Otter Creek (Gorge)
|Difficulty:||Class II to III|
|Flows:||300 to 4,000+ cfs. USGS Otter Creek at Middlebury gauge|
|Gradient:||29 fpm average (from mile 0 to 0.8)|
|Put-in:||Belden Falls Rd, below Belden Dam|
|Take-out:||Pearson Rd at Huntington Falls|
|Shuttle:||4.6 miles, (10 minutes one-way)|
|Season:||More or less year-round.|
North East Road Trip 2021: Day 10 Afternoon
This little training run is interesting... it is just class II to II+... but one of the rapids is between tight canyon walls and the boils would be a challenge for new paddlers. And yet, this is a common first whitewater run. I imagine that that must be at low water when the boils are less severe.
All the of the write-ups say to put in at Beldens Dam. Which is what we did. This results in 2.5 rapids in the almost 2 mile run including the 0.75 mile lake paddle out. Not great stats. You can double the length of the run by putting in below Otter Creek Falls, though I do not believe it adds all that many rapids. Though apparently the left channel at Beldens Dam has a few class V rapids. We could see the very exit but did not walk up to scout the rest. Maybe it would have been worth it, maybe it would have just been a lot of work. I am not sure. We had a sleeping baby, had already run Middlebury Gorge and ran Otter Creek Falls, and were planning to get Diane's mom on the Gorge after we first checked it out... so time was of the essence on our day.
Personally, for me, I did not find this run overly worthwhile. While the first rapid in the tight gorge was cool and certainly pretty. The fact there was only two rapids, and a lake paddle out just was too much for me. If would also be different if the shuttle was as short as the run, but it isn't. It takes at least 10 minutes to run shuttle. So, yea. While I can usually find the appreciation even in mellow runs. This one I just don't get. Not my cup of tea.
- Belden Falls (V). Apparently, some of the dam is runnable, in the far left chute. We didn't know and didn't scout it.
- Boogie (II-). Below put-in you enter an easy boogie rapid. Get warmed up here as the real test is just downstream.
- Gorge (III). At our relatively lower flow the gorge was full of boils and pushy. I can imagine with 2k cfs running through it you wouldn't want to be a beginner in here. The name of the game is keep paddling. There were no features, just paddle straight down the middle and keep your speed up so that the boils and cushions mess with you less and don't grab an edge. Below it opens up into a big pond to collect the pieces.
- Boogie (II). As the river bends right out of the pond it enters a nice mellow rapid that pinches together at the end but much less severe than the gorge and without the seams and boils.
- New Haven Confluence. New Haven enters on the right. This offers an alternate run if the Otter is too high for the Gorge rapid to be run safely for your group. There are a few class III drops on it apparently.
Lake: The paddle out turns to a lake not far downstream.
Take-out: From US-7 in Middlebury, take Seymore St North. After 0.2 miles turn left to stay on Seymore. In 0.7 miles you will cross the river. Turn right immediately after on Morgan Horse Farm Rd. Follow this for 3.3 miles. As you cross the river it changes names to Pearson Rd, just after you cross the river there is a river access location on your right.
Put-in: Continue away from the river on Pearson Rd. After 0.8 miles turn right onto Campground Rd. Take this 1.1 miles out to US-7. Turn south (right). Follow for 2.2 miles before turning right on the dirt, Beldon Rd or Belden Falls Rd. I see both names. Cross under the railroad tracks and then go right at the fork towards the river access.
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