River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Rivers 'near' Fort William
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Mark R
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River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Mark R »

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by pipthetiff »

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I had the ideal opportunity to see the weir at Dumbarton during low tide. Iv only paddled down when the tide was it. It seems fairly friendly with no debris.
As for the sluice barrage at Balloch, I got out to inspect last time and decided to paddle around the floating barrage by the slip and straight on to the river. So much easier than portage. I will always inspect first though.

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Jim »

Wow, I wrote that guide a long time ago, having only run the full river once. In fact I have still only run the whole river once although I have been paddling on it 3-4 times a week for the last year (and quite a lot previous to that).

I think Leven ford (photographed) is quite friendly because it is a ford rather than a weir, although it usually appears that there are some posts river right near where the deepest flow appears to be (I can't see them in the photos), when there is some water. It was built as a road surface rather than a water retaining structure so doesn't appear to be littered with metalwork.

The barrage at Balloch it turns out has nothing to do with flood defence and is about maintaining a minimum level in Loch Lomond. During the winter the gates are lowered to the river bed so they don't hold up any water draining out of the system upstream and there is just flow between the stanchions and it is no more dangersous than a bridge. When the gates are raised each one makes a potentially lethal straight drop between closed in walls - this year I think the barrage was raised 2 weeks ago at about Midday on the Friday because the river which was holding steady at 1.2m dropped 0.6m in a very short time and has since slowly decreased to about 0.52m before a little rain on Friday brought it back up to 0.57 and it is now slowly dropping again. So do please take extra care at the barrage from April - October (I think the barrage is supposed to go up in May but that long dry spell must have caused it to be raised earlier).

Unfortunately when the river dropped last week there was a significant amount of what I believe to be sewage floating on the surface - I really can't say if it only appeared at the same time, or if it just became noticable because there was less water- I had a jippy tummy for a few days at the start of last week and deferred paddling again until we got some higher tides this week (I normally paddle within the tidal part), and then had car trouble, so it has been about 10 days since I was last on it which must tbe the longest time in 18 months I haven't been on it!). My boat had a scum line which I washed off with disinfectant before heading up to Glasgow today. I normally notice a lot more sewage at this time of year, but hadn't correlated it to the barrage being raised and the river level dropping so much previously. I will probably continue to paddle when the there is a decent high tide, getting to the river through mud on low high tides is a bit of a chore, so I don't bother.

Over the winter just gone I have made a few longer trips upstream (WWR, would be impractical in a creek boat) and got to the edge of Bonhill - I gave up on a narrow fast flowing bend but checking the map afterwards if I had pushed on past that I was only 1 small kink away from seeing Bonhill bridge. I didn't note the level (>1.2) but I basically paddled up some of the groynes/half weirs which were just spots where there was difficult fast flow to paddle up, no actual drop - where I turned around I was just approaching another one.

All the anglers in Dumbarton are friendly, and as far as I can tell none of them are responsible for the ever increasing amount of trash, broken glass and recently a new 'fireplace' at my normal launch spot, they seem as puzzled by it as I am! If there are guys fishing I normally get on upstream of them (because I go upstream first), although there are other spots further up where I sometimes stay wide if there are people fishing. If there are a lot in a line it makes no sense to paddle past and I just turn around.

For me the most fun section is the narrows past the Polaroid estate because it is fast with a clear line to stay in the fast water, in the winter. In the summer there is a gravel bar at the upstream end of that bit, there is usually a spot I can paddle over it but it is a bit harsh on my paddle so if I go that far at all in the summer, I normally turn round there (plus the busiest spot for fishing seems to the the straight just above that).

I see very few other kayaks on the river, the biggest group was 4 SOTs last summer, although I know a couple of locals have been chacking out the ford to see if it will work as a play spot. It doesn't seem to be of much interest to others...

