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Western Massachusetts

Deerfield River, Fife Brook Section

5 miles of class 1-3

This section of the Deerfield River is a great beginner run. Starting with easy class 1 rapids and building gradually up to a culmination at the class 3 Zoar Gap, the Fife Brook section gives beginners a chance to hone their skills and work up to harder whitewater. Be sure you can identify the Gap from upstream, as many paddlers have floated into it unintentionally. The Fife Brook section has releases all summer long, providing a warm learning environment.

Most paddlers take out at the Gap, but another three miles of class 1-2 whitewater continue to the Route 2 bridge past one of the best squirt boating spots in the northeast. To reach the takeout at Zoar Gap, take Route 2 west to Charlemont, Massachusetts (and Zoar Outdoor). About two miles past Charlemont turn right onto Zoar Road (just before the Route 2 bridge over the Deerfield). The first bridge over the Deerfield on Zoar Road is the takeout just downstream from Zoar Gap, with ample parking available. To reach the put-in continue upstream on Zoar Road which becomes River Road. About one mile after a railroad crossing, a dirt access road on the right leads to the dam. Turn here, park, and put in. There is limited space here so be sure you can turn around. Release information is available on the American Whitewater website.

Deerfield River, Dryway Section

3 miles of class 3-3+

This section of the Deerfield is a great intermediate run, especially as a stepping stone to easier creek boating. Many good class 3 rapids compose this section of river. Several have excellent eddies and boof-rocks for practicing technical skills, and others hold decent downriver freestyle features allowing squirts, wavewheels, cartwheels, rock 360s, splats and the like. These features and reliable summer releases make for a wonderful watery playground environment. Such an amazing summertime playground, however, draws the weekend warrior crowds from Boston and New York in droves. Usually the greatest danger in running the dryway is from other kayakers and commercial rafts. The toughest rapids are the last two: DragonÕs Tooth and Labyrinth. Scout DragonÕs Tooth on the left after some big rocks in a short flat section. If the rest of the run was just barely within your comfort level, consider walking. Below the Tooth are a couple good surf and cartwheel spots, then the Labyrinth, which has some sticky holes.

To reach the takeout follow the directions to the put-in in the Fife Brook section, but instead of stopping at the dirt access road, continue upstream about three miles to the Dunbar Brook picnic area. Turn right here, and quickly turn right again to drive down the paved access road to the takeout. There is a small parking area here for unloading only. Park your vehicle back up the hill at the picnic area. To reach the put-in, get back out onto River Road and continue upstream for about two miles to the town of Monroe Bridge. Take your first right, and then first left. This should bring you to and over the put in bridge at the dam. Unload here, but to park continue a short distance up the road and around the corner to a small field on the right at an intersection. Release dates are posted on the American Whitewater website.

High Water Options Near the Deerfield Runs: If youÕre at the Deerfield and everything is running very high check out the Cold River (class 3-4) which follows Route 2 west of the Deerfield River bridge, Dunbar Brook (class 5) which flows into the dryway section on river right just upstream of the dryway takeout, or Pelham Brook (class 5) which flows into the Deerfield on river left two miles upstream of the Route 2 bridge.

Connecticut River, Wave-o-Saurus

park and play of class 3

On the Connecticut River near Holyoke, Massachusetts there is a section of ledges, near Dinosaur Footprints Reservation, that form fantastic waves at very high levels. When the spot is running, paddlers come from all over the northeast to take advantage of the play. The surfing etiquette for the spot allows for long surfs (a few minutes as opposed to the normal forty-five seconds at other spots), as a walk back upstream is required to reach the access eddy after each surf.

Look for the Connecticut River at Montague Gage to be at least at 35,000 cfs for a good playspot. The waves start to get insanely good above 50,000 cfs and only get better the higher it goes.

To reach the wave, take exit 17 from I-91 in Holyoke and turn left (east) onto Route 141 off the ramp. Drive a short bit and turn left (north) onto Route 5 and drive for two miles to the Footprints Reservation parking pullout. This spot stays up for many days at a time in the early spring.

Other Western Massachusetts Options

For more information on this region see Bruce Lessels’ Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide or the American Whitewater website. For water level information see the USGS website.

Last Updated: 10/21/12