GUIDE TO THE RIVER COILTE
NAME OF RIVER: River Coilte
INTRODUCTION: The Coilte is a spate burn that flows into Loch Ness at Drumnadrochit - one of those spate burns you always dream of doing when reading the guidebook but rarely get to do, it is a good thing to look at if all the regular runs in the area are running too high. The run is split into 3 gorges, changing in character along its length from tight and twisting with bedrock ledges and blind corners to more open and continuous shingle rapids as it approaches the loch. Although brilliant, this run is seldom paddled due to its long walk in and the extremely high water required to make the trip worthwhile.
WHERE IS IT?: Drumnadrochit – North side of Loch Ness
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Take out is at a small car park by a bridge over the river on your way out of Drumnadrochit towards invermoriston (NH 513 291). For the put in follow the river upstream on the right hand bank through the village. Drive along this road until you reach a bridge crossing the river. This is a good place to check the level again. Now backtrack until you hit the first turnoff which will lead you up a forestry track until a locked gate is reached (NH 495 282). It is on foot from here unfortunately! Keep following the path up the glen until you can go no further, then bushwhack down to the river – this can be an adventure in itself as the river is in a deep gorge guarded by deer fences which need to be scaled. We walked about 3km upstream, but the further you can walk the better, as the best of the whitewater was at the top. If you can the best put in would be at NH 468 267, however we gave up before this and had to rope ourselves down to the river so we don’t know what is above here – it looked good though!
GRADING: 4 (5) – a great river for a small, experienced group who can deal with poor line of sight and tight spaces. There is nothing too nasty on the river, but the eddies are small and two kayaks were more than enough to be dealing with.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 km
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours for the run, plus 1-2 hours for the walk in
ACCESS HASSLES: Too rarely paddled to be an issue
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs a recent downpour of very heavy rain – enough to bring the likes of the tilt or the Roy into flood conditions. The river rises and falls very quickly. There is a SEPA gauge here. Roughly 1 on the guage seemed to be a decent low/medium level but it is difficult to be accurate. Looking upstream from the bridge at the takeout all the rocks should be well covered and you should have no problem floating a kayak. If the river is churning brown and obviously very high then the upper gorges could be a serious undertaking.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: There is one ledge drop which should probably be considered a 5 near the start of the middle gorge. There aren’t many discerning features in the lead in to this so just follow good eddy hopping practice, and if you can’t see round a corner then get out and take a peek. There is a large sloping weir near end of the river which is shootable, though the pool at the bottom is rather shallow.
A blow by blow description is fairly useless as you will have a different put in every time. Suffice to say when you put in on the upper gorge, the river is tight, twisting, and surprisingly powerful for its lack of volume. Notable drops included a blind constriction with a micro eddy that is hard to escape from, and plenty of boof ledges with boulder rapids in between. Soon the rocky walls of the gorge recede and you have a few minutes to collect your thoughts before the banks begin to steepen and the rapids get larger in the approach to the second gorge, slightly less confined than the first, before long you reach the grade 5 mentioned earlier, which can be inspected with care on the right and, at a medium flow, be portaged on the left with an exciting seal launch into the end of the rapid. Plenty more grade 4 follows, with one notable drop appearing just after the banks open up again that warrants a quick inspection on river right. The final lower gorge is much more mellow by comparison at a continuous grade 2/3. This section would be best when the river is in near flood conditions, however the rest of the run would be terrifying at this level. There is a concrete weir which is shootable with care, and not long afterward you reach a bridge with a guage station. If the river is starting to scrape by this point the just take out here and go fetch your car – the river opens out and becomes even more scrapey below here so it might be worth saving your plastic for another day.
OTHER NOTES: Very seldom paddled – I have only done this river once, so do take this description with a pinch of salt.
The river’s close neighbour, the Enrick, is much larger but does not appear to have any white water of note
I have heard rumours of a hydro scheme to be placed on this river – seems stupid given that it only has water in about 5 days a year but that’s hydro for you. Given that kayakers only use the river on the big spikes it hopefully shouldn’t affect the paddling too much. Hopefully…
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell