Deerfield - 4) Fife Brook Section


Deerfield, Massachusetts, US

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4) Fife Brook Section (Bear Swamp to Zoar Gap)

Usual Difficulty II(III) (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 25 fpm

Zoar Gap


Zoar Gap
Photo by Shawn Sullivan @ ~1100 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
DEERFIELD RIVER AT CHARLEMONT, MA
usgs-01168500 700 - 5000 cfs II(III) 00h57m 476 cfs (too low)


River Description

The Fife Brook section of the Deerfield River is a popular Class II run in Northwestern Massachussetts. The Fife Brook section ends with the Class III "Zoar Gap" rapid, that can be easily walked on river right. 

Fife Brook is one of the best sections of learning river in the Northeast, if not beyond. It's generally shallow, with a mix of rapids, and good recovery pools or stretches. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: the gauge is far, far below this section. Two major tributaries, the Chickley and the Cold flow in below the gauge and the Gap. Therefore the gauge doesn't offer much to know if it's flowing, but offers Waterline offers a release schedule and an estimated flow, which is helpful especially during spring runoff when there is water flowing over the dam or they're releasing cause it's too high.

Look here for data: Deerfield Riv at Fife Brook Dam Florida MA. The following ranges are from waterline - NOT FROM THE USGS GAUGE. 700-1000 cfs is normal. 1000-1500 the river gets a bit bigger, but not much harder.

Above 2000 cfs, significant sections of rapids wash out, and new holes develop. Rapids are not significantly more challenging (i.e. still class II) until Zoar Gap. The Gap becomes a whole different beast, and above 2500cfs is very solid class IV big water - watch out for some nasty holes in Baby Gap that are backed up by huge eddies.

 


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-23 15:53:35

Editors

Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put inPutin Photo
0.1Hangover HelperIIPhoto
1.0Carbis BendIIPhoto
1.5Freight TrainIIPhoto
2.3PinballII
4.0Island RapidII
4.8Zoar GapIIIPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Put in

Fife Brook dam

Fife Brook dam
Photo by Mark L taken 07/27/03 @ 1000 cfs

You can put in near the dam at the end of the road were there is a stairway leading down to the river, or skip the warm up and put in at the vehicle turnaround .1 miles downstream.

Hangover Helper (Class II, Mile 0.1)

Hangover Helper

Hangover Helper
Photo by Mark L taken 07/27/03 @ 1000 cfs

Easy straightforward rapid. There is a large pool at the bottom to recover equipment.

Carbis Bend (Class II, Mile 1.0)

Carbis Bend

Carbis Bend
Photo by Mark Lacroix taken 07/29/06 @ 700 cfs

Good surfing at the bottom of the drop. Large eddy and rock beach downstream on river left.

Freight Train (Class II, Mile 1.5)

Surfing at Freight Train

Surfing at Freight Train
Photo of Heidi by Mark Lacroix taken 07/29/06 @ 700 cfs

Nice surfing waves, good squirt lines at the bottom under the railroad bridge.

Pinball (Class II, Mile 2.3)
Also known as Rock Garden. Medium size boulders in this long rapid are great for eddy practice.

Island Rapid (Class II, Mile 4.0)

After a period of calm water with cliffs on river right, the river splits around an island. River right is shallow and not recommended, but paddleable. River left of the island is good fun, fast class II-, and then builds in intensity finishing with a few pourover and larger waves as it rejoins the river right flow. Big eddies on either side provide recovery and allow for ferry practice or play. 



Zoar Gap (Class III, Mile 4.8)

Zoar Gap

Zoar Gap
Photo of Sharon Lacroix by Mark L taken 07/27/03 @ 1000 cfs

Below Island Rapid, there is fast moving shallow water until a sign marks "Portage, Danger Ahead" or something to that effect on river right. Stop here and scout or walk. To scout, walk along the road (beware of poision ivy growing into the road) until it becomes obvious you're at the gap. The gap is by far the most constricted passage on this section of the Deerfield. There is an upper "drop", with an easy tongue on river right, and a pourover river left. Ride the tongue down and either punch the two holes below, where the vast majority of the water flows, or cut hard right above the first hole to avoid them. There used to exist a far right sneak route, but Hurricane Irene took that out of the equation and now there are shallow rocks in its place. 
More advanced paddlers can catch the eddy below the pourover and then work river left, catching a boiling micro eddy just above the first hole. 
Below the Gap is the "Baby Gap" which is rock-dodging class II and is great for practing eddy catching, ferrying or attaining. 




User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 3 2004 (5220 days ago)
BradRDetails
Fife brook is just about a perfect beginner stream. A nice splashy class 2 rapid at the top. Then
pool drop class two until you get to the zoar gap rapid, a nice solid textbook class three. From
the road the run looks like its nothing but flatwater, but I was pleastantly surprised. The current
moves fast and there is quite a bit of class 2 play the whole way down. Once again, great for a
beginner to practice ferry's, surfing and peel outs. With the big rapid in sight of the takeout,
makes for a great way to cap off the run!!
The water is pretty chilly as a result of the damn release. We were wearing long sleave tops in
August.


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Associated Projects

  • Deerfield River (MA)
    The Deerfield was one of American Whitewater's first FERC relicensing victory's and remains one of the most impressive and valuable to the paddling community.