Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

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SimonMW
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Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by SimonMW » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:21 pm

In my limited experience my vote for the place that should in theory have loads of places to regularly kayak is the Lake District. But it doesn't. Why? Despite all the rain and the carved out valleys, why is the Lake District so limited for paddling other than in spate conditions? Why hasn't it got its own equivalent of the Etive? Any geologists here offer any clues?

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Mal Grey » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:33 pm

A lack of a large sponge upstream, aka Rannoch Moor for the Etive, possibly has something to do with it, and the watersheds are actually relatively small in the Lakes.
The Pennines have more sponges, and I guess there are a few more rivers which are slightly less spatey coming off them.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by DaveBland » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:34 pm

I think there are two parts to your question.

The Lakes is arguably the best place in the UK when it's on - but you are right, it has to be on. There are slim pickings otherwise.
Having said that, the Leven is good for much of the time - not classic, but worth a go again and again.
And if you live there, there are plenty of runs that can be jumped on of an evening if it does rain.

Not sure it's a Lakes thing though is it? N Wales, Devon all need rain to become good areas, not just a one river fall-back location.

And Yeah, Scotland has a few more, but still needs rain really. I can remember several very dry trips up north of that there wall them Romans built.

You know it's a UK thing. You know the only answer is to learn a foreign language. Or commit to a life of fast food.

But even then, paddling's still seasonal. Or limited to a single river. Look at the Little White. Goes all year, but in winter, there's little else nearby. Same with the Green.
here's probably only Whistler/Vancouver Island that has a regular selection of all year round runs – but even that is rain dependent.
Maybe New Zealand? Not sure.

There's only one answer. Find a location with a big city full of good jobs, on the edge of a good paddling area.
dave

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by SimonMW » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:34 pm

Damn.. time to take up paragliding!

Good explanations, and I fully see your point, Dave.The Lakes river in general seem very small, but this I suppose is due to the reasons Mal mentioned. There are some large bogs in the Lakes though. I went recently and was surprised to see load of carnivorous sundew plants growing there. A plant that requires constant acidy boggy conditions.

Just the potential rivers there seem to defy the rainfall. You mentioned the Dart and others as one off go to rivers, but the moors in the south west don't receive anything like the rainfall of the lakes. Scotland, while it has one or two go to rivers, is still useful in low water. If you want to practice you can always work the main features of the Etive in low water.

I suppose I'm just at odds with the fact that the Lakes is called the Lakes for a reason. It has big lakes (well one officially, but loads unofficially) due to the sheer amount of rainfall per year. It is home to the wettest places in England. And yet most rivers there are spate runs.

So is it more to do with the type of rock? Harder wearing, or even softer meaning that it is worn away quicker and hence narrower channels? I'm a bit of a dunce geology wise, so I hope you'll forgive my thickness on the subject!

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by DaveBland » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:10 pm

I always assumed it was 'cuz the mountains are really close to the sea, so it rains - and drains fast.
But I know jack about the geology etc.
But you are right, the Lakes are frustrating as hell to catch if you don't live there.
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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Jim » Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:18 am

The Cumbrian mountains are too steep, most rainfall runs off into the lakes too quickly to build up to real volume in the rivers, but this is no different to some Scottish west coast classics like the Coe and Nevis - I've mentioned before but I like to keep mentioning it, that I've more than once checked the Nevis hydrographs on SEPA website (link through from WTW these days), and noted that over the 24 hours of the graph the river level has hit 2 troughs below accepted runnable level, and 3 highs that would have been unrunnably high. The main thing Scotland has going for it is that there are some bigger moors and high level lochs that slow the runoff considerably and can keep some of the larger rivers up so there is usually something to run if you only just missed the steep stuff. The high level tarns in the lakes are too small to make significant difference.

I'm told a lot of Irish rivers suffer the same issue of running off too fast to be reliable - there are great runs if you live close enough, but few people plan holidays there...

