THE BLACK SEA COAST RIVERS.
by Dave Manby
Most people have heard of the oruh here are some extension destinations for you after your days on the oruh and Bahal.
The best that can be said is that they are variable and depend on the snow pack and the rain fall. The weather on the Black Sea coast is damp to rainy with the occasional clear blue sky day. As a rule of thumb, however, the level drops from May highs to August/September lows. On the whole high water is to be avoided and I would say the best time to be on the rivers would be towards the end of June. If you want to run the real steep stuff then maybe the middle of July would be better. It does rain in the area and how much this will affect the water levels in July I do not know.
We were chasing drainages in early June 2005 with too much water. In mid June 2006 we had good to too high water levels. Bear in mind that we tried to run the Caglayan when the gauge read 50 and four days later it had dropped to just below 30. Olaf Obsommner who published an article in the German kayak press about his trip here in July 2005 had too low water for many of the runs. I paddled the Caglayan with him and thought the water level to be just fine.
Also judging the level at the sea is misleading as the river is flowing through gravel bars and often diverted and flowing in several small channels through the towns.
Hire cars are available in Trabzon and Erzurum the two nearest airports. Driving your own car from the UK is an option and if you have the time Erzurum is a great place to get the repairs you need doing done cheaply. I had a Transit engine re-built and a new wing and radiator grill fitted and then re-sprayed for just under $1000.
For the Black Sea Rivers you will need your own vehicle and either a fit bastard with a mountain bike or a driver. There is little or no traffic up the valley roads. The roads are rough and good ground clearance is needed. With a 4x4 you could get into all sorts of trouble exploring the top ends of rivers in the early season.
Alternatively you can hire Birol or another minibus driver from Yusufeli for a week for a not too unreasonable price and then the shuttles are sorted! Look at around $150 a day if you hire him for five days. There will be a little added to this for the long drives for diesel. If you base yourself out of Birols campsite in Yusufeli for the oruh then the charges are less and he knows all the put-ins and take-outs.
If you have a two-ability groups it is possible for the less good paddlers to drive the vehicle down the road for the top hard stretch and then paddle the bottom end of the river to the sea.
Forget it. There aint any good topo maps except for Russian maps which are written in Cyrillic (you can get them from Stanfords in London). You are stuck with Turkish road atlases which are not much use; often the road is marked on the wrong side of the river or in some cases not even close to where they are in real life! Still they get you to the rivers. Topo maps do exist in Turkey; but are restricted to mining and forestry interests by the army who have not discovered Google earth and think maps are militarily important because they would give away army bases. This does not stop them ordering conscripts to paint rocks white and arrange them above bases spelling out nationalist sayings of Attaturk.
On the Black Sea coast the place to stay is Otel Doga just outside Camlihensin. Run by Idris, it is unique, full of character and also he sells beer and allows it to be drunk in his lounge many of the hotels along the coast are barred from allowing this by the local municipalities.
Camping well if you can find flat uncultivated ground you can camp but it is hard to come by.
The BLACK SEA COAST RIVERS.
The steep creeks on the Black Sea coast are waiting to be explored. Some work has been done on these but information is sketchy. Here are some of my notes on the rivers there. I have not graded them as the water levels are so variable; what is an easy class 4 in low water can become a threatening class 5+ with a little more water all it takes is for a storm to break in the mountains. Also the access is somewhat limited in places on some of the rivers; carry-outs involve hauling boats up steep creek river beds. You, however, want to be a competent class 4+ boater for most of the runs. For the less able paddlers there are runs to be had usually the bottom ends of the rivers.
Meydancik, Ardanuc and Savsat rivers.
(Not really Black Sea Coast but included here as they are on the way and are similar in character).
