Mill River - 2) Clarendon Gorge

Mill River, Vermont, US


2) Clarendon Gorge (Rt. 103-Rt. 7b)

Usual Difficulty II-IV (for normal flows)
Length 2.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 90 fpm
Max Gradient 140 fpm

Clarendon Gorge

Clarendon Gorge
Photo of Cheryl Robinson by Simon Wiles taken 11/03/05

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-04282000 1701 - 2750 cfs II-IV 36d22h12m 623 cfs (too low)

River Description

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--Â…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


Simon Wiles shared:
What a great run. Did if for the first time 13 Nov 05. It is mostly class

3, with several 4's. One of which is not portageable... Also, don't miss the takeout for the Must
... 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.













StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-01 12:56:42

Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 7 2018 (71 days ago)
Bob MalinowskiDetails
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.
June 28 2018 (203 days ago)
NDP123 (156514)
The (new) gauge correlation seems off. I look for Otter Creek between 800 (and rising) -1200. N
May 15 2016 (977 days ago)
NDP123 (156514)
Hi folks, 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.
November 4 2012 (2265 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
Bob Malinowski shared: A new landslide has dumped a couple of car-sized boulders and a large tree
at the entrance to the second major drop in the top gorge. It is easily spotted as you approach,
and there is some quiet water before you get to it. The tree is passable (or portageable) on
extreme river left. The tree is large and will take some work to remove. We'll make an attempt to
trim the end off next spring.
October 30 2010 (3001 days ago)
Cameron FeareyDetails
The folks at the end of the the upper section right before the bridge gave us a lot of trouble at
the top of the falls (joe's) . To our great annoyance we walked around it to appease them. They
said that this section was private property. While walking around the rapid I noticed Posted signs.
I am not sure how they own part of the river (is that possible?). I suggest not scouting for more
than 30 seconds. Just run it before they come outside.