Compiled by Jim Pullen, Ralph Evins, Patrick Clissold and Chad Sankey after their ICCC tour on 24th March - 1st April 2005.
Timing: Corsica has a reputation for unpredictable water levels. Most rivers require a combination of rain and snowmelt to be run. Due to the difficult nature of a lot of these rivers, levels being too high may be as problematic as too low! The best time seems to be from March until May, we chose the Easter break and had no issues with rivers being unrunnable due to dodgy levels. You will need at least 10 days to get a decent amount of paddling in, with two weeks probably being better.
Getting there: Up until now most people have taken the option of driving down to the French Mediterranean and catching a ferry across. We chose to negate this arduous process by investigating a fly-drive option via Sardinia. We flew with Ryan-Air from Stanstead to Alghero (10 tickets plus 17 for boats!) and hired a car from Hertz using an inflatable roofrack for the boats. We then drove to Santa Teresa di Gallura and caught a ferry to Bonifacio (50mins crossing). From the end of May Easyjet will start flying to Olbia, which may cut some drive time.
Getting around: Corsica is a small island (about 100x50 miles) and the roads around the edge are very good. However, the interior consists of 2000m peaks and dodgy mountain roads which take a fair amount of time to negotiate, the driving-style of the locals can be pretty scary too! We used a single car and sent the driver hitching for most of the shuttles. This worked ok, but the local language is Corsican, not French and communication can be problematic! The language issue may also affect your navigation, as youll probably end up with a French map and discover that the local separatists have sprayed out all the French place names! Most are easy enough to figure out, however.
Accommodation: We chose the option of wild camping, which no one seemed to object to and allowed for maximum flexibility (and cheapness!). Proper campsites exist, although most of these seemed to only be just about open due to being a little early in the tourist season. Gites are another option, although may restrict mobility depending on the variety of paddling you require.
Paddling: There exists a wide variety of rivers in Corsica (about 68 according to Joseph Haas), but the most famous are the steep low-volume bedrock creeks such as the Travo and Rizzanese. Grading of these sort of rivers tends to be on the high side (although dont be intimidated by Simon Dawsons grading system which goes to 8!), most harder rapids are portagable however, and can be run by both intermediates looking to improve and seasoned river-gurus looking for a challenge.
We managed to fit in six rivers of variable grades, 4 in the south, two in the north. There follows a summary of each river paddled with the major features and grading (in our opinion!)
Put in: 1st bridge south on D757 from Bains de Guitera, near Zicavo.
Take out: 1st road bridge you get to downstream, the D26 west of Olivese. River left under the bridge by the steps.
Grade: III/IV (V)
Level: No gauge found, rumoured to be 200m up the river right bank from the put in. It seemed to be at a medium level.
Main features: First rapid below bridge is IV-, then it eases off to II/III for 3 or 4km, before becoming more gorgy. The river splits around a large boulder, the river right channel dividing into two slots. We ran the right hand one of these, consisting of a small entry stopper and a 1.5m drop out of a 1m wide slot. The middle channel looked too narrow, and the left looked very nasty. Shortly after follows a V+ rapid in a sweeping turn, which we portaged easily on river right. Then another 2km of III/IV, including a river-wide stopper which was run without problems but could be dodgy.
Put in: Road bridge downstream of Zoza (not to be confused with nearby Zonza) on D20 near Saint Lucie de Tallano. Alternatively turn down the hill on a smaller road from Zoza to put in below the first waterfall.
Take out: Footbridge (see below), then walk up to D69. We did the lower as well and carried on to the road bridge at junction of D69, D268 and D119.
Grade: Upper IV-VI; Lower II/III.
Length: Upper 7km; Lower 7km.
Level: 85cm on gauge on river left at put-in. This was high (recommended range is 60-90cm).
Main features: Grade IV for first kilometre until a 6m fall with nasty slot and rocks in bottom. Portage river left. More grade IV until the next fall, 2m with an interesting entry rapid and a cave behind it. Portage river left. More IV/V+, then a 6m fall, portage river right. Shortly after is the main event, a 2m then a 10m fall, then a V- rapid. The 10m looked fairly munchy at these levels, but can be run extreme right in lower water. Portage river left from above the 2m, traverse along (ropes are provided) then lower to below the exit rapid. Portage took 45mins. More IV until the valley widens out. After the footbridge it eases off to II/III, with one drop hidden in the trees on river left. Everything is inspectable and portageable. The bottom section seems very long after the excitement of the upper.
