GUIDE TO THE RIVER KELTIE
NAME OF RIVER: Keltie.
WHERE IS IT?: On the Stirling Road through Callander there are signs for Bracklin Falls opposite the roman camp. Follow these.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: You can drive up to the car park for Bracklin Falls but there are more further up through a gate. Follow this road along for a mile or so until there is an obvious right turn to take you down to the river and a bridge. This is the put in we chose. Take out is either a mile from Callander where the river runs under the road near a campsite, or at Bracklin Falls (more of a walk, but advisable at low levels I'd imagine).
You can get on or off for most of the river as this is a popular walking spot. However, the main drops on this river bunch together (upper falls and lower falls) and at decent levels it would be difficult to get out halfway through either of the falls.
Marv Higgs (March 2006...'Apparently the farmer living in the bungalow at the bottom is getting annoyed at folk flashing their bodies outside his window. A much better take out, and one which is more discreet, is as follows: Drive from Callander, over the Keltie, and turn left 100m after the bridge. Drive carefully up this road until the road forks at signs for East and West Bracklinn farms. Get out here, marked by a trib coming in on river left. This also cuts out all the flat paddling (even in high flows) at the end.'
APPROX LENGTH: 5 km when the river is up.
TIME NEEDED: Took us a couple of hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Access here seemed fine and we bumped into a couple of loggers whose only reaction to us was the typical "nutters" comment. Ah well.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: At the take out if there are few/ no rocks showing then the river is the best fun for those looking to run all the falls. If there is a meaty looking hole at the bottom of the first drop of the upper falls then the same is true. Not sure about lower levels, but the sections between the falls would become a bit of a scrape and there may be some dodgy rocks in some of the falls. Just remember - 'inspection is key kids!'
GRADING: 3/4 for in between sections at decent flow. 5 for the falls. This is for highish levels, don't really know about lower water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The main attraction of this river is the waterfalls that are of an almost unique nature. All of them need inspecting. Bracklin Falls consists of 5 falls ranging from 2m to 7+m in quick succession, so make sure you either know where they are or that you're very happy scouting rivers. The first drop of Bracklin is rocky in spots, the 3rd drop has a siphon (hard to get to, but there none the less) and they are most definately not a place to swim unless you really like hospital food or have made peace with your maker.
Andy Darnbrough...'Visited the Keltie today 29/8/04 to check out the missing bridge! The recent floods have not only removed the cast iron Victorian bridge but have changed the bedrock and gorge walls significantly (what was the bridge attached to?). The 3 drops after the first weir are now very different. The "curling drop" now looks much wider! Well worth a look if you are in the area and remember what they used to be like.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The first rapid (a three tiered twisting rapid with hungry hole at bottom) will commit you to running 'Kerplunk' - A 3-4m fall that would like you to get intimate with the right wall and has a rock shelf hidden in the bottom. The run in is 10m or so of shallow holes after a nice 'psyche-up' eddy on the right. Boof it nicely left and get a whoop and grin from anyone involved.
The paddle down to Bracklin has some 2 km of nice 3/4 water at sweet levels, but nothing that I remember as being too pushy. Bracklin Falls appears as the river disappears left. Get out and look unless you have an impressive memory and have checked them earlier in the day.
A detailed run through of the Falls is useless since you will need to check them for yourself. The first drop is of a dubious nature and likes to rearrange the front on boats - DO NOT be tempted to boof left! The best line seemed to be melting/ pencilling the middle. Then watch the undercut rock in front of you. Having fun yet?! The second drop needs run hard left and is a 4-5 m natural weir, it should be boofed (not convinced of the depth). The next drop is known as 'The Gates of Shangri-La' and at high levels has a siphon on the right. Obviously avoid this and try not get bashed about by the rocks. Take your best line through this curling 2-3m drop (i.e upright), head right at 90 degrees (a large rock wall ensures this line), then prepare yourself for some freefall - at 7+m Haggis Trap is an incredible natural ledge and we found went best semi-boofed (hey, it's HIGH) on the right. The final drop, Trouble or Quits, has a rock in the bottom right and may be shallow, so boof it left. Look back and giggle insanely, or grin at the wide-eyed ramblers. Protection is possible for some of the drops, but requires a bit of imagination.
The next couple of kilometres is similar to those leading up to Bracklin as the rivers widens out and relaxes.
OTHER NOTES: All the description given is for highish levels when there were no rocks visible under the get out bridge and there was a grippy hole at the top drop.
I advise leaving space at the top drop as the bottom hole of the first rapid IS sticky at high flows. A Blistick Huka (Colin 'The Bear') took a pasting in it until aided by the incoming Dagger CFS (Dan 'The Giraffe') who neatly replaced him. A bit of cartwheeling helped Dan out but not before I almost joined him thinking I could have been of service with the front of my boat.
The first drop of Bracklin did rearrage the front of my boat (Dans CFS stood up better) and I think I should warn that the undercut wall seems to pull decks - my intimate, but controlled, experience with it left me paddling a very unresponsive boat, until I realised it was half full of water. Emptying on some exposed rocks was not the way I wanted to start the falls, but the mini-gorge persuaded me that hopping back in would be easier than climbing out, and turned out to be a lot more satisfying.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Billy 'The Sanchez' Powell. Edinburgh University Canoe Club - other paddlers: Dan 'The Giraffe' Noblett, Graham 'Two Chippies' Dawson, Colin 'The Bear' Hamilton and Paul 'My Boss' Maydhew (no seriously, he is), also Andrew Darnbrough and Marv Higgs.