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Trip Reports

Thursday Paddle - South Branch Patapsco - 9/27/18
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A Thursday Paddlers contingent on Sept. 28 managed to catch the somewhat elusive South Branch of the Patapsco near Sykesville, MD (a.k.a. Gaither Gorge) at an ideal level. We were three kayaks (John Snitzer, Mark Brenneman, Jenny Thomas) and three solo open boats (Kim Buttleman, Dave Cooke, Larry Lempert). Our target as of the night before had been the main stem of the Patapsco through Ellicott City, expecting a beefier level (say, 800-900 cfs) than the usual run. What we saw on the Patapsco's Hollofield gauge that morning, though, was almost double the expected beefier run, and that was too much beef! So we redirected.

There's no gauge on the South Branch. Using correlations in the Steve Ettinger book and on the CCA StreamFinder, we laid our bet that we'd have a good level. Turned out to be a good bet, and quite a treat for several of us who had bumped down it on earlier runs. Here are the correlation minimums, put-in levels, and takeout levels:
Cedarhurst - 150, 232, 223
Beaver Run - 40, 47.9, 46.7
Patuxent at Unity - 90, 132, 125
Morgan Run - 80, 139, 137

From an easy put-in where Gaither Rd. crosses the river, the South Branch is a small, ledgy, twisty stream with, by Steve's count, 8 class II to III- rapids, good eddies, a few very nice play spots, and on our run, no strainers. Steve's stretch is only 2.2 miles, but as groups often do, we did about 3 more miles by paddling down to Henryton Rd., which adds some flatwater along with more Class II paddling, but also adds another Class III rapid near the end, the best of the lot with several fun, tricky routes. 

Several of us topped off the day with coffee and crepes at the delightful French Twist Cafe in Sykesville. That was a lot better ending than the last time several of us had run the South Branch--a few months ago, a persistent downpour flooded the local roads to such an extreme that I was trapped on River Rd. for an hour and a half, with the road flooded out both ahead of me and behind me. Vive la crepe, especially in comparison to that.

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