GUIDE TO THE RIVER FECHLIN
NAME OF RIVER: Fechlin.
WHERE IS IT?: A mighty fine river in high water is the Fechlin. It flows into the River Foyers, which flows into the south side of Loch Ness. Take the B862 which runs along the south side of Loch Ness, and turn up a little road towards Loch Killin, approximately 'opposite' Invermoriston, home of the mighty River Moriston. As you see the river near the B862, it is usually *very* empty, but that is because most of the water in the river disappears down a hydro-scheme at the end of the trip. Take the little road off the B road and head up the valley. Map.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The put in is at the small but beautiful Loch Killin, about 5 miles up the road - there is a big metal bridge over the river where it leaves the loch. The take out is at an obvious dam where all the water disappears into the hydro scheme. There is a lane up to the road from the dam (approx 300 yards), park near the 'Fechlin Intake' sign. Get in grid reference approx NH 530120, get-out approx NH 480140.
APPROX LENGTH: Approx 4 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 3 or 4 hours.
Nb. Spring 2004, work was being done on the Fechlin to install a new hydro project which will effectively drain much of the river outside spate levels. One of the best grade 4 trips in the country was being desecrated. Pictures.
Andrew Green, Rugby Canoe Club (Nov 2005)...The new hydro scheme seems to be complete. A large amount of water is removed by the dam/weir shortly after the put-in. Hence, there will now presumably only be enough water to paddle when the river is very high. Portage round the dam on the right hand side was quite easy. I don't think it would be wise to shoot the weir at high water levels since I think it would produce a dangerous tow back although I haven't seen this. The dam can be seen from the road so it should be possible to assess the amount of water in the river below the dam if you stop and look.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: You want about a foot of water flowing out of the lake for it to be paddleable. Anything much less will be a bit of a scrape. 2-3 feet makes for a good bank-full level. 5 feet or more means the river is high and awesome!
GRADING: Continuous 3 and 4. Some of the drops get quite tricky in low water. In high water, it's mostly continuous Grade 4/4+ with perhaps three Grade 5 sections.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It is important to highlight the potential difficulties of this river; the rapids are easy to inspect and portage if necessary, but a couple certainly reach grade 5 in high water. Evacuation would not always be too straightforward if you had a casualty, and being that bit higher up, it is nearly always cold. Hypothermia could be a problem even when out of the water! Keep an eye out for trees. All the more difficult sections are fairly easy to see in advance, so you can easily get out to inspect.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION:Put in at the lake (end of the road, big metal roadbridge),
It's classic pool-drop Scotland. Continuous grade 3, with about 7 or 8 big Grade 4/ 4+'s (some are 5 in very HW). Some rapids stand out and will be recognisable...
The first Grade 4 section, which is a straight run through waves and stoppers.
A long grade 4 on a righthand bend, which is signalled by sharp rocks pointing up out of the water on river right at the top end.
A narrowing where the river flows into a tight gully with a big boil on river right at the end. Grade 5 in high water?
A major drop about three-quarters of the way down, where the water drops over a narrow fall and then splits around a large rock in mid channel. Grade 4. This had most of our more able paddlers having problems! In high water, the central rock vanishes from sight and the rapid consists of a stack of big stoppers...Grade 5.
Yet more grade 4 rapids!
An unusual rapid where the whole river piles into a huge boulder blocking most of the flow, forcing the paddler to sneak around it. In medium/ high water levels it is possible to run the spectacular ramp up and over the rock...but a meaty stopper waits below. Grade 5 in high water?
A final grade 4 section with some 'playful' stoppers!
The getout is just below where the river flattens out completely. A sheep fence may block the river, before the river reaches a large dam. In lower water levels the water vanishes INTO the dam through grills, in high water it flows over and into a gorge. The gorge is not paddleable; just out of sight, impressive waterfalls drop through sumps. The river must have a further water extraction downstream; when it reaches the River Foyers it is nearly dry, even in high water levels...?
OTHER NOTES: You cross an interesting paddleable stream on the road to the Fechlin. You see a short gorge below a bridge, this is the Allt Breinach.
Mark Rainsley (Easter 2000)...'We caught the Fechlin on a day when everything around Fort William was dry; to our disbelief, it was in spate from snowmelt. Truly fantastic, loads of playing and some harder bits to inspect. A swim at this level could be very serious. The best paddle I've done in Scotland so far. Even a lot lower (medium water) the next day it was a first-rate trip...Who Needs the Himalayas?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Sam, Conor O'Neill, Mark Rainsley, Andrew Greenand Dave Alldritt.