Crisp Air and Warm Water – Raquette Release Weekend

By:  Ben
August 23, 2010

Summertime boating can be fickle. Sometimes you get storms and get some great naturally rising water. The rest of the time you have to rely on water that humans have stored behind dams. Fortunately, American Whitewater and other whitewater advocacy groups have managed to arrange recreational releases at many hydroelectric dams throughout the country, prompting enthusiastic kayakers to make the trek from around the region to catch a few hours of quality high water.

Nick cooking food at the Chez Subaru located at the put-in

The Raquette in the northern Adirondacks is one such dam controlled recreational river. Featuring several large Class V rapids separated by only short portions of flatwater, the Raquette is the hi-light reel of ‘Dacks boating – big drops without the swampy flatwater in between that other rivers in the area seem to always have.

Simone most of the way down a classic Raquette drop. This sure isn't VT micro-creeking!

Our first trip to the Raquette this summer was two weeks ago. Nick and I drove over Friday night, camped at the put-in, and met some of the usual suspects from our Vermont creeking crew the next morning. By 10 am the water was rising as the release started, and we put on. The water was delightfully warm and the air sunny, cool, and crisp – a rare late September day in mid August.

The action starts almost right away with the impressively large Colton Falls. Colton is a complex, large rapid with a 10 foot ledge or slide at the top followed by a tricky horseshoe-shaped ledge that requires a tricky sideways boof (a move to launch your boat out horizontally over a drop). At this point there is an eddy to catch your breath before a 60 foot slide with a big hole on the bottom. The whole thing looks pretty scary when scouting from the side.

Ben navigating the top of Colton Falls

Alan about to hit the Horseshoe Ledge

My heart was pounding as I put on, but as soon as I bounced off the first ledge, instincts took over and I got into the rhythm of the rapid. Following Nick’s lead, I hit a good boof off the horseshoe ledge and found myself in the river center eddy contemplating the slide. Our Vermont buddies had already gone and were waiting at the bottom, so Nick briefly pointed out the line, then paddled into it, airing off a flake right at the top. I gulped, then paddled after him. The flake was great and I launched off it with an enthusiastic stroke, airing into the slide. The landing was shallow, making it a bit of a hit, but it was steep enough that it didn’t hurt much, and I kept my boat straight for the run-out of the slide, negotiating the S-turn and flying across the final hole into the eddy at the bottom with a huge grin on my face. This river is fun!

Ben flying down the run-out of the Colton slide

The next few drops flew by. We stopped to get out at Tub Drop, a double waterfall with an evil looking hole in a pothole between the two drops and a very sticky (read- bad/hard to get out of) hole at the bottom of the second. The basic idea was to skirt left, with enough direction to avoid the middle hole, regroup in the fast moving water, then launch off the second falls with enough angle & momentum to get over the hole. Simple right? As we were scouting, another kayaker we didn’t know came down, but rather than running the safer, skirting-left line he launched right over the meat of the middle hole, catching a big pillow on the far side that turned him into position to launch over the bottom – a very difficult line, but oh-so-smooth looking. Some people are really good…

Subbing into the middle hole at Tub Drop

Ben about to take the plunge at Tub Drop

... and down!

After we finished swooning we got back in our boats and ran the drop. It went well, and I hit pretty much exactly the line I wanted to. Confidence was high going into the last drop, Particle Accelerator. Alan didn’t give much beta – just go center, then right, don’t hit the rock wall, don’t go left and don’t flip over – then launched into it. My head slightly spinning, I followed. There were some difficult features including a badly placed curler to negotiate in the top part of the rapid, then the gradient steepened, the water become more chaotic and I lost all sense of where I was going… A big drop ahead, boof it? And suddenly I was over the falls, in the bottom eddy, not sure exactly what had just happened. Particle Accelerator is an apt name.

Alan trying his luck at the Tub

Erik brings up the rear

We did two more laps, getting more confident and taking more pictures as we went. On the last lap Simone flipped on the curler part of the way through particle accelerator where Alan had said not to flip, and got pretty banged up, though luckily he was wearing elbow pads and not seriously hurt. It was getting late though, so we decided to call it after that and head home.

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  1. colin_extreme
    wrote on August 23rd, 2010 at 4:37 pm  

    Looks great!

    Do you guys have any surfing waves down there?

    I’m assuming spring-time only… Don’t worry, we have thick wetsuits (=

    • Ben
      wrote on August 24th, 2010 at 10:23 am  

      there are a couple waves in the upper valley (hanover area)… the best one is on the White River, formed by the remains of an old low-head dam. It gets really nice and glassy at highish water (look for about 7000+ on the White gauge), which is basically springtime only. It still is ok between 1000-2000, but not as good as higher levels.

      Sumner Falls/Hartlands is a fun spot on the Connecticut river just south of White River Junction, it has a decent play hole at levels below ~5000. Above ~12k a really nice wave called the sign wave comes in higher up (near a sign on river right). The connecticut is dam controlled, so there’s usually some play all summer long…

      you can get some more info on upper valley play spots at

    • colin_extreme
      wrote on August 24th, 2010 at 5:25 pm  

      Thanks for the info Ben!

      I’m talking about surfing on a board, by the way. Do you ever see any river surfers at these spots?

    • Ben
      wrote on August 24th, 2010 at 5:39 pm  

      Hmmm, I don’t see river surfers a whole lot, although I’ve seen them before. Not sure if that’s mainly because there aren’t a lot in the area or the spots aren’t good for river surfing…

      Check it out and let us know how it goes!

  2. Lionel Hutz
    wrote on August 24th, 2010 at 6:49 am  

    Another winner Ben. Good work.
    2-3 inches of rain in 48 hours prob. has your crew out again. Keep up the off season stoke.

  3. Chris
    wrote on August 25th, 2010 at 7:56 pm  

    Nice Pictures Ben, looks like fun…

  4. Eric
    wrote on August 29th, 2010 at 9:01 pm  

    Will you be attending the Beaver River release as well? I go to school at UVM and I bet you can hitch a ride with us…

    • Ben
      wrote on September 1st, 2010 at 11:02 am  

      I’m not, unfortunately – I’m on a 3 week road trip (for climbing & biking) in the west… I’ll definitely be around in the fall and going to Moosefest, so i’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you!

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