GUIDE TO THE RIVER FESHIE
NAME OF RIVER: River Feshie.
WHERE IS IT?: Runs North into the River Spey near Aviemore.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Take the B970 south from Aviemore to Feshiebridge. Here the road goes over a narrow bridge crossing the Feshie. This is the takeout NH85140430. There is a Forestry Commission car park on river left not far downstream of the bridge. You'll need a few pound coins for a parking ticket.
The put in depends on what you want. There are two options.
For a longer grade 2/3 paddle: Take the road going left just as you come into Feshie Bridge and heads towards Achlean. This will give you a few miles of pleasant Grade 2/3 paddling. You can drop off kit and boats at
Achlean croft (NN 85222 97634), they are friendly and gave a quad bike ride for the kit to the get in! Park 1km back down the road at an obvious car park. The river is about a 300m walk down a track from the croft.
For just the gorge: The gorge is viewable from the bridge at the take out. Walk up the left hand side of the river. For a first run down the gorge we’d recommend taking the lower path which takes you closer to the river so you can inspect for any trees in the narrower sections but after this if you go for a second blast you can take a higher path which is easier walking. The get in for the gorge is at a small beach beside a big pool about a couple of hundred meters up the river.
APPROX LENGTH: Achlean get in is 7.5km. Lower gorge get in is about 300/400 meters.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours for the Achlean get in. Lower Gorge can be as short as 15 minutes or longer depending on how much playing you do!
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. See also the SCA notes on Access.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Look over the bridge at Feshiebridge, if it looks anything other than a scrape it is probably OK. Gauge available on Where's the Water
GRADING: 3/3+ (5 in spate)
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The last rapid under the bridge can be interesting in medium to high levels.
The ultimate afterwork / quick blast paddle! The Feshie is a nice little river that packs some good rapids into a short section gorge section. The higher get in towards Achlean is Grade 2/3 with some nice scenery but for most folks they will come just for the gorge. I once walked up past Achlean and found some fun looking Grade 3 rapids but it’s a fair walk so I don’t think most people will be bothered.
The following descriptions are for medium-ish water levels (around 1-1.4 on the SEPA Gauge).
You start point for the gorge is at a good size pool a couple of hundred meters up from Feshiebridge. This pool is a nice place to warm up and depending on the water level can have a great playwave at the top of it. At the bottom of the pool is an excellent splat rock for those who fancy it.
Straight after this you are into the first Grade 3 rapid which we call Gunbarrel. The river narrows and speeds up in pace as you head down through waves/small stoppers (try and catch as much eddies as you can!) as you approach a narrowing which drops into a tiny gorge. Make sure you boat is pointing straight as you drop in and get shot out (normally with a fair bit of speed). If you fancy a bit of fun in a small boat drop into the small stopper at the narrowing leaning back and see how long you can keep a tailey going for. The wall of the short gorge is a bit undercut on river right which means at medium levels it’s often at a nice level for your head and could be a bit of a hazard at higher levels.
Next is Flying Squirrel (G3). This little drop goes nicely on river left as you bounce over a small ledge and if you get a well timed right hand boof in you will fly over the small wave/stopper at the bottom. In high water this drop can develop a pretty special stopper than you don’t want to get stuck in.
The Slot is next which is situated river right (G2/3). It’s a bit messy and doesn’t look that pleasant but as long as you keep your boat pointing the right way and stay upright it’s all good. It’s a small slide into a boil/wave combination with rocks either side. There is an easier option to go river left and do a little rock dodging to avoid the Slot but that would be boring eh?
Quickly afterwards you come to Pinball. This rapid is probably on the harder end of Grade 3 at medium water levels and at higher water a solid Grade 4. After the Slot catch an eddy on river right to decide which line you want to take down Pinball. There are three options which get progressively harder from right to left (it’s also quite hard to tell from the eddy above it which line to take). Right is a bouncy line down through waves and some rocks which likes to try and turn you so you run the small drop at the bottom backwards. The middle line requires some quick turning and manoeuvring to take you out along a shelf and then a left handed stroke to turn you down river and into a fast shoot. The river left hand line again requires some rock dodging at low/medium levels and a good bit of manoeuvring which takes you through a narrow slot that you don’t want to go sideways through as you’ll probably get stuck in an uncomfortable position. If you can ride the corner round and down through the slot it would look pretty stylish. We’ve always stuck to the right and middle lines but once saw a friend take the left hand line unintentionally and upside down. He was fine but didn’t recommend it for future plans. All these lines land in a good collection pool.
Get out on the slab just below this and walk up for another shot.
If the Feshie is pumping and at a high level then it completely changes character and is an edge of your seats experience! You’ll be down in minutes and probably glad to be. The grade can rise from a grade 3 to 4 and probably up to a 5 in spate where the last rapid will become an intimidating prospect that lands in a severe looking stopper. A great river for intermediate paddlers or those wanting a quick blast/play but at high water levels it deserves a good amount of respect.
The Feshie has got some slagging in the past and it’s definitely not the river to make the ultimate destination on your Scottish paddling weekend but for an evening/short blast it’s quality and at big water levels will give you a fair scare.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kris Waring, Edinburgh Kayak Club, Andrew Brindley, Angus Pettit and FreddieK
If you would like to submit updates, new guides or photos, email ukrgb.scotland AT gmail DOT com
There is also a tree in the middle of the river further upstream, this is easily avoided either side, and you can see it from quite a distance.
I did this yesterday as a run with the SCA Club Development Weekend. We were open boating so enjoyed the top slabs and drops, some very tight and quite technical. Quite a few grd 3 rapids.
The SCA book access was followed, a bit of a trek from the carpark around a fence line and down to the river. Take out at Feshiebridge, arge FC carpark. Good sandy beach in the large eddy before the gorge section.
The river was at 0.62m on the SEPA Gauge in the Feshiebridge. This meant the river was a scrape, especially the middle section. Another 2ft or so would have made the lower - gravelly braided sections - much deeper and better. Although these gave a good snubbing challenge. The volume did not increase lower down due to braiding. The upper, better rapids had some pool drops which help the level. My open now has scrapes over all the hull and a shallow water pin put a temporary dent in. The rocks in the river, and a lot of the river bed, is 'rock' hard granite. you have been warned. The level gave a chance for plenty of lining practice !
There was a damaged fence line across the river a few corners above Lagganlia, with a cable, which was easily ducked under, but would be a cheese cutter at higher flows.
Best not to linger at the Osprey nest at it would distress the bird, although it had caught a fish as we passed which was special.