GUIDE TO THE DUCHRAY WATER
NAME OF RIVER: Duchray water
WHERE IS IT?: The Duchray is a very seldom paddled spate burn that forms the headwaters of the river forth as it flows out of the Trossachs national park. An excellent river for the adventure seeker, getting to the whitewater is often as much a challenge as paddling it, but the sense of isolation and the excellent bedrock drops make the effort worthwhile. This is definitely one to save for a very wet day!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Regardless of which put in you use, the take out is at a car park at the village of Aberfoyle (NN 52080 00942). Looking at the river here will give you an idea of the flow. For the put in you have two options – the easy but slightly sketchy way to do it is to cross the river at the village of Milton and following the forestry pathways (we are not sure if these are private or not so do this with caution) up the river until you find a put in at a bridge above a messy 2 metre drop. Alternatively you can also drive west along the banks of Loch Ard until parking just before Loch Chon at NN 433 037. Park in a layby here and unfortunately it’s on foot along forestry tracks for a few km until you hit the river at NN 424 022. Putting in here the river looks like a tiny burn, but it soon picks up in size and gradient. The advantages of this put in are the more adventurous feel, you get a bit more whitewater for your trip, and no risk of hacking off the locals. The downsides are the walk in and the fact that the first km of the run is flat with a million tree portages to deal with. Also at the levels required for this run the loch you drive on has a tendency to flood the road, making things even sketchier…. Either way you will definitely need an OS map to find your way to the river.
GRADING: 4 (5) – a great river for an adventurous and experienced group used to doing their own route finding.
APPROX LENGTH: 8 or 12 km
TIME NEEDED: Roughly 4-5 hours from the top put in depending on levels. 2-3 for the lower put in.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown but exercise caution when driving on forestry roads.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs serious rain to bring it up. Enough that there will be flood warnings through most of the area and all the normal runs are way too high. The river at the take out provides a rough estimate of the flow – ideally it should be churning brown and starting to flood the car park. A little less should still work, though note that the river can drop very quickly.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: There is a massive drop of at least 35 ft that gets run occasionally. This is probably the highest runnable drop I know of in Scotland that has a clean lip and pool, so it could attract the budding big fall chasers among you. Your indicators for where it is are a constricted rapid below a bridge, and then a big right hand bend in the river – the horizon line is fairly obvious after this but obviously exercise caution. The final drop should also be considered grade 5-.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the upper put in the river is flat and meandering with lovely scenery, until you hit a marsh with a million trees straddling the river – you will almost certainly start regretting your decision to get out of bed that day, as you are in and out of your boat for the next kilometre, but take solace in the fact that it gets much better! Just as you start to give up hope, the trees clear and the river enters a forest. You are soon met with a grade 4 horizon line which feels all the better given how desperate you are for white water at this point. Plenty more excellent grade 4 rapids follow with flat pools and blind bends in between as the river meanders through the forest. The rapids are all very bedrocky in character and the closest comparison river I can think of is the upper Tummel (though with lots more water if you got the level right). The river exits the forest and flattens out for a km or so before you approach the second put in at a bridge with a ruined astronomy centre at it. From this put in there is no warm up before a messy 2 m drop which feels great if you get a good boof. The best of the white water follows immediately with grade 4 drop after grade 4 drop with lots more blind corners – exciting stuff! The river flattens as you pass another bridge, however the third bridge you come to signals a large but constricted rapid which warrants inspection, especially since from here there is about 400 m until the 35 footer appears, which must be portaged/inspected right – approach this with caution especially in high water. The river spends most of its energy on this drop and it is now grade 2/3 until you hit one final hurrah in the form of a technical drop that approaches grade 5. Flat water (usually in the dark at this point) will lead you to your car and a celebratory beer at the local pub.
OTHER NOTES: Very seldom paddled – I have only done this river once, so do take this description with a pinch of salt.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell
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