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River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:25 pm
by kayakbiker
I'm planning a trip down Loch Shiel along the river into Loch Moidart. I'm aware of the rapids at the end and the need to approach at higher tide levels but I'm wondering if the river water level at this time of year will be high enough.
I'm going to take a loaded plastic seakayak and will probably take a trolley just in case.
Has anyone done this trip when the river is at its normal summer levels . Is it possible?
Also wondering if there's plenty of opportunity to exit the river onto the track/road if necessary.

Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:47 pm
by Phizz4
We did this trip in summer (but not after the type of drought we have currently. We reached the rapids close to low tide and took out just above the top rapid and portaged easily along the true left bank into the loch. This was with fully loaded sea kayaks. We didn't use a trolley as there were three of us so we could do a double carry, but it wasn't far and I recall dragging our (plastic) boats along the grass.

Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:42 pm
by kayakbiker
Thanks Phizz4. Can you remember roughly how deep the river was at that time.
Currently the river is reported to be half a meter deep at Shiel
I'm kind of concerned that I may paddle the loch and not be able to get up the river.

Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 2:28 pm
by Phizz4
We didn't have any problems with depth, and some fully laden canoes got there just before us. They portaged down the right bank. I don't think that Scotland has had it as dry as other parts of the country. This set of web cams might give you an idea of water levels: ... /locations

Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:22 pm
by PeterG
I've paddled up from the sea near HW around the first few bends without problems, but then found it too shallow to paddle against the flow. Coming back down was easy although the 'V' down into the sea had grown a lot in the time I'd been upstream! Maybe it was just increasing flow rather than it being shallow for the paddles....

Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:15 pm
by ian johnston
Hi kayakbiker,

I've done this trip twice, once in high water conditions and once in more "normal" river levels. If there's one piece of advice I can give you, it would be to definitely take a trolley, especially if you're doing it solo.

To get an idea of the river in both levels, take a look at my blog here: https://mountainandseascotland.blogspo ... er%20Shiel ....

and Douglas, blog here: ... o-sea.html .....

and here: ... r-and.html

There's a small rapid where the river takes a sharp left hand turn under the pack horse bridge 800m downstream from the current road bridge. The shallowest part of the river is just after this rapid. There are a couple of good get-outs on the right bank where you can access the estate track to bypass the final rapid, posibly the best of them is at a river gauging station opposite Shielfoot (you'll see this in the posts above).

Running the final rapid is personal choice - on both occasions I've been there I wouldn't have run it with a laden sea kayak; though others have reported doing so without problems. The drop will depend not only on the river level and proximity to high water, but also proximity or otherwise to Springs. If portaging you'll need your trolley to avoid a real faff, we used them on the track then across the shingle and mud to launch into Loch Moidart.

It's a great, great trip - especially if you intend to continue up past Glenuig into Loch Ailort and finish somewhere near the head of that loch (close to Lochailort station for a train shuttle!). Perhaps best done in quieter times of the year though, thee aren't a multitude of good camp sites on Loch Shiel. PM me if I can help with any other info - and don't miss out visiting Eilean Fhianain!

Kind Regards


Re: River Shiel to Loch Moidart Water Level Summer

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:50 pm
by kayakbiker
Thanks again everyone for your advice/guidance.
I took the plunge (literally)on Friday/Saturday. There wasn't a problem with grounding and we got down the river easily despite having a heavily laden kayak.
My first camping kayak experience so yes it was a heavy kayak

Anyway we ran the seapool about 20 minutes before high tide and I was surprised that it was still bumpy despite being so near to high tide.
I have no experience in white water but i've heard people say to aim for the non frothy water in a river which I did. ( Obviously I now realise I should have looked at the rapids first so no lecture needed, thanks)
All was fine until i hit the bottom section when I thought I was going to shoot out into the sea but Instead I came to a dead stop and got forcefully pushed back into the corner rock face . I attempted multiple times to turn my kayak to point into the opposing downward flow but couldn't change direction the current was that strong. I guess if i had been in a shorter boat it may have been easier. I also tried paddling directly into the upward flow too but that didn't work either it was too fast and I just started getting pushed around. I remember looking at the water in front of me flowing in and up the river . I was surprised that river eddys can be that powerful. At this point I started to get a bit worried so put everything into my paddlie and powered out at a slightly different angle but it wasn't easy. Thankfully my bow entered the downward flow and I slipped out. I'm just glad I managed to keep my head and didnt capsize.

We finished at Lochairlot as others have said it was a great trip. Maybe one day I'll do it all again but next time I'll definetly keep away from the lower left of the sea pool