GUIDE TO THE RIVER BLACKWATER
NAME OF RIVER: Blackwater.
WHERE IS IT?: North of Inverness, just off the A835 to Ullapool. The put in is either above or below the bridge where the road crosses the river about a mile north of Garve. The takeout is above Garve and is much easier to find from the river than the road, it being hidden down a forest track.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There is a large car park on the South side of the bridge which marks the get in (NH 40205 63926). There is an easy put in below the road bridge on river right - just follow the path from the car park.
From here you drive a short distance down the main road where you will see a sign marked 'Little Garve'. Take this road and about half a mile down this road you will see a sign to the left to a picnic area. Follow this keeping left until you reach a bridge over the river and a turning area (NH 39619 62892). It is probably best not to leave too many cars here as there is not a lot of room.
APPROX LENGTH: 1.5km
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours depending on group confidence.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs a bit of rain. Gauge available here: http://canoescotland.org/where-go/wheres-water
PLEASE NOTE: The gauge for this river changed in September 2018, so the current calibrations on the SCA site may not be correct. If you paddle this river, please submit a level report so the team can verify or change them!
Look over the old roadbridge at the put in. At the bottom of the drop on the river left there is a rock. If this is out of the water and the rapid appears blocked it is low. If the rock is apparent but not out of the water it is medium and if there is no sign of this rock it is probably high.
GRADING: Grade 3-4 (5).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The first and last rapids on the river are the hardest although the first fall under the bridge often looks more menacing than it really is. The final fall is under the bridge at the get out and warrants a bit of respect. At low to medium levels this runs easily to the far left. However, there is a submerged rock midstream at the base of the fall which has a tendency to throw people into a very nasty pot on river right. This should be avoided at all costs as rescue is not easy and the hole is very retentive. In higher flows a boil forms on the lip of the fall which makes the left hand route very difficult to make.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The fall above the road bridge is runnable at grade 5, but most will choose to put in below! There are 4 distinct rapids between here and the final bridge. Generally, the falls are straightforward and rescue should be easy in all but very high water. The first is a large drop then a bouncy rapid (grade 4). The next is a long rapid with some holes to avoid and a significant undercut on river left (grade 4). The rockslide section (grade 3/4) is marked by large midstream rock outcrops and finding the easiest route is not always obvious. If in any doubt get out and look as some of the alternative channels are unrunnable. After this is another bouncy rapid down to the take out (grade 3/4). Be aware there is little space after this rapid for rescues before the bridge, especially in high water. The final fall (grade 4/5) is easily noted by the presence of the old road bridge. This is a simple grade 4 drop in low water, but in high water it is a meaty hole (grade 5) with little possibility for setting safety.
OTHER NOTES: NB There is another Blackwater further south in Scotland, just to confuse people?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kris Waring and Kirsten Rendle.