GUIDE TO THE RIVER EAST OKEMENT
(Upper section to Okehampton)
NAME OF RIVER: East Okement.
WHERE IS IT?: North Dartmoor, flowing into Okehampton which is near the A30. Map.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Drive up the "ring-road" past Okehampton camp and bear left. This brings you to within about 200m of Cullever Steps, GR 605922.
Finish the trip at Okehampton College (GR 589949) where there is plenty of parking.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 km.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: Access problems are unlikely. Be aware however that you are encroaching upon MOD land.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The East Okement requires masses of rain to come into condition. Ideally the moors will already be saturated and you will set off on the epic journey to the put-in whilst heavy rain falls. It will only stay up for a short period.
It should be easy to decide whether the river is in spate in Okehampton. There is also a gauge beside a lane beneath the A30 roadbridge at GR 603947. This should read a minimum of 0.45 metres, ideally it should read 0.55 or higher.
Update (March 2004)...'We finally managed to get on the East Okement in fairly high water....0.65 when we launched. At this level the 'fun slides' all merge together to form a single long steep grade 4+/5 megarapid which is perhaps the most exciting rapid in the South. Yes, a single rapid with only marginal possibility of stopping, dropping 150-200 foot of vertical height. The downside is that the slides practically terminate right into the tree-strewn section, so be careful. Most of the next kilometre to below the waterfall has to be portaged as the water is in the trees. The series of rapids downstream of the waterfall become grade 5 (slot is still probably a portage) with sticky holes and stopping above them is tricky. All worth it for the slides though, truly amazing...'
GRADING: 4+. 5 in spate.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees galore.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: One of England's more adventurous paddling trips, the East Okement combines trekking, steep slides and technical drops to make a memorable day out.
There is no warm-up. The East Okement squeezes between some bushes and then suddenly a worrying amount of open space opens up below you. The East Okement loses an impressive amount of height in the next kilometre, sliding down long granite slabs. This is great fun and mostly harmless; but watch out for the slide which dumps you into a coffin slot.
Sadly, this can't go on forever. The river changes character to bouldery rapids and over the following kilometre trees encroach to an awkward extent. Whilst these are quite bearable (compared to, say, those on the nearby River Taw) you may wish to retain your enjoyment of the river by portaging for a few hundred metres.
The river regains interest when the character changes once more. A long section of bedrock ledge drops commences with a nasty six metre waterfall. This has been run, but the paddler (a young Ed Cornfield) landed upside-down on rock. The portage is easy enough on river right.
Not long after the portage, be on the lookout for a nasty little slot drop which may require a short portage. Otherwise, the next section is splendid with many drops and small holes to keep you busy. The river only winds down when you float under the A30 and pass the gauge.
Grade 3 water takes you into Okehampton through canalised banks. There are small weirs and footbridges through a park before the finish at Okehampton College is reached. Take out on river right. If you continue below here, finding a takeout in town is difficult.
OTHER NOTES: Better than Alton Towers.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Pete Stothert.