What I found interesting when I finally visited Corsica earlier this year, is that whilst relatively few Brits make the journey any more due to rumours of the season being short and hard to catch, the island was nearly full of French, German and Italian paddlers, and whilst it was a bit cool so we never got a big snowmelt in our week for some of the more famous runs, there were rivers of all grades running every day and everyone was getting loads of good boating done. So not exactly somewhere that should be a popular WW destination but isn't, more somewhere that everyone else knows but we have managed to forget....
That said I'm in no particular hurry to go back, not really my kind of paddling any more (I'm getting old and fragile!), at least at the higher level - I wouldn't mind going back to explore the grade 2 and 3 sections and just chill out enjoying the scenery and food and stuff.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Yew » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:39 am

The Peak District, mainly as its full of dams where all the good sections would be

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Franky » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:32 am

SimonMW wrote:
Just the potential rivers there seem to defy the rainfall. You mentioned the Dart and others as one off go to rivers, but the moors in the south west don't receive anything like the rainfall of the lakes.
They receive a pretty similar amount actually:

http://www.british-towns.net/weather/uk-annual-rainfall

The west of Britain as a whole is the first port of call for the saturated prevailing westerly winds. The west is also mostly hilly, so the air gets pushed upwards, the water condenses, and it rains.

Dartmoor isn't mountainous but it's a high-lying plateau, so it figures it would rain a lot there.
I suppose I'm just at odds with the fact that the Lakes is called the Lakes for a reason. It has big lakes (well one officially, but loads unofficially) due to the sheer amount of rainfall per year. It is home to the wettest places in England. And yet most rivers there are spate runs.
The lakes aren't there because of the amount of rainfall. They're the last remnants of the glaciers that carved out the valleys.

The large amount of rainfall has no doubt kept the lakes in existence longer than would otherwise have been the case, but they are slowly getting smaller.
So is it more to do with the type of rock? Harder wearing, or even softer meaning that it is worn away quicker and hence narrower channels? I'm a bit of a dunce geology wise, so I hope you'll forgive my thickness on the subject!
From what I recall, both Dartmoor and the Lakes are mostly granite, which is hard-wearing. But topographically they're very different - Dartmoor is a plateau, with a large area to soak up the water, and rivers that run at steady gradients. This gives them time to catch the run-off from the moor and acquire volume.

In the Lakes, the mountains are so steep that the streams have reached the valley floors before they have acquired enough water to become rivers. And the valley floors are virtually flat, so little white water there.

I would imagine that what you need for a good white water river is for it to start at a high elevation, and then descend at a steady pace. Viz. the Tees and the Dart.

NB I'm not writing any of this as an experienced WW paddler.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Simon Westgarth » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:06 am

Jim wrote:I'm told a lot of Irish rivers suffer the same issue of running off too fast to be reliable - there are great runs if you live close enough, but few people plan holidays there...

What I found interesting when I finally visited Corsica earlier this year, is that whilst relatively few Brits make the journey any more due to rumours of the season being short and hard to catch, the island was nearly full of French, German and Italian paddlers, and whilst it was a bit cool so we never got a big snowmelt in our week for some of the more famous runs, there were rivers of all grades running every day and everyone was getting loads of good boating done. So not exactly somewhere that should be a popular WW destination but isn't, more somewhere that everyone else knows but we have managed to forget....
That said I'm in no particular hurry to go back, not really my kind of paddling any more (I'm getting old and fragile!), at least at the higher level - I wouldn't mind going back to explore the grade 2 and 3 sections and just chill out enjoying the scenery and food and stuff.
Ireland's hills are around the outside of the island, so make for short watersheds and flash flood rivers. Good when you get them in there prime though.

Th myths of Corsica are being slashed away of late. People would go in April, and experienced fickle flows, but warmer days for camping. The germans go at Easter, the Italians always for the 1st May Bank Holiday, and they get to paddle some thing. A few years back a Czech crowd went over New Years and experienced great levels, and now go back every year. They stay is low priced Gites and have the rivers to themselves. The local kayaking crowd stay February and March are the best months, warmer in the day, good water levels everywhere for a lot of the time. Thus if you want blue bird sunny days spring is best, especially if you are camping, but you'll not get rain to top up the rivers, snow melt is normally not enough on its own. Go earlier for more water, but rougher camping.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Jim » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:43 pm

Franky wrote:From what I recall, both Dartmoor and the Lakes are mostly granite, which is hard-wearing. But topographically they're very different - Dartmoor is a plateau, with a large area to soak up the water, and rivers that run at steady gradients. This gives them time to catch the run-off from the moor and acquire volume.
Good point.
Likewise the Etive also runs through granite hence the question, why doesn't the lakes have an Etive equivalent?