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Rae1 »

This is one we would like to do if we get a chance this year.
What river level do you think would be the lowest that 'goes'?
And, is it best to do it when the tide is in/rising. I fancy the parking at the beach near the castle.

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Jim »

I think it will be passable all summer despite the barrage stopping a lot of the outflow from the loch.
Checking Strava I was paddling up to the edge of Renton (above the tidal limit) occasionally all through last summer, the shallow bits are further up than that but I think the level tends to stay reasonably stable around 0.5m, except there seems to be increased flow at weekends for fishing (looking at historical data and the fishing forums - I don't see any evidence in the current hydrographs, which I now have loading when I start my web browser each day...)
There was someone out in a canoe on Tuesday who I'm guessing had paddled down - I was on an interval session and turned just before I got to him so didn't talk to him, just a little wave as I turned. That was at 0.6m.
As for the tide, I get in and out next to the industrial estate so don't go through the town and have never really looked to see what tide height it needs to cover the ford - it is well covered by a 3.8m tide, in fact pretty sure it is covered at 3m , so if you want the ford to be a rapid, you will need less tide than that, if you want it flat so you can paddle easily around to the castle, 3m and above will definitely work, but it probably works a bit lower. Checking the chart I see drying heights of 1 and 1.2m on the beach by the castle, so if you want to stick close to the castle and not paddle around a massive sand bar, higher than about 1.5m would probably be a good idea. I paddle around high water now because otherwise my put in/take out is slippery mud.
Judging by the difference in my speeds upstream and downstream at 0.5m, the river is still doing about 0.5km/h at HW springs from the A82 down to above the railway bridge (and I have no reason to expect it slows there as the river narrows again) so I don't think you will find it significantly slower paddling against a flood tide in that last section.
The tidal limit is about the A82 bridge (depending on tide height) and I have found it usually seems to peak about the same time as the tabulated values for Bowling.

Oh, yes, it seems a lot cleaner this week, although the boat that is usually moored on the section I paddle appears to have sunk on its mooring in the last couple of weeks.

Have fun!

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Rae1 »

Jim wrote:
Thu May 13, 2021 10:46 pm
I think it will be passable all summer despite the barrage stopping a lot of the outflow from the loch.
Hey Jim, we are hoping to do the Leven next Tuesday. High tide at Dumbarton is 12.53pm, so if we left Balloch around 12 noon, would that give us a beach to get off at Dumbarton round the Castle?
Also, where is a good spot to park there?
From google satellite there doesnt seem to be much parking apart from factories.
We are taking our bikes, so a recce on Monday will help.
And the shuttle, I reckon a train may help with that, or should we just get a taxi?

Oh, we hope to be at Pinkston on Monday evening, will you be there?
Thanks
Alan & Rae.

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Jim »

It's pretty rare that I head down to the castle, but yes there will be a beach on the Clyde side of the castle at all but HW springs I reckon, even then probably still possible to land.

I reckon the premium parking spots are right by the castle/bowling club at the end of Castle street, there are not many places, but I can't imagine there will be many people around on Tuesday daytime.

There are no factories, the units further east are not factories (now - might have been part of the seaplane works?), I go in there quite a lot because I do some design work for a company in there, I never go right round the back where it appears there might be a path up from the river. A car would probably be safe enough there but it looks and feels pretty run down so I doubt if you would, the way in is lined with old boats and cars, and there are some pretty big potholes to negotiate (beware of puddles if it is raining!).

Working back upstream from the Castle, I've never been to look around the back of the new flats but I suspect it is a building site, no access, there is definitely no access from Morrisons car park, and I don't think any from Lidl either (never looked), and I only noticed the other day that there seem to be inhabited flats on the bit next to Lidl that I think is a building site.
Further up on the east bank you have riverside drive which is one of the town centre car parks, there are several sets of steps up from the river (and some ladders) so would be totally viable although a bit public- I can't remember if there are time limits, there are a lot of disabled spaces though. On the west bank there is one set of steps up to Woodyard road just downstream of a small car park. Above Dumbarton bridge there is a slipway on the east bank by the council offices and some parking, on the west there are more steps but there is a park and nearest parking would be below the bridge or in the flats up by the Artisan bridge, and if you are going to stop that far up, you might as well park at Dalreoch station and just get out there!

