GUIDE TO THE RIVER INVER
NAME OF RIVER: Inver...Abhainn Inbhir if you speak Gaelic.
WHERE IS IT?: In the North of Scotland, OS sheet 15. The river flows out of Loch Assynt into the sea at the town of Loch Inver in west Sutherland.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Access the river from the A837 where it runs close to the river at GR135246. Alternative access can be taken at Bracklock (signposted from road) at 123237.
*At the end of Loch Assynt the river narrows and is the start of the first section. Go through the wooden gate (which is not locked!) and get in on the Loch. The river can be viewed from the bank with ease. There is a get out point at the end of this rapid and a walk back along a track (although you can drive down this until you get to the 'private' gates). If you decide to continue - stay on. Get out is when you hit the obvious weir (you can park 1 or 2 vehicles on the verge of the road next to the 'private' gate (which has convenient canoe gaps to put your boats through). Or if the level is not too high and you fancy your chances at the lower section - (this must be looked at), get out in the river mouth.
APPROX LENGTH: 2 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 40 minutes in high water.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown, but
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Best paddled after heavy rain, although the last half mile can be paddled in most conditions. In big spate this section, especially from the cave downwards looks lethal with a succession of enormous stoppers. One could then consider paddling the Ullapool River.
*The water was lapping the bridge over the weir - also if you walk along the bank from the bridge in Lochinver and continue past the weir, you will see several fishing platforms, one of the first ones has a height indicator (which showed 2.5 on our trip) - several were completely under the water.
GRADING: 3 and 4.
*Not particularly technical, but a bouncy 3/4. (Upper sections above the weir). Lower section at this level must be a dodgy 5.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:'The Cave'.
*Lower section looked very dodgy at the 'cave' and there was a hole on one of the falls about 50 metres above. We didn't attempt a paddle as there were only 2 of us and no bank support - bit dodgy!!!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A few hundred yards of grade 3 rapid with some play possibilities follow from the A837 access point. One is then faced with a mile and a half of flat water, shallow and scrapey in places before the real fun begins.
Shortly below Bracklock there is a nice grade 3+ rapid. Some flat water leads to a big pool and a weir with wire baskets (probably best portaged) Here the river narrow and steepens as it enters an impressive little gorge with half a mile of constant grade 4. The paddling tends to be both heavy and technical. Just above Loch Inver one encounters 'The Cave' (Inspection strongly recommended). A large detached block leans against the right hand rock wall of the river. The river runs behind it through a narrow gap. To get carried in here would almost certainly be a case of "game over". However most of the river runs down a steep, narrow chute on river left and even if things go wrong there is no obvious reason why one should end up in 'The Cave'. A swim in the chute is only a marginally more attractive proposition so roped protection from the bank is recommended. A succession of drops, pour-overs and stoppers lead one under the road bridge and into the salt.
The best paddling is all in the last mile, which is consistently grade 4. The final half mile gorge can be readily inspected by walking up the path on the south bank of the river from the egress point where the A837 crosses the river as it enters the town.
*First section is a nice bouncy bit and feels like you're going into a roller coaster when you start from the Loch. There are a few stoppers on the way down, but nothing serious. The river then goes flat for about 2 km before you hit the next section (one rapid wonder). Nice little hole might just back loop you if you were unlucky!
OTHER NOTES: Tony Hocking adds...'I ran it with a mate on New Years Eve 2000 and ended up going into and through the Cave. I got away with a black and cut eye, the topo and blades stayed in for a while before washing out. Although we had walked the river earlier in the week and saw the cave/ sump, we were boat scouting on the day, and made the mistake of eddying out river right above the cave to then take the main shute. At that level (low), you can't regain the flow to make the lead in. Before I knew it, it was getting dark...incidentally, I never found my blades, a carbon gorilla grip/fred flintstone number with my phone no on the blade. Can't say I was too bothered at the time!'
*Great little gem of a river when in very high water. We will return for the lower section in lower conditions. Nice pint in the Wayfarers afterwards, although the juke box only plays Tina Turner.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Ron Cameron, SCA River Advisor and Tony Hocking. CComments marked by a * describe a high water trip by Martin Elston and Dave Merrifield, Taunton Canoe Club.