312′ / mile
Tight boulder gardens, ledges and falls.
Joiner Brook is the sort of run you visit with an appetite for adventure, and when water is abundant. A trip down this steep creek is about more than just the whitewater. The continuous boulder gardens, tight mini-gorges, ledges and falls require exploration, teamwork, and problem solving. While it will never be a place for after work laps or a leisurely run before Sunday brunch, if you have the time, the crew and the water, it is worth the effort.
From the take out travel up the Bolton Valley Access Road for just under 3 miles. Park in the small pull off where the river crosses under the road.
From Route 2 head up Bolton Valley Access Road for ~½ mile and park fully off the side of the road. Scout ahead of time to be sure to take out above the sketchy 15 footer. This is about ¼ mile above the Bolton Potholes.
Description: J Vickers| Photos: J Vickers
Tucked away in the heart of the Green Mountains lies a steep, beautiful and involved creek. Joiner Brook drains Bolton Valley Ski area and is somewhat roadside with an easy shuttle up one of the steepest ski resort access roads in Vermont. Driving up you will certainly notice the gradient. If you’re thinking of paddling Joiner then there better be a lot of water in Vermont and you want the adventure. There are certainly better creeks nearby such as Ridley or North Branch Winooski with less effort. Joiner comes screaming downhill with a mix of boulder gardens and some sizable bedrock rapids. Some go fine, some sort of go and others do not.
The creek has been paddled from the Bolton Valley Ski Resort parking lot down to the Potholes which locals spent around five hours. I highly recommend putting in below the culvert where the road crosses the river. You can go upstream if you want by putting in somewhere around “The Ponds” as there are some mini gorges up there that require significant scouting and portages. The drops in the upper gorge are fun, involved and all have some level of added danger. At the bottom of the run be aware of the Bolton Potholes, a popular set of teacup waterfalls near the confluence of the Winooski. They have been paddled but not at the water levels that you’re looking for to paddle the rest of Joiner.
Starting at the normal put in where the road crosses the river walk below the culvert drop and slide in. Be heads up for wood and most everything can be boat scouted for a while. Boulder gardens with more defined drops are the norm for a while, keep on the lookout for pin spots. A horizon line for a dam drop comes up portage left. An exciting drop and more boogie brings you to the lip of a big horizon line with a small eddy on the right. A big slide with a hole at the bottom awaits and is one of the cleanest, most fun drops on the river. Stay with the water and be ready to scout the next one on the left. I believe this one is dubbed “Depends” and the line is through the entrance crack on the left then charges over the finale a twelve foot falls. The right channel joins the main line albeit four feet higher creating a very unique and challenging line. A Class V move for sure with some undercuts thrown in. Below are some drops that go and some that do not, you decide. Eventually you come to the top of some amazing high quality boulder gardens. It is single track, super steep and super fun! These can rival the steepest of the Big Branch rapids and will certainly keep you on your toes. Below the channels split so stay with the water and be on the lookout for wood.
The final series is quite impressive: the braided channel comes back together for a narrow left of center boof off a pointed rock then a water boof followed by another hole that can be punched. The river bends towards the road then to the left. As it meets the road be sure to take out before going around the corner and into the lead in of the sketchy falls below.
Amidst the dangerous bedrock, relentless gradient and difficult flow window Joiner has some amazing rapids. The next time the water is high and you are not sure where to go, grab the elbow pads, bring the camera and head to Joiner.