GUIDE TO THE RIVER LYON

NAME OF RIVER: Lyon 

WHERE IS IT?:

The Lyon (pronounced the same as Lion) is a very pretty river which joins the Tay just upstream of Aberfeldy. Thanks to summer releases from dams in its upper reaches it makes a good option for getting some grade 4 paddling under your belt during those dry summer months. In general the river is of similar character and difficulty to the lower Tummel, with better scenery but perhaps slightly lower quality whitewater. However the pretty gorges are also known to hide some dangerous rock formations under the surface, meaning your group leaders will need to keep their eyes off the scenery and closely on the rapids ahead.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: To reach the take out, cross the Tay at Aberfeldy and follow the B846 to Keltneyburn. Turn left off the main road (crossing the Keltneyburn river) and follow this road along Glen Lyon until you cross the river at the Bridge of Lyon (NN 72799 46641). This is your take out. There is limited parking in the laybys either side of the bridge. For the put in double back on yourself for about 1 km and take the first left. Follow the road the rest of the way up the glen. Put in at a layby by an obvious flattening near a footbridge where the road comes close to the river (NN 69985 47206).

APPROX LENGTH: 4km

TIME NEEDED:

ACCESS HASSLES: Glen Lyon is a fairly “Sporting” glen, and hill walkers in the past have had issues getting to the munros in the upper valley. I’ve not heard of any major issues for kayakers but it’s still something to be aware of.

When parking at the bridge at the takeout be sure not to block any driveways!

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Runs regularly in the summer due to dam releases from the upper reservoirs. The dates for these are usually published on the SCA website but note that it takes about 12 hours for the water to work its way down to the gorge after the start of the release. Outside of dam releases this run goes regularly and needs only a small amount of rain to bring it up. There is a sepa gauge on wheresthewater and the calibrations appear to be pretty accurate. At the bridge of Lyon the river should look shallow but floatable for the trip to be on.

GRADING: 3/4(5)

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:

The very first rapid first gorge has recently collapsed to make an ugly drop with a very tight line down the middle and siphons on the hard left and right. It can be run at grade 4+ ish but it is almost difficult to inspect and impossible to portage. While it is still possible for an experienced group to deal with this, a club trip will have serious difficulties and you would probably be better going to the tummel instead.

Macgregor’s leap is an ugly grade 5 near the end of the run and most will want to portage. As you approach the final gorge you will want to get out and work out where this drop is, but you can eddy hop pretty close to it so long as you are careful – don’t paddle on unless you can see the next eddy! Portage is possible on both sides but probably easiest on the right.

The bedrock in this valley is pretty funky and seems inclined to make a lot of undercuts and other hazards. None of the rapids are especially hard so in most cases this is not an issue, but if you have a risk of swimmers you will want to be extra tight on your safety setups.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

You have a nice warm up to begin with as from the put in the river is flat and flows over a few shingle banks as it slowly cuts its way into the first gorge. Nothing too difficult presents itself until you go round a corner to see an ominous horizon line with a huge boulder blocking your view of the rapid to follow. Inspection is possible but difficult by scrambling up the gorge walls on the left bank. Be warned – the slot on the left hand side has a strong siphon running under it and has been known to steal boats – don’t be tempted by this channel and stay well away by running round the boulder on the right hand channel, which goes nicely at grade 3+ EDIT - THIS DROP HAS NOW COLLAPSED TO MAKE AN UGLY GRADE 4+ DROP WHICH CANNOT BE INSPECTED OR PORTAGED (see hazards).A few more nice 3/3+rapids take you through the gorge until you reach the final drop of this gorge, which consists of another multiple choice of 2 narrow slots with not much line of sight. The best line is to do a grinding boof in the left hand channel, but inspection/portage is easy river left. The gorge now opens out somewhat and flat water leads you to Trouble (grade 4-). This is a long rapid consisting of a few slides finishing in a small hole and a narrows. Inspection is a little tricky but there is plenty of room to pick up pieces before Lyonheart (grade 4), which is a bit harder but thankfully is easily inspected/portaged river right.

