The Clarendon Gorge of The Mill River

The Stats

2.6 miles
Flow Direction:

Starting Elevation:

Ending Elevation:

Average Gradient:
92′ / mile

Rapid Type:
Constricted bedrock and boulder rapids

River Grade:  B+


The Clarendon Gorge section of the Mill River boasts two beautiful canyons separated by a scenic stretch of moving water.  The difficulty of the whitewater is moderate class IV, making the incredible gorges accessible to a wide range of paddlers.  Runnable when area water levels are on their way down and located directly off route 7, there is little excuse to miss this run.


From the takeout head upstream (east) on Gorge Road to the T with Airport Road.  Take a right onto Airport Road and follow it around the sharp left turn to the T with route 103.  Take a right and head east on 103 for ½ mile to the Long Trail parking lot on the right.


From the intersection of routes 4 and 7 in Rutland, head south on route 7 for 4.5 miles and turn left onto Gorge road.  The takeout parking lot is immediately on the right.


Online Gauge:
Otter Creek At Center Rutland, VT



Flow Range:
850 – 2250



Visual Gauge:

Inspection of the rapids below the Long Trail suspension bridge.



Flow Range:

If these rapids look runnable you are good to go.  Note the lower gorge is more constricted and contains unportageable rapids so beware if flows look high here.  Image shows a medium-low level.

The Run

Photos: S Gilbert & T Ratcliffe


As with all gorges of this nature be very wary of water levels, venturing in too early in the season (getting into the second gorge is a very risky proposition with ice on the walls) and wood.  The lower gorge should be scouted from the rim if any of these factors are in question.


Once you arrive at the lead in rapid to the portage be sure to grab an early eddy.  It would be fairly easy to run out of last-chance options here as the bedrock funnels down.

“The Clarendon Gorge” is a bit of a misnomer.  In fact the stretch of The Mill River downstream of the Long Trail crossing in Clarendon contains two distinct gorges.  Though the whitewater is modest in its total quantity, the other attributes of this run easily make up for this.  To start it is conveniently located less than 5 minutes off route 7 and within ¾ of an hour of several other fantastic Vermont runs. And while commonly gorges of the Clarendon’s splendor demand expert skills to pass, this run is accessible to those comfortable on class IV.  Lastly, the riverbed requires only a modest amount of water to become fluid and as such it is runnable when many area creeks are dropping out.  By Vermont standards, this runs frequently.


To distill it down; the Clarendon Gorge section of The Mill River offers phenomenal scenery, fun class IV whitewater, frequent flows, and is located in convenient proximity to a substantial cache of Vermont creek runs.  What more can a Green Mountain Paddler ask for?

Taylor Ratcliffe and Chris Margo head into the Clarendon Gorge of the Mill River Vermont Whitewater Kayaking
Taylor Ratcliffe and Chris Margo in the Upper Gorge

The run begins just underneath the Long Trail footbridge.  Here the wide cobble-laden Mill River funnels between bedrock walls as it drops into the upper gorge.  While you can easily put in on either side, it is more fun to bounce across the suspension bridge to put in on river left just upstream.


The first gorge contains approximately a half dozen rapids.  For the most part these are boat-scoutable by a confident group, otherwise you can see the majority of this gorge from the left bank before setting out.  If the rapids directly under the bridge don’t look like your cup of tea it is best to not put on.  

The rapids in this section are a mixture of bedrock and boulder gardens with a few fun boofs and holes to clear, especially if the water is up.  In under a half mile the fun is over and the gorge walls give way back to an open shallow river bed.  This gorge goes by quickly so be sure to take time to catch a few eddies and enjoy the scenery.

A group of kayakers in the Clarendon Gorge of the Mill River Vermont Whitewater Kayaking
A group working their way through the rapids of the first gorge.
Mike Mainer runs the Mill Drop on Clarendon Gorge of the Mill River Vermont Whitewater Kayaking
Mike Mainer heading into the bottom hole of the Mill Drop - photo Taylor Ratcliffe - Check out more of his awesome shots here.

From the end of the first gorge it is approximately 10 minutes of floating or scraping (if you are here at low flows) until you reach a bedrock horizon line with a large house on river right and a picturesque covered bridge framing the scene in the background.  This rapid is known as the Mill Drop.  The two main hazards here are the sticky hole (with an awkward approach) at the bottom and the landowners in the house overlooking the drop.  Numerous encounters have been had here with both.  Best practice is to scout and set safety from river left and ignore / avoid the attempts to engage in argument with the often belligerent homeowners. 

Once past the Mill Drop enjoy another mile of floating but keep on your toes.  When the river makes a sharp bend to the right grab an eddy on the right.  Do so early on as the bedrock rapid here tilts downhill culminating in a fairly marginal class V.


Most people are going to want to portage on river right.  While the occasional gnar-runner may eye this drop, there have been few takers, and those that have generally launch below the first half of the drop to line up the final plunge.  If you do choose to take it on be sure to set good safety.

Chris Margo launches into the lower gorge after portaging the class V+

Getting into the lower gorge, known locally as the “Devil’s Gorge” requires a careful traverse of the gorge walls and is best accomplished by passing boats and launching from a small shelf 50ft downstream of the falls.  Once you seal launch in here there is no turning back as the remainder of the run is constricted between sheer canyon walls that would be nearly impossible to escape.  

This lower canyon offers another half dozen or so rapids which are mainly constricted ledges and bedrock drops.  Careful if the water is high as you will likely encounter sticky holes.  The highlight here is a boof over a ledge into a narrow constriction where the gorge walls pinch down to less than 10 feet.  Keep your nose up and away from the walls which are somewhat undercut with current pushing towards them.

Taylor Ratcliffe clearing a hole in the lower gorge Clarendon Gorge Mill River Vermont whitewater kayaking
Taylor Ratcliffe Clears a hole in the lower gorge

Be sure to eddy out whenever possible to take in the scenery of the lower gorge, it is a truly spectacular place.  In particular keep an eye out on river left for a natural arch high up the canyon wall.  Below the constriction rapid are another couple fun fluid drops.  The river then makes a sharp turn to the left and the gorge walls give way.  Enjoy the view back upstream before rounding the bend to the takeout on river right, where a well used trail will take you back up to the parking lot.

Stepping Stones

Creek VT river guide coming soon
Not quite ready for The Clarendon Gorge? Try the Winhall a short ways to the southeast.
Creek VT river guide coming soon
If you like The Clarendon Gorge you're sure to love the Cold River.
Creek VT river guide coming soon
Looking for more challenge. The New Haven Ledges are a great stepping stone to harder runs.