landowner at the Mill Drop has expressed a wish that paddlers paddle this stream. Should you choose to run this stretch, please keep as low a profile as possible. Here's a discussion from NPMB of this issue.
Ron and Linda Evans appear to still be battling the very few boaters who run this stretch of navigable river. The property was up for sale a few years ago, but they now appear to be cashing in on the AirBnB trend. Good grief.
In short, they cannot prevent a paddler from scouting (below the high water line) or running the Mill Rapid. Just like every waterway in Vermont, the water is owned by the people of the state.
If confronted (and you will, because busy bodies), and can no longer ignore Ron, be polite, and know your rights before you put on. Bring copies of the law if needed. They don't want paddlers running the mill rapid since it's the only LEGAL way past their property (and into their private swimming hole) which Ron and Linda are all too proud of in their real estate listing. Copied below for posterity.
"While possible flooding is a downside, those in Rutland County know the mill’s location is special. It used to be a popular swimming spot, until it became too troublesome to manage and the couple decided to deny public access. The contentious issue resulted in at least one encounter with an angry local wielding a weapon, Evans says.
Because there's no public access, the new buyers will have their own private swimming spot."
Ran the lower gorge in April 2019, seal-launching off the cliffs 10' into the pool below the large waterfall. The run was class IV at 2400cfs on the AW gauge, super pushy and fast, a few big holes that were sticky, and one log jam on river right halfway down that needs to be avoided by staying left.
Side note - I had a run-in last year with the folks who live next to the Mill rapid, it was late summer and extremely low, too low to boat and we were in the literal middle of the river walking down the rocks exploring. They came out and told us they owned that section of river, and that we needed to walk around it. As we hadn't been on the shore on either side (we started the swing bridge and walked and swam down the middle of the river to the swimming hole at route 7) it didn't really seem reasonable of them, and now see I'm not the only one to have this issue there.
Sorry to hear the dispute over the Mill rapid is still going on as late as 2016 as reported below. The Evan's claim to own the river bed under the water at the drop, because the deed to that property was drafted when the property was an actual mill, not a private residence. It's probable they own land on river left as well as river right, but they do not own the water way. I find it's best to simply not acknowledge their presence if confronted. Just scout and keep moving.
Stay off the left and right banks below the high water mark, which was up as high as the first floor of their home during Hurricane Irene.
They may call the police, but they're not in the right if you're below the high water mark.
This run is rarely paddled, and mostly by those with class IV ability. I seriously doubt their concern for safety is the main motivator, especially when stringing barbed wire across the rapid was mentioned as a potential deterrent. This is about keeping locals out of "their" stretch of river.
The (new) gauge correlation seems off. I look for Otter Creek between 800 (and rising) -1200.
We had an interesting conversation with the owners of the house at the "Mill Drop" - just upstream of the covered bridge. They own the land on river right and the land on river left as well (the rocks that are best for scouting and portaging). They have seen enough people getting hurt in this rapid that they really are anxious about folks getting out to scout or set safety. Apparently they do not mind (or at-least realize it is legal) folks just paddling through.
Chandler was diplomatic enough to ask them what they would prefer paddlers who do not wish to run the rapid to do. They suggested folks take out by the boat house and walk past their house and down the stone steps on river right. It also looks like it is possible to portage through the woods on river left. Here is what I'd recommend:
Scout the drop ahead of time from the covered bridge. If the Evans are home when you are paddling, its best not linger on the rocks - portage through the woods or by their boat house, past their house, and down the set of stone steps. If you do decide to set safety or scout from the rocks, expect to be confronted.
As an aside, I am pretty sure that boaters have the right to not only boat the river, but to also portage obstacles. Federal case law seems to grant to the public a right of way between the low and high water marks for navigable rivers. In Vermont, rivers are navigable if they are boatable. And the right to portage navigable rivers has been established in federal courts. But this argument has not been tested in a Vermont court. And certainly not the right to 'set safety' which I doubt people did in the turn of the century when a lot of these cases were held.
The Evans said that a local state trooper said he would be willing to come and make someone leave their land if they asked to. So while I suspect the right to portage and scout would ultimately be upheld by the state's courts, until we as a boating community are willing to invest the time and energy into having a ruling on this, it may be best to stay off the rocks by this particular drop.
6 years ago
by Matt Muir
8 years ago
by Cameron Fearey
The Otter Creek gauge is located downstream of where Mill Creek confluences. This correlation has no prior data to work off of. The listed values are a guess based of the historical 75th percentile on the Otter. If you run this section please comment with what the level was on the gauge.
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Clarendon Gorge from Put in Bridge
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