GUIDE TO THE RIVER BRAAN
(Rumbling Bridge to The Hermitage, 'Braan Gorge')
WHERE IS IT?: Perthshire and Kinross, Eastern/Central Scotland. Very close to the A9 near Dunkeld (where the Braan joins the River Tay). Look for a sign for "The Hermitage", and follow it to the takeout (immediately beside the A9). Check level/ bottle here.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: If you are driving from the south you will pass the road to the put-in shortly before you get to "The Hermitage" (It looks like the A822 on my giant scale map of Europe!), however go to the Hermitage to check the level first. You probably want to follow the path up to the Hermitage falls, which are readily viewable from a bridge or a special viewing gallery. The falls were considered so awesome that (Victorian?) ladies could not look directly at them lest they should faint, the concave room in the gallery used to be full of mirrors in which ladies could view the falls without being exposed to the raw power of nature! Then head a couple of hundred yards south on the A9 and turn right towards the Put-in.
There are 2 sections, they are split by the unrunnable fall known as 'Rumbling Bridge' which has a reasonable car park if you park cars reasonably. I haven't paddled the top section but the road follows the river so put in where you feel is sensible. Should probably check the run in to Rumbling Bridge and take out in plenty of time.
For this lower section (aka the Braan Gorge) carry your boats down to Rumbling Bridge and follow the path (river right of the bridge) until it gets too steep. Set up a belay and let someone climb down. Then lower the kit, and finally the rest climb in. It's only a short pitch of mod (+mud) and a throwline will double up round a tree so the last person can get down. Takeout at the Hermitage car park where there may be a hot dog van!
APPROX LENGTH: Braan Gorge: about 3 miles. There are lots of walks in the area and maps in the car parks to confirm this if I've got it wrong!
TIME NEEDED: Depending on level probably 3 hours or more.
ACCESS HASSLES: Situation unknown. It is a well developed tourist location and there are paths for walkers. I have not heard of any problems; just make sure you smile for the cameras! See also the SCA Access notes.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Nothing firm but if you look at the river at the Hermitage you will get some idea. The gorge is a gorge and is paddleable when it looks a bit scrapey at the takeout, obviously it's better higher. The top section needs quite a bit of water.
Mark Lyons adds...'Having run Braan gorge at various levels, I would recommend running it at medium levels as the number of eddies are greatly reduced in high water and inspection becomes very difficult, the prospect of a swim is daunting. It is almost impossible to stop before some very tricky sections. The section with the central rock also has a siphon right next to the most likely pinning. A good way of judging the level is to look down from Rumbling Bridge. If the rocks after the small hole are just about covered, then it is medium water and the whole gorge and the Coffin Falls - grade 5 at this level - are runnable. Get out above Hermitage falls as these are grade 6 at any level.'
GRADING: It is continuous Grade 3 and 4 with some Grade 5 falls. The Coffin Falls may be Grade 6 in high water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The river is a very serious trip with no opportunities to escape once you are in the gorge. It starts and finishes at major, dangerous unrunnable waterfalls. Hence it's inclusion in the extremely difficult category.
Several falls in the gorge will require inspection and some portages (I have heard that they have all been run in the right conditions). The 2 big ones are the Hermitage Falls themselves (6) and the Coffin Falls shortly above them. A rapid splitting round a central rock can be nasty at some levels.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Having climbed into the gorge immediately below Rumbling Bridge you may be faced with a tricky put-in, in high conditions - balancing precariously and putting your deck on! The Gorge runs like most other gorges, twisty, blind so a lot of eddy hopping required. If you can't see the next eddy, or it doesn't look makeable, jump out and take a peep, there are a few rapids worth looking at and some may be worth portaging.
Rapids and small falls are continuous, with Grade 3 and 4 water right from the start. If you don't like what you find early on, back-track up the gorge as it doesn't get easier. The initial rapids are known as Staircase rapids.
Further on, a tricky section has a big rock splitting it in the centre. In low water the river sumps on river left and the river right route is tight. Portage is possible on river left.
Further on lies the Coffin Falls which is easily portaged river right. It can be paddled at Grade 5 in low/ medium water levels.
There is then a short bit of grade 4 before the lead in to the Hermitage Falls, which must be portaged river left. These last 2 big drops can be inspected from the tourist path before getting on. You will need to get in below the Hermitage Falls for the tourists and the short run to the flat water by the car park.
You could continue down a mile or so of easy water to the confluence with the River Tay.
OTHER NOTES: A superb run if you like eddy hopping. Beware of the put-in, I cut my hand open climbing down into the gorge, hence all the red streaks on my boat in the pic taken portaging the split rapid in low water!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jim Wallis, Mark Lyons and Mark Rainsley.