GUIDE TO THE RIVER CONAN
NAME OF RIVER: Conan.
WHERE IS IT?: It is 15 miles from Inverness, heading North East. Just off the A832, it empties from a dam at the end of Loch Luichart.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Start wherever you feel capable of surviving...see below.
APPROX LENGTH: The steep section is about 1000m long I guess. We didn't see the rest of the river.
TIME NEEDED: Plenty.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. See the SCA Access notes on Scotland.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Dependent on dam release; it would seem that you want a lower release than that described here!
There was a huge amount of water being released when we turned up. The impression is that this amount of water is very rare, and consequently there are rocks where plunge pools should be, and those rocks are very sharp.
GRADING: Grades 4 - 6.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: All of it...The third fall has been partly modified with huge concrete blocks, which only makes it even more scary (You can't be sure that there aren't some more hidden)
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the dam, the first fall is grade VI, as far as we could tell - the line was on the other side of the river. Lots of water and lots of sharp rocks.
The second fall was definitely grade VI - we could see all of this one.
I graded the third fall as grade V, although other paddlers whose opinion I respect graded it as a VI. The line appeared to be through a series of large stoppers into a breakout half way down, and then a 3m drop into an ugly looking pool. I thought you would go through this, but others didn't, and there was no way out if you got stuck, and no way of rescue.
The fourth fall was more possible, there appeared to be two possible lines, but both were very hard to hit, and again lots of sharp rocks to punish a mistake. Again grade V.
There followed a very fast run through a gorge, ending in a grade IV fall just before the get out at a bridge. There were some potential playwaves in here, but once you fell off, you would be very lucky to make it back, because of the speed of the water.
We gave it a miss, but I would love to know if anyone has run this river. I will prostate myself before him if he has run the top four falls.
One of the workers at the dam did say they would be reducing the flow by 50 percent at 2.00, but this would leave even more exposed sharp rock, so we went elsewhere.
Jim Wallis adds... 'Didn't get to paddle this myself (still injured but following the news!) but I know some of the guys paddled this 2 or 3 times while the dam was being repaired. Saw some excellent slides of it at the weekend, and a few interesting tales. Most of it has been swum, very painfully and writing off a helmet!'
Keith Bremner has very bad news...'The Conan is NOT running any more or will not be for a long, long time! The dam was undergoing emergency work and that is finished so it's best to tell everyone that it is done. It was an awesome river. I was on the first descent of it a few weeks ago and because I live so near to it I ran it on six different occasions in heights ranging from three feet to a massive ten feet. I ran everything on it apart from the huge fall - man eater. Check out 'Playboating Magazine (Dec '99) for photos etc.'
OTHER NOTES: Bigger than the River Moriston.....!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Dave Bradshaw (from inspection), Keith Bremner and Kris Waring.
Walking up from the bridge we spent about 45mins looking at the rapids on the way up to the dam - this was my first time looking at it so the adrenalin was pumping. On the drive up we came across the guy with the huskies living half way up who strongly advised us to get on as this might be the only chance to run the stretch in a long time - he mentioned taking the photos I believe are in the old Scotland guide titled 'Carnage on the Conon'.
What is described in the river description here as the second drop looked absolutely horrendous - we could only get a good look at the river left side where most of the flow dropped onto a huge horizontal ledge before getting smashed into a wall. We didn't have time go up to look at the first drop at the bottom of the dam - I'm not sure whether I wanted to look at it!
We got on river left just below the outflow from the third fall. All the rocks in the third drop were fully covered with flow going well over them and there was a mean looking pourover on the flow out river left.
The fourth fall ran well from right to left as did the other two big rapids on the way down to the road bridge. Big volume with some crashing waves and large holes and pourovers to avoid. Again all rocks were covered except for two large boulders in the final rapid above the bridge. I would not have wanted to swim there.
Am not sure whether anyone managed to get on it that day, but am posting here in case there is a chance people are over that way and the dam is releasing over the next couple of days. If you are, its well worth a detour to have a look.
Much of it features on "Dangerous When Wet", available on youtube:
First paddled rapid is at 1:28 and elsewhere, many put on just below that and ran the long rapid also in the video.
You are very very lucky to get it!