Branch River Trip Report
It was a typical spring morning - cold and wet. Still, we were determined
to paddle. I think Chuck said it best when he posted on the whitewater
message board that "it would take much, much more than a little bit of rain
to keep me off the river". Well, he got his wish. The rain turned into
freezing rain, then to snow and then back to rain. Like I said, it was a
typical spring morning.
Driving by the Dunkin Donuts in Slatersville I saw two whitewater kayaks on
the roof of a car that I didn't recognize - a good sign. I learned later
that it was Joe S. and Ken. When I arrived at the put-in at the Harrisville
Dam, Chuck was already there. Brian and Sandy arrived a few minutes later,
followed by Joe, Ken, Peter, Chris and Mike.
As we were standing around getting acquainted and reacquainted we saw a
kayaker paddling on the Harrisville Pond above the dam. It was Paul who had
spent the fall clearing the Nipmuc River. He warmed up by paddling the
Nipmuc from Brooke Road down to the dam. We helped him get his kayak down
to the put-in.
The put-in for this trip is below the Harrisville Dam on the Clear River.
The Branch is formed when the Clear River merges with the Chepachet River
about three miles down stream. The trip is about seven miles - mostly
flatwater with some quickwater and three short class two drops. Its what
passes for a whitewater run in Rhode Island.
For many years, this was the site of the RI Whitewater Championships run by
RICKA. While the race is gone, we still try to run the Branch on the
traditional third weekend in March. We ended up with nine boats - three
canoes and six kayaks. Chuck and Mike were poling. I was paddling my solo
whitewater canoe. The kayaks - well - they all look the same to me.
We quickly ran the shuttle (thanks Sandy) and were on the river by 11:00.
The first real rapid is the Whipple Drop about a half-mile downstream. It's
a broken dam with a three-foot drop and lots of rocks. At high water
levels, it washes out. In low water, its easy to bounce off a rock and take
a swim - and that's exactly what happened to Chuck. He looked fine as he
entered the drop, but hit a rock and rolled left. In the blink of an eye, he
was out of the boat and in the river. He quickly got his boat and gear to a
Chuck caught more than a little bit of flack for that maneuver - especially
from Joe. "Hey poleboy, what's next?" Don't worry though, the river gods
have a way of getting even.
A littler further downstream is the Glendale Rapid. In high water, large
waves are the major feature of this rapid, but this run continued to be
about bouncing off rocks. Joe and Brian made a tight turn into an eddy on
river-right half way down the rapid - nice move. The rest of us took the
easier route and eddied out behind some rocks on river-left further
Below the Glendale Rapid is a nice section of quickwater with some small
surf waves. We queued up at one of the larger waves to catch a ride. This
particular wave had an overhanging tree branch about half way into the
river. In hindsight, this was not a good wave to try to surf. Joe headed
out onto the wave and got swept into the overhanging branches - over he goes
in the shallow rocky water. I saw him set up for his roll. On his first
attempt he rolls up into the overhanging branches. Back down he goes. He
didn't try again. Joe was in the water, but he easily got his boat and gear
to a nearby eddy.
The river gods had their revenge. Now it was Joe's turn to take a little
flack. Chuck's response - "in that case, payback was a birch".
The last rapid is at the Atlas Pallet mill. There is a large boulder at the
bottom, and in high water, the current pushes everything toward this rock.
No problem - everyone made it through and enjoyed the easy surf waves at the
It was a nice day with a great group - hopefully the first of many this