GUIDE TO THE WATER OF RUCHILL
NAME OF RIVER: Water of Ruchill
INTRODUCTION: The Water of Ruchill is a surprisingly large river compared to most of Scotland’s spate burns, and has a very alpine feel to it. It is all pretty much just one long rapid straight from the put in, with the occasional flatter bit to let you catch your breath. At low flows the river would make an excellent improvers trip of easy and continuous 2-3, with a hard and impressive rapid for the leaders to have their fun on. As levels rise the rocky grade 2-3 becomes an awesomely powerful nonstop wavetrain with few eddies – incredible fun for an experienced group, but not a good place for a swim! Aside from one big drop about 3km down there are no nasty surprises at most levels.
WHERE IS IT?: Glen Artney – flows into comrie
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The take out is at the public car park (NN 77320 21858) by the bridge close to the confluence of the ruchill and the earn – if possible leave a car here when you arrive as the shuttle is a long one. To reach the put in drive up the B827 until you reach a junction to the right signposted Glen Artney (it’s easy to miss). Drive up this glen until you reach a large empty car park (NN 71098 16106) next to a tiny church.
GRADING: 2/3 (4+) low water, reaching 4 (5+) in flood
APPROX LENGTH: 10 km
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours depending on river level and inspection/portage faff.
ACCESS HASSLES: No problems have been reported but Glen Artney is very much a sporting glen so show the usual courtesy. The road is private above the put in. If you get bored waiting for the shuttle, the burn in Findhu Glen – a major trib that joins the river just below the put in – could provide some good low volume 3+ sport if you are willing to hike your boat.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Gauge available on Where's the Water
Needs heavy rainfall, preferably on wet ground to bring it up, and it drops very fast. Save this for a wet day when you don’t really want to get out of your car! The river gets better and better the more water you have, and can take as much water as you can throw at it so it’s a good option when everything is in flood. On the way up the various side tribs should give an estimate of flow and at the put in what you see is what you get.
EDIT - Paddled this at 3.0 on the gauge and it turns out it actually CAN get to high! The river was awesomely powerful with huge wavetrains, but unfortunately the waves went straight into trees which are normally 10 feet out of the water. After two panicked kilometres we found the first eddy an decided to walk off. Just goes to show that with enough water almost everything can get too high!
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: About 3km down the run not long after a sharp right-left dog leg in the river there is a series of 3 major falls which are way out of character with the rest of the river. At low to medium flows they are an excellent grade 4+ to 5 set, and there is ample room to stop and scout as soon as you spot the horizon line. However at high flows they are a massive grade 5+, and it is vital to know where they are so you can get out in time. The whole section is easily portaged left.
From the put in you are straight into continuous rapids which whisk you quickly down the glen, giving little time to admire the scenery as you speed by. The odd “catch it if you can” wave provides entertainment for the keen, and there are a couple of big eddies for the group to catch their breath in. After passing a couple of bridges a sharp dog leg, with a bit of bedrock showing on the banks, signals the lead in to Spùt A’ Chleibh (4+, up to 5+ in high water) (NN 73329 17811). At high flows it is best to get out right here and inspect/portage along the left bank, while at lower flows you can eddy hop right up to it and inspect it river right. It consists of an intimidating but straightforward ramp into a big hole, followed by a fast lead in to an s bend rapid which tries its hardest to slam you against several walls. This is immediately followed by a ~3m drop with a choice of not-that-clean lines, with a final 1m exit drop. Inspection is possible both sides but portage is easiest left. After here you can relax and as the river resumes its previous tempo for the next 5km. All too soon the river flattens out and goes round a left hand bend near an old army camp. This is a signal for “the last hurrah” (g4) this is a fantastic rapid with nothing too nasty, and can be inspected with difficulty on the left. Most groups end up just charging straight down the middle without inspection as it has a tendency to creep up on you, but the river is flat for the next 2km after this so there is plenty of space to pick up the pieces before you float down flat water into Comrie. Take out before the bridge at the confluence with the Earn.
OTHER NOTES: The guidebook claims that there is a death weir on the flat bit at the end, but none of us have ever found it.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell and Kirsten Rendle.
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