Train shuttle is pretty easy, 2 trains an hour to Balloch. If you get out by the castle, Dumbarton East would be closest and easiest to find. From town centre Dumbarton Central is easiest - note how to get to the underpass under the dual carriageway. If you get out on the west bank Dalreoch would be easiest. Balloch trains stop at all 3 stations, just don't get on a Helensburgh train by mistake.

I don't go to Pinkston on Mondays.

Have fun.

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Jim »

By the way, the hydrographs look pretty natural again so the barrage at Balloch is probably down for the winter now - you can confirm for us next week!

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Rae1 »

Thanks for all the info.
We didnt do it in kayaks, as the weather was truly awful last Tuesday. We did however do it by bike on Friday. It would have been the (nearly) perfect time to do it.
The barrage/buoy line blocking the weir at Balloch looks to be impassable, it has heavy steel wires between the floats, which are too high to get over at 150-200mm above the water. There is easy portage on river right, where the pleasure boats moor up.
From there the river is very fast running, I'd put it at nearly 8mph when we were there, it was roughly high tide at Dumbarton. There were numerous fishermen, who all seemed pleasant enough, one had caught a 30lb salmon 5 minutes before we got there.
At one of the horseshoe bends, (Renton?) the river really slows down, so much so that it was like a lake and didnt appear to be flowing at all (tide reaching its limit?) It carried on like that for the next 2 miles to Dumbarton.
Get on is easy at Loch Lomond, just park up near the public slipway, and get on at the beach to the left. Get out would have been best at the bowling club area. The huge stone tide walls extend to this point, where a small beach is available at high tide. Parking is on that road, plenty of spaces on the road to Dumbarton Castle entrance.
I don't think I've ever seen so many sunken and abandoned boats in such a short section. Speaking to a guy at the marine services launch point in Dumbarton, he says he can remember most of the boats floating, but they have all succumbed, and now just cause a hazard to boats that don't know where they have sunk -some are almost covered at high tide.
And those rocks, bigger than houses, that have fallen off Dumbarton Rock, - is that recent?
If going again, I'd be doing it on a falling tide, there was at least 2 miles of flat water at high tide, I hate paddling!
And as for Pinkston, I lasted 10 seconds before a swim and recirculation. I was drawn into the inlet wave, I thought, no problem, I'll just surf it, but was then upside down in a second. Apparently very few people get out of that wave in their boat.

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Re: River Leven - Loch Lomond to Clyde Confluence

Post by Jim »

That sounds like a particularly high tide, I think it normally gets to about the A82 bridge, but I have paddled it a few times when it stems the flow around that horseshoe bend, the trick then is to wait for it to turn before setting off back down becasue that is usually a fast section!
There has been talk for years about clearing the wrecks but nothing ever seems to happen. There was a boat moored about 400m above the railway bridge for years, this spring for the first time I saw someone on board bailing it out, but then a couple of months later it had disappeared, at HW. when the river level dropped it became apparent that it has sunk and is now laying on its side on the bottom, I sometimes paddle circles around whatever sticks up in my slalom boats.
The rocks have been used as a bouldering venue for years, but I found even that too hard, and I certainly wasn't going to attempt the main routes on the crag itself!
I start upstream so try to time my start just before nominal HW so I get a little flow both ways, it is always a bit of a guess on a tidal river.

Yep, Pinkston inlet hole is pretty sticky, I think I have paddled out of it once, I have also got a Wavehopper in there sideways and there isn't room to get one of those out, still at least it isn't very deep after you get out :-) Normally I don't let myself get sucked into it.

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