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  Fife Brook Section of the Deerfield
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-02-14 6:18 AM (EST)

-- Last Updated: Feb-02-14 7:11 AM EST --

We’re having a heat wave in the northeast this weekend with temp’s getting up into the 40’s. While most rivers are still iced in, there are a few running. One that always runs is the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield in western MA. I was the only open boater to run this section yesterday in a group with 6 yakkers.

I run Fife Brook a couple of times a year. It’s an easy class II with a class III drop at the end – Zoar Gap. We had a nice group and took our time on the way down. It took us about 3 ½ hours to do the five-mile run. We had only one swim – it wasn’t me, but I was involved.

At the top of a rapid called Pinball, I pulled into what looked like a nice long eddy, only to find a strong downstream current. I got pushed to the bottom of the eddy and pinned (still upright) against a rock. Unfortunately, Denise followed me into the eddy thinking that she could stay high, only to get caught in the same current. She pinned against my boat pushing the stern back into the current. Once my boat hit the fast moving water, it pivoted off the rock and literally ran her over. No wonder yakkers stay away from us open boaters!

By the time we got to Zoar Gap, the biggest rapid on this section of the river, I was tired. I paddled down to get some pictures, but I wimped out and walked my boat around the two big drops. I should have run it – everyone said it was fun.

Few pictures here:

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Messages in this Topic


  Way to go, Eck.
  Posted by: spiritboat on Feb-02-14 10:49 AM (EST)
Keep on keeping-on, while the rest of us are frozen off!

I liked the Deerfield, even though I had the pleasure of swimming it a couple times on my first visit there a few years back(I've since stepped up my game. A shoulder operation fixed a problem I was having back then.)

Did you take on any water while pinned? (That's what I call a bit of a "situation" during February.)
  It’s funny
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-02-14 11:06 AM (EST)
On the way out there every river I drove by was frozen solid – including the Connecticut, which is a pretty big river. I was wondering what we would find when we got there, but there wasn’t a bit of ice on the Deerfield. There were some major icicles coming down the banks though.

I was pinned at the bottom of the eddy, but I would have gotten out of it easily. “Love the rock” (lean into it) is what my fist OC1 instructor TommyC1 said. I felt terrible running Denise over, but with the rock on one side and her boat on the other, there wasn’t much I could do. Canoes are great for cleaning out eddies.

I’m only 50/50 running Zoar Gap myself, so I took a pass yesterday. I was tired, and it was cold – at least that is what I told myself.
  is that stretch of the deerfield
  Posted by: tdaniel on Feb-02-14 3:10 PM (EST)
dam fed? To find paddleable water I went looking below dams. Figuring the outflow would keep things open. Even in wv things got iced up. We found free flowing water below bluestone dam on the New River. Nice to get out but probably less excitement than the Deerfield.
  Yes - dam releases
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-02-14 4:38 PM (EST)
and the flow can change pretty dramatically from day to day. I'm sure that's part of what keeps that section ice free.
  Nice pictures
  Posted by: booztalkin on Feb-02-14 11:58 PM (EST)
One difference between open boaters and our kayak pals is what happens when water comes over the bow. Kayakers laugh, canoes get kind of tricky to paddle. Looks like there was a line a canoe could take, then there were other lines that would throw water over the bow. It's easy to understand the 50-50 on that rapid.

  That's true
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-03-14 5:18 AM (EST)
Most people think Zoar Gap gets easier with more water. The holes are bigger, but are easy to punch through, and you are less likely to hit “oh shit” rock in the middle.

You can see me hit the rock in the video below. This was at 850 cfs. On Saturday we had almost twice that flow – 1,500 cfs. Waves and holes are bigger, but the rock is buried.

There are two lines though the Gap, and you can see them both with the yakkers is this video. One is to stay right of center and run straight through. That’s the line I usually take – you’re fine as long as you don’t get pushed to the center and hit the rock (or as you say, fill up with water from the waves). The second is to eddy out on the left and run the shoot next the rock downstream.

In real high water a third sneak route will develop on the far right. I debated trying that on Saturday, but it wasn’t quite high enough.
  OS! Rock in the middle?
  Posted by: TommyC1 on Feb-04-14 10:22 AM (EST)
Last I saw OS! Rock (pre Sandy)it was on the left bank at the bottom of the chute. The trick then was staying far enough left to avoid the holes in the center without getting slammed into OS! Rock.
Might be the rock behind Mike?
  OS rocks
  Posted by: Celia on Feb-04-14 10:41 AM (EST)
The OS rock on the left is a factor at all water levels. My one pass thru the Gap involved going by that one backwards - had to roll up near the top and didn't see having the time to turn around without ending up being pounded under that second drop.

But the Deerfield including the Gap got altered by Irene. The path on the right thru the Gap had been pretty much an all-water alternative, after Irene it was less available. I know people who preferred that one, especially the open boaters.

I wouldn't be surprised if something in the middle changed as well. As I recall there was a rock about in the middle of the second drop, but pre-Irene there was enough water over it that it was not much of a concern.
  Wrong rock?
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-05-14 6:37 AM (EST)
The rock that usually gets me is in the middle just after first drop. If you try to hug the right side you tend to get pushed out into the middle and hit that rock. If oh shit rock is on the bottom left, I've hit that too, but less often. Maybe I'm already swimming by then.

What use to be the sneak route on the far right is now gone except at high levels. I almost could have run it last weekend. It got filled with rocks as they rebuilt the washouts after Irene.
  Oh yeah - that one...
  Posted by: Celia on Feb-05-14 8:48 AM (EST)
I thought you meant the geography closer into the drop, which if I recall correctly is a bit more irregular when the water is gone than it looks like under a good flow. That memory may be incorrect.

I didn't end up close enough to the one you mean - I think. I did capsize one more time for good measure between the Gap and the takeout, but it was in a really dumb spot where I was too busy gabbing to realize I was headed into a small rock group. Not a place where anyone paying minimal attention would have been caught.
  Do that all the time
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-06-14 5:20 AM (EST)
Swim is stupid places that is...

In my case I'm usually taking pictures. Didn't happen on this trip though.


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