The following description is generously provided by Mike Feldman:
The West Branch Gorge section flows West to East, bisecting the Silver lake Wilderness Area. It joins the Main Sacandaga at the State Campground south of the Village of Wells. There is no gauge on the West Branch and all flows are approximations. The gauge is on the Main Sacandaga at Hope just downstream from the confluence. Hydroelectric releases from Lake Abanakee in Wells add about 200 cfs. If water is high floodgates are opened and this will add to the gauge reading.
This is a wilderness run through a remote gorge. There are no marked or maintained trails along this reach. Scouting is difficult and at high flows may not be possible. The terrain along the shore is scree covered with moss and debris. A map and compass are recommended if hiking into the river put-in. Once on the river the only way out is to paddle or hike out along the river. Trip length is about 6 miles.
The take out for this section is at "Whitehouse." Traveling north on NYS RT 30 enter the village of Wells. Take the first left and cross the Sacandaga River, Lake Abanakee will be on the right after you cross. Check the flow out of the dam to help determine the flow in the West Branch. Continue about 3/4 mile to West River Road (left turn) and follow to the trailhead for the Northville-Lake Placid trail (approximately 8 miles). There is ample parking close to the river.
Note: As of 4/30/06 the road was closed about 1 mile before Whitehouse and appears as though it won't be reopened in the future. Therefore, plan on either paddling down to Jimmy Creek or marking the take out in advance and hiking up the hill to where the road is closed.
3 choices of put-in (all directions relative to the intersection of NYS RT's 8 & 10, 12.5 miles West of Speculator):
1.Put in at Piseco Lake outlet, 1 mile South of NYS RT 8 on RT 10. Park on the left, there is considerable flat water and class II until the confluence with the West Branch of the Sac (add 4.5 miles to the trip).
2.Put in at Shaker Place (now posted and gated); park on the widened shoulder closest to the river. Shaker place is 5.4 miles south of RT 8 on RT 10. There is considerable flat water and classII until the confluence (add 4 miles to the trip).
3.The best choice (IMO) is to hike in approximately 3/4 of a mile on a fisherman's trail found across from a parking area on RT 10, 3.5 miles south from RT8. The parking area is on the right, heading south; the trail is faint and found across the road. In the late fall this trail can be hard to follow, it is shown on the topo map.
The first rapid, class III(IV), can be scouted on the left or right shore. There are two sections: start center and run right down a low angle slide, punch the hole (sticky at certain levels) and eddy on the right. Ferry to river left and set up to run a 3-foot horseshoe shaped ledge.
There are some class II rapids before the next drop.
The next drop is a 15-foot falls with a tricky lead in and a bad hole at the bottom. There are two offset holes immediately above the drop. This does not provide an optimum angle of approach. The falls drops into what resembles a massive pothole with the downstream edge blown out. The river right side has a strong backwash with a recirculating eddy. There is a slight break on the left side that flows into a slightly undercut rock wall.
The first time I saw this drop it appeared to be a 45-degree slide with a massive recirculating hydraulic at the bottom. The gauge reading in Hope was 7,000 cfs.
Scout from river left.
You are now in the Gorge. The river widens about five times the width of the falls and then constricts at the next drop forming a large bowl. 100 feet separate the two drops and you can see the next horizon line. This large bowl creates some interesting effects at higher flows. At low to optimum levels you can paddle up close and get out and scout from either side. The falls are 8 to 10 feet high and multiple lines exist due to the broken nature of the ledge. At high flows be careful. The water backs up and the drop gains vertical and the hole that forms become very uniform and river wide, much like a lowhead dam. The boil line extends all the way to where the river again narrows up and the next section starts, about 30 feet.
At optimum flows this next 1/2-mile section is continuous class IV (subjective, the river is dropping at 200 ft/mile in this Â½-mile stretch) paddling. There are two spots where you need to get out and scout from shore. This will also depend on the individualÂs comfort level with boat scouting; you may need to get out more often. About 2/3 into this section the river bends to the right. Get out in the large (relatively speaking) eddy on the right. Look way downstream. There is a horizon line. It is a class-V drop that leads almost immediately into a Class VI. There is no real safety net once you enter the river again. The exception being bouncing/scraping down the far river left side, to the small eddy on river left directly above the class-V drop. But if you are bouncing/scraping down the left you probably don't belong here anyway. Do not miss this eddy. Get out on the left and scout. Most of the flow runs to the right of a small house sized outcropping of ledge extending from the left shore into a 6-foot-wide slot. The river right shore is sheer rock ledge. The water deflects off this wall and folds into the main current. There is an awkward approach that does not give the boater the best angle. Not that it matters, this drop alone most boaters would run if not for the class VI drop just around the corner. However, if you are swimming that may not be your biggest worry. Just upstream from the class VI drop the river left shore is a jumble of truck-sized boulders that have many hidden sieves. Of course this is where the flow will take you as the river bends slightly to the right before it plunges over a small ledge guarded by two pinning rocks. The short approach leads to a waterfall just over 20 feet in height and marks the exit from the gorge. The water at the base of the falls is shallow and the runout a maze of boulders, flakes of rock and strainers.
Scouting this drop with water in the river does not reveal the many sieves and undercuts formed by the boulder pile at the base and immediately downstream.
The carry is on river left and is very difficult. Put-in and continue the class-III and flatwater paddle to Whitehouse.
The shuttle is long (80 miles roundtrip) and is best done with a designated shuttle driver. Gary Flanagan in the village of Wells and owner of Three River Sports may be able to help with the shuttle for a nominal fee. You should contact him the day before to arrange a meeting time, as he will request to be back at his shop by 10 AM to open. Leave a vehicle at Whitehouse and set the shuttle to Wells. If the time is not convenient, then expect to spend about 3 hours running your own shuttle.
The season is limited by West River Road, which is not maintained during the winter. Even once the road is passable, the gorge will hold ice substantially longer than other rivers in the area. Late spring runs during the height of black fly season will provide the unsuspecting boater with an opportunity for some subtherapeutic bloodletting--come prepared! Best run after a heavy rain in the fall.
If all this class-V epic is a bit much for your group, consider the class-II-III Whitehouse to Sac Campsite reach.
South-Eastern Adirondack Area Reaches
Batten Kill Beecher Creek County Line Brook
Dunning Creek East Stony Creek Elbow Creek
Georgia Brook Glen Creek Holmes Lake Outlet
Hudson (3. Riparius to the Glen) Hudson (4.) Hudson (5.)
Hudson (6.) Jimmy Creek Mill Creek (Hudson trib.)
North Creek Pike Brook Piseco Outlet
Roaring Branch Sacandaga (1.) Sacandaga (2.)
Sacandaga, E. Branch (1.) Sacandaga, E. Branch (2.) Sacandaga, E. Branch (3.)
Sacandaga, Middle Branch Sacandaga, W. Branch (Upper) Sacandaga, W. Branch (Lower)
Sand Creek Schroon (Starbuckville to Riverbank) Schroon (Warrensburg to Thurman Station)
Stony Creek (1.) Stony Creek (2.) Tenant Creek
Google Map of New York Whitewater
New York Whitewater Paddlers Facebook Group
Mike Feldman says:
Lowest flow I have paddled: 700 cfs (way low and not recommended)
Highest flow I have paddled: 7,000 cfs (way high, epic proportions)
My favorite level is 1200 - 2200 cfs
(approximate flows; see description below for more info.)
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Drop above end of gorge portage
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