Drive down the oruh and follow the signs to Savsat. Where the Ardanuc River comes in and has an interesting but not too testing a gorge to paddle through fun though. From the Junction road scout the Savasat River the lower end is fine and has been known to have a great play wave on it near the confluence. Partway up the Savsat the Meydancik comes in. Drive up this till the road crosses the river this is the put-in for the lower run and is a fine, fast, eddy-less at times run - just dont capsize as it is shallow and fast. Drive on up the road to the picturesque town of Meydancik and put on for a genuine class 5 run with at least one portage in there.
Heading from Hopa westwards.
The river that flows into the sea at Hopa is too small to worry about and should it have water in it, it will also have a lot of debris in at as well.
The rivers are listed by the town at the mouth of the river I do not know the name of many of the rivers.
The river that flows in at Arhavi is a good class V run in high water we pulled off as the river was rising after about 3kms. Turn off the coast road and head up the valley till you get to the road head. A little path leads to a foot bridge where you can put on. The road follows the river so choose your take-out. I have not explored the drainage much.
The Caglayan. An absolute classic. Several days worth of boating to be had here. To turn up the Caglayan valley, turn left immediately after crossing the bridge when heading west, the road follows the river left bank passing trough prosperous tea fields and hazelnut orchards. The road crosses the river on a new(ish) concrete bridge just next to an old arched bridge with a stone hanging from a chain in the middle why I do not know - but it is marked 1926. Look over the bridge on the river right downstream side and check the gauge. If it reads 50 it is really a bit too high, we bailed and then went back the next day and put on again where we had taken off and bailed again a kms further downstream before committing to the main gorge. I think 30 would be a good level to run the gorge. I have run this gorge with Olaf, Manuel Arnu and others at around 25 on the gauge it is a great run. Drive over the bridge and head upstream pass through the village and if you want you can put on by carrying-in where there is an electric pylon with a transformer on it. There is a path to the river here and the stretch down is easy and can be run in high water from here to the sea. This takes you under another beautiful old bridge above the one by the road bridge. This is a possible take-out for the gorge. The put-in for the gorge is around 9 miles (14kms) from the main road turn off. The road makes a left-hand bend where it is wide enough to park and camp if you wish. Just around the corner is a small creek which gives the easiest access to the river. Allow at least 6 hours for the run to the old bridge take-out. You can bail earlier but once in the main gorge you are committed to the end except for where there is a footbridge - but I seem to remember the climb to it being for lizards only.
The upper stretch. Drive on up the road to the road end and put on. Bear in mind that the road is being extended and so you may end up higher up the river than I have driven. This stretch is harder than the lower stretch and though is easier to access and abort there are places where you can commit to drops by mistake (and without being able to river scout - though the bank support will wave at you with helpful and encouraging, but no doubt, vague signs)!
Above the road-head there is a path and it is possible to carry-in as far as you like there is a big waterfall, maybe 20m. that (un)fortunately does not have a clean landing.
Further west another river flows into the sea at Findikli. This I have not paddled or maybe I did in 1988 but I have forgotten. Obviously it was not impressive.
The Fritina river. Fritina means Storm in Turkish. Drive up the valley, PASS the quarry before putting on note the low bridge at the quarry. Put on just above Camlihensin where the two rivers meet. There is a good class IV+ to V rapid that can bee seen from the road. Take-out just below the old bridge on river left. Below the quarry the river in high water can give good gravel bar rapids that will be different depending on where they have dug out the gravel.
At Camlihensin take the right hand road and head up to Otel Doga. From here down to the confluence is a good paddle with one or two serious rapids to be scouted. Stay at Otel Doga it is unique and run by Idris who is an old merchant seaman who has travelled the world and speaks some English. It is the best place to stay on the Black Sea coast and worth the extra driving.
Drive on up the Fritina valley, pausing to explore Zil Kale, and put on at the bridge. You want low water here you should be seeing rocks in the middle of the river at Otel Doga. The run from the bridge down is a good run with a couple of serious drops in there and has been responsible for to loss of at least one boat and more that one swim. Upstream of the bridge - well drive on up and think what the next generation will be paddling!