The waterfalls on the Etive are a by-product of the exact way the granite and the now missing overlaying rocks have been folded and mixed up. The rock types may be the same elsewhere but no-one asks why doesn't the Coe have some nice big safe drops, or why is there nothing like the Clachaig gorge on the Etive, the way the rapids form are just a fluke of the way the rocks have been distorted over the years.

Don't forget that granite is igneous - it started out as liquid rock and in many cases has surged up through layers of younger rocks and sometimes ends up with bands of other rock types running through it (which might be metamorphosed from the original rock type), or other bands of minerals may have surged through the liquid granite, either way this can create bands of softer rock which erode more quickly and leave us just the granite to see today. But these things don't all happen in a single event, subsequent uprisings, folding and of course glaciation have taken places at different times and in different ways giving each mountain its own unique character, and the rivers that run off it their own character.

I find it much harder to drive through the lakes than through the highlands of Scotland, and I don't mean because there are more grockles, I mean because the roads in the lakes are much steeper and more winding than I am used to. I can get to 1100 feet on Rannoch Moor never using lower than 3rd gear (except for junctions), in the lakes I get to use 1st and 2nd gear on some of the hills - that is why the water never hangs around for long!

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Franky » Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:16 pm

Jim wrote:
Franky wrote:From what I recall, both Dartmoor and the Lakes are mostly granite, which is hard-wearing. But topographically they're very different - Dartmoor is a plateau, with a large area to soak up the water, and rivers that run at steady gradients. This gives them time to catch the run-off from the moor and acquire volume.
Good point.
Likewise the Etive also runs through granite hence the question, why doesn't the lakes have an Etive equivalent?
I've never been to the Etive but off the top of my head, I'd say that Scotland is a much bigger area than the Lakes and so there is more space for high-volume rivers to form. The Lake District is actually a pretty small area, it just seems bigger than it is because it takes so long so get around it.
The waterfalls on the Etive are a by-product of the exact way the granite and the now missing overlaying rocks have been folded and mixed up. The rock types may be the same elsewhere but no-one asks why doesn't the Coe have some nice big safe drops, or why is there nothing like the Clachaig gorge on the Etive, the way the rapids form are just a fluke of the way the rocks have been distorted over the years.

Don't forget that granite is igneous - it started out as liquid rock and in many cases has surged up through layers of younger rocks and sometimes ends up with bands of other rock types running through it (which might be metamorphosed from the original rock type), or other bands of minerals may have surged through the liquid granite, either way this can create bands of softer rock which erode more quickly and leave us just the granite to see today. But these things don't all happen in a single event, subsequent uprisings, folding and of course glaciation have taken places at different times and in different ways giving each mountain its own unique character, and the rivers that run off it their own character.
Another thing about the differences between Dartmoor and the Lakes, despite similarities in their geology: I think glaciation reached its southern limit in Wales; otherwise there'd be big u-shaped valleys in Dartmoor like there are in the Lake District and the Dales. Because granite is hard-wearing, it takes the colossal amount of pressure of a glacier to carve steep slopes and flat-bottomed valleys. It figures that the Dart, running through granite without ever having had the aid of millions of tons of ice, would never have carved a deep, steep-sided valley, and so it inhabits a shallow valley with the kind of steady gradient that produces extensive rapids - as opposed to sheer, low-volume drops falling into flat water.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by tomcrow99 » Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:19 pm

Lots of over simplifications going on here!!

The lakes has very little granite, if I remember correctly from my Geology lectures it (and N Wales) predominantly formed from accreated island arcs (like the Aleutian Islands) being scraped off ocean crust as it subducts, this forms intense metaphorphism mixed in with localized volcanism. Hence all the slate mine and schist. mixed in with lavas.

Glen Etive and the surrounding hills are the remains of a batholith, that is a large resovoir of magma that sits deep in the crust, this cools slowly allowing large crystal to grow and granite to form. the are a few faults but relatively little deformation in Glen Etive I think, the falls are mainly the result of localised faults later intrusions of harder/softer rock.

Glen Coe is formed from a collapsed Caldera, a batholith (like the one in Glen Etive) once fed a huge volcano there, gradually the magma chamber emptied as the volcano erupted. Fianlly the holow chamber collapsed. If you know what to look for you can see the edge of the crater high in the walls of the glen.

