NAME OF RIVER: Einig
INTRODUCTION: “Best river in the country” is a phrase which gets thrown around way too much in the narrow community that is guidebook writers, and the fact is that being in a country with so many fine grade 4 rivers (such as the Tilt, Kiachnisch, Roy, Ruchill, Fechlin and all of the blackwaters to name but a few) there really is no such thing as a best river in Scotland, but a good day out on the Einig/Corriemulzie/Rappach combo is well up there with the best of them. Right from the get go it’s all quality bedrock goodness that epitomises all that is good about Scottish creeking. Highly photogenic pool drop rapids, scenic gorges and a spectacular grade 5 to entice the gnar hunters in your group all combine to make a river which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Being in the middle of nowhere and receiving only a passing mention in the guidebooks for many years, very few folk have paddled or even heard of this river, but if you catch it at a good level it’s one you’ll be recommending to people for years after. There is also a decent bothy to camp at if you are waiting for levels to come up/drop off.
WHERE IS IT?: A tributary of the River Oykel, the Einig joins it just past Oykel bridge at the end of the white water section.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Now comes the fun part. The take out is in Oykel Bridge just after the Einig joins the Oykel (NC 39183 00388). From Inverness take the A9 to Bonar Bridge then drive a loooong way down the A836/837 to Oykel Bridge. Turn off down a dirt track just before you cross the bridge and follow the track downstream as far as you can without disturbing the fisher folk and park in a layby on the right. The put in is at the Duag bridge bothy (NH 33946 97429) either above or below the final set of falls on the corriemulzie. To reach it, cross the Oykel Bridge and immediately take the road down the other side of the river. Just keep following it as it becomes a dirt track and crosses over the Einig (this could be an alternative take out). Follow the glen up on the river right side (forestry commission road so it’s fine to drive) until you get to a sign marking the start of estate land. If the gate is locked then it’s unfortunately on foot from here for the final 300 m to the bothy. If it’s unlocked then it is possible to park at the Bothy and save the walk, but please be careful about doing this as you are now on private land. The Ghillie is really friendly and doesn’t seem to mind kayakers, but make sure you aren’t getting in anyone’s way! It’s also worth noting that this is a fairly classy fishing destination - the fishermen we have met are usually just excited to see someone else on the river but don’t expect this from everyone.
APPROX LENGTH: 6.5km
TIME NEEDED: Approximately 4 hours. Combined with one of its tribs, this is a full day out.
ACCESS HASSLES: As previously mentioned, the road in the Corriemulzie estate is private and access is granted only by their goodwill towards hillwalkers, mountain bikers and kayakers - please be considerate in parking and driving on the tracks. The Einig is a salmon fishing river with plenty of fisherfolk pathways, huts and bridges in evidence. While everyone we met was very friendly and welcoming, please show due consideration.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This river consists almost entirely of bedrock drops, and as such it doesn’t need much to get it going, but it gets scary really quickly if you add too much. There is no online guage, but as a rough guide the Oykel should be at least on scrape and ideally on low. At the river your best guage is the stick on the corriemulzie about 100 m upstream of Duag Bridge (see access) – about 0.9 on the guage should be considered a minimum flow, and the flat bit below the confluence should look easily floatable. The rapids at Oykel bridge are a good indicator if you are unsure about committing to the long drive up the access track – if the rapids under the bridge look runnable at a decent 3/3+ then it’s good to go. If they are looking “Sad” then you should probably head to the Cassely and if they look “powerful” then the Einig may be a bit on the high side for a first time down – maybe consider paddling the Oykel or just the Corriemulzie in this case. A rainfall guage for Einig wood can be found here http://apps.sepa.org.uk/rainfall - 20 mm of rain in the last 36 hours should have you in good stead.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Not long after the first major drop there is a narrow constriction (signalled by an iron girder which fishermen use to cross the river) that is usually portaged river left.
The next drop after the portage is a long lead into a big class 5 rapid. This is a fantastic rapid but has the potential to dish out some serious spankings, so don’t get suckered into accidentally running it blind by the enticing looking lead in drops!
This run is best done in combination with the Corriemulzie or the Rappach (or both!), and this guide starts where the ‘mulzie joins the Rappach to form the Einig. Flat water leads you to multiple choice (3) - a warm up rapid where the river cuts through a big slab of bedrock, forming multiple channels which all run fine. Soon after this a horizon line where the river veers left signals a 2 m boof which should be run hard on the right side.
2m Boof ledge. Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Kirsten Rendle
Immediately after this get out left and inspect/portage the next drop (signalled by a girder over a narrows in the river). A nice looking slide leads into an ugly looking constriction where somehow the entire river goes through a slot barely a kayak’s width wide. Portage is easy river left down a side channel which is dry in all but very high water. A short flat section leads you to Gobstopper (5) – this is by far the hardest drop on the river and must be inspected/portaged on the left. Some very enticing opening drops lead to an exceptionally powerful triple drop with some big holes to boof. If you don’t want to run the whole drop it is still possible to seal launch into the last drop which we called Toffee slide because it’s sweet but surprisingly sticky – see if you can work out why…
Gobstopper (toffee slide). Paddler: Jon Hawell, Photo: Jennifer Hartnett
Gobstopper (the toffee hole). Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Kirsten Rendle
Below gobstopper you are now into the gorge proper – take stock because you are entering a boxed in canyon and the rapids get much more frequent. Innumerable bedrock drops await you with beautiful lines which never get above a stiff class 4. Some drops may require a quick peek, but for the most part it’s just clean boofs and sweet lines in gorge a which would normally be starring in a geologist’s wet dream. The unquestionable highlight is a drop we called 99 with flake (4) – which at the right level has a dubious-looking but hilariously fun line down a slide into a huge ski jump formed by a flake of rock sticking out of the bedrock. Just paddle hard at the rooster tail (making sure not to be sucked down the side channel) and marvel how the airtime can make even hardened paddlers squeal like schoolgirls!
Getting air on 99 with flake. Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Kirsten Rendle
All too soon the rapids slowly start to ease off and leave you to further admire the majesty of your surroundings as you slowly exit the gorge. Sadly you now have most of the rapids behind you, but the river saves you one last hurrah in the form of Enarg falls (4). This double drop is straightforward to inspect river left, and offers a choice of lines which can be easily lapped if you have some leftover energy to burn off.
Enarg Falls, top drop. Paddler: Paul Brear, Photo: Jon Harwell
Enarg falls, river right line. Paddler: Jon Harwell, Photo: Kirsten Rendle
Enarg falls, river left line. Paddler: Kirsten Rendle, Photo: Jon Harwell
Now all that’s left is to paddle the remaining 1 km of easy water to the confluence with the Oykel where you can hike back up to your car and enthuse about your experience on the shuttle back up. Round 2 anyone?
OTHER NOTES: Like the nearby Oykel, this river seems to drop off quite quickly after rain.
Be careful about doing this run in high water (above 2 on the corriemulzie guage) as a lot of the drops could get very scary – get out before gobstopper if in doubt and make sure you take pictures!
Obviously “rooster tail” and “triple step” would be more conventional names for “99 with flake” and “Gobstopper” but I refuse to conform to using the same name which is used in literally every other river ever!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell