Been so long, I almost forgot how to write a post up on this site. Last semester’s kicking my behind, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting out on the rivers. The last weekend in September was West Fest, a one-day fall (along with a one-day spring) release of the class III West River. Here’s the review on that river. Enjoy!
The West’s dam release is controlled by the Army Corp of Engineers. It used to be a full weekend but has been reduced to Saturday, though if you’re a local and paying attention, the rains raise the water enough sometimes to run without release. The West is a good step between the Fife and the Dryway section of the Deerfield river in western Massachusetts. The takeout is the Jamaica Park Parking Lot just north of Rte 30 and paddlers have the option to either take the shuttle to the lower put-in or drive up to the Ball Mountain Dam put-in. The shuttle is $10 for one lap and $20 for all day. I suppose if you’re getting 4 laps in, it might be worth it.
It’s a bit of a haul from Boston–about 3 hours for one day release — and at a short 2 point something miles, it’s not the best in the area. However, if nothing’s running nearby (which at this time of year may be the case), it’s worth experiencing. Also, for fall, the West worth running for the beautiful scenery (though I wonder if anything in Vermont is less than spectacular during autumn).
For the most part, the West is just a few class III wave trains with some short calm spots here and there. It is a bit continuous, which can make for a lot of fun and some long swims. There are two starts to the river: from the dam and from where the shuttle drops people off. The dam starts with the longest class III rapid, which is fun but can make for a long swim. After that, most of the rapids are read and run and catch some eddies.
The last major rapid is The Dumplings. Catch an eddy on river left. Once there, you can boat scout the major part of the rapid. A rock in river center hides a sizable hole. Paddle just left of the hole angling right to avoid another big hole and an undercut boulder on downstream on river left. Then just ride the wave train into calm water and a big eddy on river left.
The West is more of socializing river than anything else. You’ll meet up with or see lots of people from the Fife as they step it up or the Dryway. It’s also a great introduction to the beautiful Vermont autumn with a river-eye view. Last note, it’s fun to canoe, too (hint). So get out the spring release and enjoy some fun NE paddling!