Steep Creeking Clinic

Steep Creeking Clinic

by Ben Natusch

Over the past several years, creeking has become one of my favorite styles of paddling.  Teaching Creeking Clinics at Zoar Outdoor, allow me to introduce experienced paddlers to some of the best local creeks.  There are many great creeks in western MA and southern VT and it is important to know the levels.  For the creek clinic we look at the abilities of the people in the clinic and the river levels for the day.  For this clinic we decided that our best choice was the Swift River.  The Swift is a fun creek that offers lots of good boofs, micro eddies, and some fun slides.  This was the perfect destination for our clinic.

We started with a quick warm up on the North Branch of the Westfield.  This is a great way for everyone to get warmed up, shake off the rust and possibly get the feel for a new boat.  It was a great warm up and everyone was looking good and ready for the creek.

Like many great creek runs, the put in is on a small side stream.  The put in for the Swift is on Stoney Brook, a small and shallow creek with some small strainers.  While shallow and small, Stoney Brook is a fun warm up for the Swift.  The swift starts off small and quickly builds.  The rapids are fun and exciting.  Many have blind approaches so communication and signals are very important.  We all got to run some really fun rapids with some really great boofs.  Everyone had some really good lines.  About halfway through the run, there is class V drop that looked pretty gnarly at this water level.  Everyone walked it, but the portage is equally gnarly.  Since we were dealing with steep snow covered banks, getting all of the boats through the portage took some teamwork and a little effort.  Boats were passed person to person down the steep banks.  It took some time but everyone made it around the drop.  At the end of the portage there is a fun double drop that some people decided to run. 

Below this there are several more fun rapids that provide many great opportunities to fine tune creek boating skills.  This clinic focuses on many skills besides boofing and fine tuning many of the strokes required to effectively paddle creeks.  We focus on group management on challenging low volume runs, scouting rapids, safety considerations, reading rapids on the fly, communication on creeking and more.  This is a really fun clinic and is one of my favorites to teach.  I really hope to see these students out on the creeks this year practicing the skills they learned in the clinic and continuing to improve.

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