Potash, Massachusetts, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
Potash Brook is a tiny class V creek that dumps into the Westfield River in Blandford, MA at the junction of routes 20 and 23 (Westfield Road & Blandford Road). The takeout is at the confluence with the Westfield River, at Woronoco Road. The put-in is a mile or so up route 23, on the right just after the road crosses the creek (and just before the road crosses I-90).
This run is very rarely runnable. It requires large amounts of rain, and drains almost immediately after the rain stops. It also collects wood.
That being said, if you are lucky enough to catch it, this is one of the best runs in New England. It is steep. It has two big drops and many small drops, most of which blend together for a very challenging run.
The run starts with some class 3 ledges. Boat scouting should be sufficient as wood is the only concern.
The first significant drop is a walled in class IV double drop, which drops about 10 feet total. If you don’t like the looks of this one, hike out. From here down, the river gets steep.
After a few class IV ledges, look out for the two biggest drops (which become one drop at good flows). This is the Ice Box, and it is solid Class V.
The first is a 15’ waterfall with a very narrow entrance. There is a small pool, a ledge drop, then the second drop - a slide that drops about 30’ and has a giant ankle-breaking boulder splitting the flow about ⅔ of the way down. These drops are scary but highly recommended. There aren’t many drops like this in the northeast, especially southern New England.
After the two big ones the character switches back to small ledge drops, though the drops are much closer together, giving the drops which would individually be class IV a very solid class V feel. Eddys are few, swimming is not recommended, and wood is a serious concern. There is one small drop in there where the water enters left, then goes right behind a boulder then back left. On my first journey down Potash, I was pointed through and I got lucky. The two who scouted the drop both pitoned on a rock just under the water. One of them pinned and swam. Be careful.
Near the bottom there is a small dam with a metal walking bridge over the river. At low water, you can squeeze under the bridge and off the 8’ dam. Continue down, paddle under the road and through the last class IV run-out back to your car.
River description by Nate Warren. Please contact me if you have comments or questions.