GUIDE TO THE RIVER BLACKWATER
NAME OF RIVER: Blackwater.
WHERE IS IT?: Approx 1 hour from Perth, north of Blairgowrie, flowing out of Glen Shee.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Access is at Milton Bridge(NO 13850 56882), I think the 2nd right heading up Glen Shee from Bridge of Cally. There is a car park just past the turn off with a path down to the put in.
Egress is at Netherton Bridge(NO 14383 52119), 1st right heading up Glen Shee from Bridge of Cally) at the SCA access point - a set of steep steps just downstream on river left. Do not continue past here! The river joins the Ardle to become the Ericht which is flat for a few km then enters Craighall Gorge which contains a very difficult to portage unrunnable rapid in a very deep sheer sided gorge.
Parking is limited at both put in and take out, be sensible and don’t block anyone’s driveway.
APPROX LENGTH: 4 km at a guess.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hour.
ACCESS HASSLES: The locals are fairly friendly unless you block their drives, even then they’ll usually just politely ask you to move. One lady even lent us a shovel to dig our car out of the snow!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Milton falls needs to be runnable for the rest of the river to go. Gauge available here: http://canoescotland.org/where-go/wheres-water
GRADING: Grade 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees. Milton falls starts off the run.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The first and hardest four tier fall (grade 4) is just upstream of the bridge. Portage, inspection and safety is possible down the river right bank. The final drop before the bridge is usually run river right as the left has a nasty, rock filled hole at the bottom.
From the bridge the river is tame and a bit bony for about 1-1.5 km. Soon the river narrows into a gorge with a series of gorgeous twisting drops (grade 4) that continue in a second mini gorge section around the corner. Bank inspection is possible on the right, although bank protection could be hard in places. This gorge has a tendency to catch trees, and there is little chance to pick up pieces between the drops, so it is worth scouting the whole thing before running.
All too soon the gorge opens out and eases in difficulty. A final section of rapids (grade 3/4) around a right hand corner leads you to Netherton Bridge, there is an SCA egress point about 100m past the bridge on river right.
OTHER NOTES: This section increases to grade 5 in high flows. The final section of the Ardle at Bridge of Cally looked good once in high water, anyone paddled it? The Blackwater combines well with a trip on the Tay, Tummel, Braan, South or North Esk or Westwater. NB There is another Blackwater further north in Scotland, just to confuse people.
Kris Waring adds (Feb '00)...'Personally I wouldn't recommend running the 'gorgeous twisting drops' section blind unless it is fairly low or you are very familiar with the river. It is quite a steep series of drops with the hardest being the first and a swim here would not be nice. There is definitely potential for trees to get jammed in this section and I have seen a boat pinned against a rock halfway down here. The water is surprisingly fast with any substantial amount of water. Just downstream of this rapid is a single drop of about 4-5 feet with a nasty notch just right of center which should be avoided. However, this is a fantastic river which is well worth the trip when there is water about.'
Kris Waring notes on Craighall Gorge...'The Ericht was featured on the BBC's 999 Rescue program last year when a couple of beginners accidentally paddled into the gorge and spent the night there while rescue teams abseiled down the cliffs to get them.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kirsten Rendle, Philip Skinner, Craig Douglas and Kris Waring.
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all open according to SCA