You are now approaching the gorge into Macgregor’s leap. This gorge hides some of the best whitewater on the river, but unfortunately it all ends in a horrible grade 5 so it quickly becomes a “go as far as you dare” affair. Folks who are new to the river will want to get out river right as soon as the rapids start getting bigger and inspect the entire gorge. There are multiple eddies in the gorge from which you can escape, so an experienced group can eddy hop almost down to the final drop and do a Norwegian portage on river left round the disgusting bit. Larger club groups will almost certainly want to leave the whole lot alone by taking the long portage on river right. Macgregor’s leap itself can be run at grade 5 but is at its worst in low water, when all of the water bounces off a big boulder and slams into the undercut gorge walls. In higher water you can boof straight over the top of this but safety is recommended!

As you exit the gorge from Macgregor’s leap the river now apologises to you for your recent portage by saving the very best drop on the river until last – a Boof to Relyon (4-). This drop is a perfect 1 m boof ledge which is nicely  placed for doing multiple laps. It’s a great place to run a boofing clinic for your club, and you can stay here as long as you can be bothered, since from here it’s just a short float through shingle banks down to the bridge at the takeout.

OTHER NOTES:

If you paddle this run and find that the situation with the first rapid has changed then let us know. As it stands the run is no longer worth the effort for most groups because portaging the ugly drop is a long and difficult hike which then misses out a lot of the good rapids. A real shame on such a pretty and reliable run, so it’ll be good news if it comes back!

 

If you have a fair bit of water around I am told the nearby River Keltneyburn is a good fun blast!

See how many “Lyon” puns you can come up with! “they said it was high – they were lyon…”  

“I’ll be lyon on the cold hard ground! Ohh!”

“Can you see a clean Lyon?”

 

There is a nice park and huck drop in the upper reaches of the lyon at bridge of balgie, which can be easily lapped at class 3+/4 depending on level.

 

 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell, Neil Farmer, also Michael Meaden, Rik Hensman, Paul Marshall, Ian Grieve and Iain Bethune.

 

Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell

 

Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell

 

Paddler: Neil Raitt, Photo: Jon Harwell

 

Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell

Community Forum Comments on this Article
Re: River Lyon -- jason.sharp
2018 Jul 08 09:36:23 AM
Hi folks

Wish I had read the updated/edited section before running the Lyon yesterday, the situation hasn't changed. re. the first main rapid with the big boulder in the centre. Where we used to run down the right. I would suggest deleting the bit in the description on the first rapid even suggesting the right side now. At the dam release level yesterday it was pretty hard to avoid the syphon on this side. Making the rapid (in my view at least) pretty unrunable with 0.5
Re: River Lyon -- PeterG89
2017 Feb 12 09:49:36 PM
Hi,



what level on the WTW/SEPA guage am I looking at for a minimum/maximum?



Trying to save a long trip out to look at the bridge if it is going to be unsuitable to paddle



Thanks



Pete
Re: River Lyon -- matt_outandabout
2014 Nov 01 10:15:51 PM
You didn't inspect carefully then!

Hidden at Gallin is a series of grade3-4 drops, over about 400m, ending in the weir marked on OS maps.

In higher water it is ace, and reminds me of triple falls on Etive.
Re: River Lyon -- willow
2014 Oct 29 01:00:16 PM
We drove the entire length of it yesterday (Tue 28 Oct 2014) in extremely high flows, the contstriction that was talked about was not a constriction at all, just a massive boil about 6 metres wide, easyish line hard left of it with the drops above forming one long wave train with no major stoppers although it was huge. The constriction looked pretty hectic but did not look like it would hold you and the river was about 10 metres wide there with water pumping through. We walked away as we did not know what it was like underneath, was kind of hard to tell at that level. Totally runable and not hard it seemed but fairly huge at 2.3 on the sepa guage. This was a spike. We decided to go up the Glen to see if we could see these other rapids. In the end we looked at the Inverar Burn which was too hectic for us and ran the Innerwick Burn instead which was great. On the Lyon it seemed like flat water all the way to the dam, Loch Lyon, one or two small rapids but nothing really worth doing. Absolutely beautiful glen though. We drove over the hill from Loch Lyon and paddled the Lochay instead which was rapidly running out of water! Managed to screw that up. Innerwick Burn made up for it though, short but great.
Re: River Lyon -- callum s
2012 Sep 13 11:48:38 AM
There are a few fun rapids under the Bridge at Bridge of Balgy class 3/4 in very high flows but only worth paddling as an add on to the Allt Bail a Mhuillin which is a first class ditch, think everything else is pretty flat...
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