Clay Murphy stands overlooking the path down the dam on the West River Vermont whitewater kayaking

Spring Recap 2022

Are whitewater kayakers in Vermont being subjected to some test of faith?  Perhaps we are being punished for our hedonistic pursuit of recreation.  Or perhaps it’s just an unfortunate and poorly timed climate cycle, a coincidence if you will.

Regardless of the reason, those looking to boat in Vermont have endured yet another sad spring.  As such this post will be a brief one, as there is little from the first half of 2022 worth reflecting upon.

Clay Murphy kayaking the lower Mad River Vermont whitewater kayaking
Clay Murphy running the final rapid on the Mad River - one of the few reliable sources of water this spring.


Mustering motivation to paddle ice-laden rivers at high water in freezing rain can be a challenge.   In early season “the stoke” is often low, and plausible excuses are often easy to find – drysuit repairs, the skiing is still prime, a shoveling injury still lingering.  But hide away too long and the season might just pass you by.  Vermont boaters who patiently waited for the comparably “warm” days of April boating discovered just this.  But for an intrepid few, March and early April provided some quality kayaking.  As a result, boating was concentrated on the classics.  New Haven, Gihon, NBL and the Mad were common meeting grounds, with relatively few excursions to the rarer run micros.  That being said, a fairly recent boom of boaters in the route 15 corridor meant that the Waterman/Kenfield/Sterling runs saw plenty of traffic when the opportunities presented.  Reports were that all runs were boating well through the spring.

Clay Murphy in the first rapid on the West River dam release 2022 Vermont whitewater kayaking
Clay Murphy sets out down the West River during its Spring Release weekend.


After late April rolled past, and the weather allowed for shelving of drysuits, getting on the water required traveling to dam releases in neighboring states.  Aside from one brief May storm, summer would provide virtually no respite.  In fact through early fall there were essentially no paddling opportunities on even the most reliable runs.  Things were so bad, even the sure-bet of Otter Creek fell below recommended levels.  The falls in downtown Middlebury, of which it is almost unheard of to be too low to fall off of, were, well exactly that…

Otter Creek Falls in downtown Middlebury with very little water going over. Vermont whitewater kayaking
Otter Creek Falls in downtown Middlebury was the lowest seen in a long time. A common topic of conversation among locals amid the summer 2022 drought.


Releases in Vermont are really limited to three potential locations; the West, the Green and the  Missisquoi.  The Green saw no releases this spring with continuing difficulties regarding the licensing process with Morrisville Water and Light and the very existence of the operating future of the dam in question.  The Missisquoi, which is heavily depending on water levels, is typically utilized as a late season option, being relied upon when most area rivers are dropping out.  Due to the nature of the season, levels infrequently lined up properly for boaters to take advantage of this resource as much is typical.  The West however had a classic spring release on a gorgeous weekend with abundant spring sunshine and saw a good turnout (at least anecdotally from the experience of this author).


For the 3rd year in a row the New Haven Race was canceled due to planning difficulties related to covid.  Unfortunately it seems the future of this race may be up in the air at the moment with momentum having been lost over the past several years.  While the The Wells River Rumble did not occur, the Ledyard Canoe fest was back for the first time since 2019, featuring the Mascoma Slalom.  In the Central Greens a new race had its inaugural weekend go off with great success.  The Peavine Race on the White River is a ~5 miles stretch of class II & III.  Dozens of paddlers from all over showed up in an equally diverse amount of crafts.  The mass start provided lots of entertainment as a log jam of boats jostled for position over the first mile or so, before thinning out and allowing boaters to settle in and make ground by careful line choices and sheer determination / endurance. Smiles all around, plenty of friendly on-river trash talk and beautiful weather and water made for a fantastic event.  All are looking forward to the 2023 race on this fun stretch of river.  Word to the wise – the three competitors that showed up in sea kayaks took 1-2-3 –  coincidence?  I doubt.

So while the 2022 Spring may have been less than ideal from a conditions stand-point, like they always do, the intrepid and enthusiastic boaters of VT found a way to enjoy the rivers with the opportunities that were provided.

-Creek VT