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Trip Reports

Casselman & Bloomington - in Praise of Higher Leve...
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by John Snitzer,

           This was a delightful trip, as Cotton reported.  This group had high caliber dither skills, was tied into local expertise, and ran into good water and great weather.  We ended up with two fine days of boating.

I particularly enjoyed paddling old favorites at more generous water levels.  The Thursdays typically paddle the Casselman with the Markelton gauge in the mid two foot range, roughly 600-900 cfs and North Branch Potomac at the release level of 1000 cfs. This trip we had more water, roughly 1500 cfs/stream.

Predictably, this changed the character of the runs.  Both sections were more like long long Little Falls runs.  Rather than picking through rocks, we we were avoiding pourovers and finding chutes.  Rapids had some muscle; waves and holes had some punch.  The flat interludes between rapids were small to non-existent. Both rivers had more spirit.  A few examples: The second rapid on Potomac NB was bigger, with actual waves and interference patterns that created an odd diagonal chop.  It was fun and easy. The holes at Robin's Nest were bigger and wider with pushier eddy lines below the rocks.  The waves at Top of the World were bigger and went on longer. On the Casselman, smaller rapids combined to create stretches of continuous class 1-2 water for hundreds of yards, something we rarely see.  You could paddle your arms off or stop and regroup in an eddy.  On both streams we ran into big swirls and boils in the runout-- boogie water more characteristic of big water runs and a new puzzle to solve.

The combination of an overnight trip, with the improved hours paddled to hours driven ratio and new excitement from old streams, made this a great trip.

In the interest of increasing gross national happiness, I suggest the Thursdays increase the upper limit of the sweet spot on these two streams to include 1500 cfs.  These remain comfortable intermediate runs with moderate levels of risk.  The level of difficulty cuts both ways.  Little is tight or congested at higher levels and boulders are more padded.  But the rivers are faster and more powerful and any swim could be longer.  Still these are familiar rivers to the Thursdays and the higher volume, fluffier versions of the traditional runs are a genuine pleasure.

Tony Allred adds:  For what it's worth.  I recently (last winter) looked at both the North Branch Bloomington stretch and the Casselman for their respective AW pages.  For the Bloomington, I fixed the "runnable"/"high runnable" divide at 1,599 cfs and the "high runnable"/"above recommended" divide at 2,500 cfs.  For the Casselman, I fixed the "runnable"/"high runnable" divide at 5' (roughly 4,000 cfs) and the "high runnable"/above recommended" divide at 8 1/2' (roughly 10,000 cfs).
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