The reason there are steeper roads in the lakes is due to the much higher population density. In the highlands since the clearances there was no need to build a road over every other hill and pass!!

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by banzer » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:23 pm

The Lakes has no uplands... just a relatively small area of mountains, then it's flat again. Whereas the Pennines, Wales, even Dartmoor, and much of Scotland, have extensive 'upland' areas. So the rivers are just too steep and rocky, or flat.

When I did a thread a couple of years ago about the highest paddleable rivers in England, I wrongly assumed they would be in the Lakes. Wrongo: upper reaches of the Wear, Tees, Tyne are all higher than anything you can do in the Lakes.

(That simple enough for you Tom? ;-) )
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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Jim » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:15 pm

tomcrow99 wrote:Lots of over simplifications going on here!!

The lakes has very little granite,
I was wondering about that, much less familiar with the lakes than I should be, and geology.

What about dartmoor?
From memory the rock is more grey and breaks down differently than rocks I know are granite?

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by TechnoEngineer » Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:39 pm

Not enough trees being planted in the uplands...
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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Simon Westgarth » Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:19 pm

Jim wrote:What about dartmoor?
From memory the rock is more grey and breaks down differently than rocks I know are granite?
The granite intrusion that is Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and a few other spots in Cornwall, when molten lava, massively changed the adjust "country" rock. Thus once you get down to the Dart Loop, Upper Tavy, Avon Gorge or Erme Gorge, the river is cutting through the surrounding country rock. High on top of Dartmoor, the bedrock is granite, the runs Upper Dart, Upper Plym, East Oakment slides and Tavy Cleave are as such.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Richard Gunton » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:46 pm

Afganistan looks great, May be one day when there is no war, people will go there and fire that shxte up woop woop!!!!

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by DaveBland » Thu Jul 23, 2015 9:01 pm

Richard Gunton wrote:Afganistan looks great, May be one day when there is no war, people will go there and fire that shxte up woop woop!!!!
Hasn't Manbo already been 'n' done that in mid 90s?
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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by jmmoxon » Thu Jul 23, 2015 9:41 pm

I thought it was Iran.

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by jmmoxon » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:30 pm

Anyway, back to the Lakes; the Etive isn't a white water mecca, it's just the only thing you can fall off in a dry spell. The area of Rannoch Moor is about 130 square kilometres (not all of which feeds the Etive), although Loch Etive apparently has the largest catchment of any loch (1,400km2), which is a small part of the Highlands (40,000), but quite large when compared to the areas of the Mendips (200), Exmoor (692), Dartmoor (954), Peak District (1,437), Yorkshire Moors (1,436), Dales (1,769), Northern Pennines (2,000), Snowdonia (2,170) & Lakes (2,292).

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Jim » Fri Jul 24, 2015 12:14 am

Ah Mike, you must be out of touch, when people call the Etive a mecca, they aren't talking about the middle Etive on it's own, but the whole glen including at least 7 runnable tributaries which provide something to do no matter what the water level, if you have a high enough tolerance for bumping over shingle between drops (I don't).

Personally I'm with you, I just don't see it - I'd rather be on the Orchy above 2 feet, but if you are young and stupid, glen Etive is apparently where it is at, whatever it is.

Actually, I have had some fun recently on both the middle Etive and the Allt a Chaorainn in my Ocoee, but I've probably grown out of them again.....

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by jmmoxon » Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:44 am

At least it looks more impressive on gopro...

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Re: Places that should be white water meccas but aren't.

Post by Jim » Fri Jul 24, 2015 3:23 pm

I must have been half asleep when I replied before....

The river Etive is one of many tributaries to Loch Etive, quite a lot of those 1400km^2 are going to be related to the Orchy/Awe systems and tributaries to the south of Loch Awe. The river Etive is also one of the smaller drains from Rannoch moor, most of the water from Rannoch ends up in the Tay system via the Garbh Gaoir, Gaur and Tummel, although some must end up in the Orchy via Loch Tulla getting to Loch Etive bypassing the river Etive....
I wonder if the upper Tummel and Gaur would run more often if they didn't have Hydro dams on them?

Still probably has a bigger catchment than any river in the Lakes.

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