Take the left fork at Camlihensin and road scout it soon becomes hard and committed but with the right water levels you can run stretches. There is plenty here waiting the next generation of paddlers. This road leads to Ayder where there are hot springs to soak your bones in. They are now built into a bath house with separated male and female baths. They say the water is cooler in the evening but you still come out like a lobster. In the middle of June there is Ayder festival which is a great diversion bull wrestling, folk dancing and singing and crazy traffic!
Flowing into the Fritina below the quarry is a great run. Drive east through Ardesen, pass the PTT then the police (Jandarma) station and the Town Hall and just before a bridge turn right and head up the road you have to turn right at a T junction and then fork left as you are coming to the edge of the town. Ask for the village of Sifat if you get lost and head up this road (through Sifat) till you come to a bridge the take-out. Cross the bridge and carry on up the road, you get the occasional glimpse of the river. Pass through the village of Seslikoy (Noisy village) and down to next bridge, the put-on. You can amuse yourselves by looking at the drop just above the tea factory. The run is great from here down; not too hard but it has its moments and there is a portage (or a class VI run). The portage is hard and if you have the wrong water levels it could be a nightmare. You come down one rapid that you can run but ends in a re-circulating hole we portaged this as we had already had a swimmer walk out at a earlier recirculating hole. We portaged over/under/around the big rock on river right with the extra boat we had recovered and then Jake managed to get out on the other side by climbing out onto a rock by a boily eddy. He then climbed up and down to the gravel bar on the river left just above the drop. We then paddled to the gravel bar with Jake acting as safety, catching us as there was no eddy. Then followed an incident when lining Jakes boat down to the gravel bar: suffice to say the drop can be run by a boat on its own but the throw line attached did not make it through unscathed. Quick release harnesses are a good thing. For a while we though the extra boat was going to come in handy! In lower water there would be no real trouble here. In higher water the left hand side of the drop would go (but the rapids upstream would be more serious with very sticky holes I expect). Apparently there is a footpath on river right if you can get to it which leads to the dirt road that turns off at the take-out bridge. An emergency option.
PAZAR to IYIDERE
The rivers here are small drainage and would be worth a look if everything else is in spate.
This river is called the Ikizdere (literally two streams). From below Ikizdere town there is a good class 3 4 run. Above Ikizdere the river splits and the left hand (eastern fork) has much to be avoided on it however is you make it to the end of the road there are some slides to be run if you have sufficient water. The road is rough. The main river which follows the road to Ispir well you can pick at it. With lots of water it is so fast and you can spend time imagining lines down it for the gods of paddling but not for mere mortals!
The fork that heads for Anzer has good runs on it given, as usual, the right water levels.
They are building a dam on this river and so another one to check off before it is inundated. Where the road splits to Uzungol take the right turning to Karacam. From here the lower end of the river is trashed by the road building for the dam but above the tunnel there is a stunning hard run. Put-in at the bridge just where the river forks and take-out at the tunnel site. This two mile stretch took three hours with one portage for a tree.
The Gurcay was too low to paddle when we were there.
The Karadere is a grade 2 -3 run with a couple of boulder chokes to be portaged at the lower end. If you head up higher the paddling gets more serious and the road access harder. You can take a left turn off the main road you can access the top end of what looks like it would be a serious run trough a canyon.
Yanbolu Cayi. Needs water and would probably be a grade 3 run.
From here west my knowledge gets patchy...
Drive up the road towards Gumushane and when you get to Tortul turn right up the Dogankennt River. All I know is what I have seen from the road which looked great from up high (how many times has this proved a bad indicator) and that an Israeli paddlers comment was Damn near killed me
The main river below the dam (yes another - one almost completed now) looks hard and a bitch to get into unless you can talk your way past the construction site entrance.
Somewhere around here is what Deb Pinniger and I described as the longest class 3 run we know I have been unable to find it since and we found it when we had too much water for most everything else.