Fium Orbo (lower)
Put in: D344 at a cafe 3km up from Sampolo.
Take out: Either at the bridge in Sampolo or at the steps by the gauge.
Level: Gauge at lake was on 70cm. The other gauge is down some steps from the road 1km up from Sampolo. this was on 1.75m. Good at this level.
Other sections: The 5km above this is IV/V -
Main features: Continuous pool-drop grade IV - lovely! A 2m drop with a siphon river right can be portaged on the left with a 3m seal-launch. A bit further down is a rapid with a nasty entry that can be portaged river right, seal-launching just below the undercut/boily stopper. The last drop of this section is a 2-step IV+ that flushes into a cliff face. More IV down to the bridge.
Put in: Bridge on D645 approx 1km below Chisa. Steps upstream of bridge river right.
Take out: Next road bridge down, 7km down D645.
Level: 40cm on gauge below put-in bridge, river right. This was high (can be run from 20cm).
Main features: Starts off grade 3/4. First rapid can be inspected from the road. After 1km things build up to IV/V. A nice easy 2m slide precedes a double grade V rapid, portaged left (bring a rope). Shortly after you find the Amphitheatre drops (approx 2km in). The first is 3m, run right. The second is a meatier 5m fall, run far left (ideally sliding over the rock). Getting out between these drops is difficult unaided. The thrid drop is a 2m fall with an enormous stopper (at these levels). All can be portaged river right by climbing up the cliff and down again, or by roping across between drops 1 and 2 to allow portage at river level. Round the corner from amphitheatre is a nasty boulder garden, ending in a heinous drop marked by a skull-and-crossbones. All can be portaged river left, with a 3m seal-launch off a shelf below the bottom drop. Continues IV/V before opening into a bouldery III/IV, with higher risks of pinning. The river then becomes gorgy again with more of the same. We ran out of daylight so walked out from 1.5km up from the takeout, 500m up to the road. This river takes a long time, with lots of portaging and inspecting - we did 4.5km in 8 hours. Many of the portages would be much harder in the rain, as they are mostly across steeply angled bedrock.
Put in: N200 2km west of Pont de Piedocorte. Layby on river side of road with mud track leading to river.
Take out: Second bridge before the tunnel when travelling west.
Grade: II/III (IV-)
Length: 8-10km: 2-3km of II/III, 1km of I, 7km III/IV.
Level: We did it at 1.6m, others did it at 1.7m and said it was a bit harder.
Other sections: It may be possible to get in by the barrage and just do the gorge section.
Main features: 2-3km of easy II/III leads onto a lake thats about 1km long. A very nasty barrage needs to be portaged left, but be aware we did this when the turbines weren't running - you paddle in though the inlet channel. If they were running you'd need to portage from further back. After the barrage the gorge starts. It gets very narrow in places (less than a boat length), with occasional blind bends, which can all be inspected but which never lead to anything nasty. Although relatively easy all the way down, some cliffs are undercut hence the (IV-) grade.
Put in: 3-4km above the D647 bridge, just below the nasty boulder choke that is easily spotted from the road.
Take out: D647 bridge.
Level: 80cm on gauge by footbridge about 1km down, very low at this level.
Other sections: Upper section can be run from about 4km further up, probably a grade harder.
Main features: Nothing in particular to mention - continuous boulder garden II/III.
http://www.simondawson.com/crsindx.htm Simon Dawsons guide. The most comprehensive online guide available although hasnt been updated for at least ten years.
http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Rapids/1661/canoe/corsica.html Pat Thoyts guide. Fairly comprehensive, but again quite dated and most gradings were higher than we would put them.
http://www.thamesweirproject.co.uk/corsica.htm Anna Mullard Dan Yates guide. Less comprehensive, but the most up-to-date and useful with a better indication of the grading.
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/gjl/crc/niveaux.html Water-levels page for the main rivers, updated about every ten days during the season.
http://www.kajak.at/Fluesse/index.bdlimg.php?bdl=10# Austrian site with useful maps and info for paddling in Corsica.
http://www.union.ic.ac.uk/rcc/canoe/trips/by_year.php Full account of our trip will appear here if this has whetted your appetite!