GUIDE TO THE ALLT CAMGHARAIDH
NAME OF RIVER: Allt Camgharaidh (kamgarry)
INTRODUCTION: The Allt Camgharaidh is a true master of the superfluous letters that the gaelic language is so fond of, but beyond the silent d’s and poorly placed i’s this little river makes a fantastic little outing with the feeling of a true wilderness adventure far from civilisation. The whitewater itself is decent grade 4, kind of like a mini north esk, but it is the scenery and the isolation are as much an appeal as the rapids.
WHERE IS IT?: The middle of absolutely nowhere – right at the end of the south side of Loch Arkaig – enjoy the drive!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Finding this river is an adventure in itself. First you must drive down the B8005 to a layby at NN 02441 92304. Looking across the loch you should be able to see the valley you are aiming for, but the river mouth itself is guarded by wooded islands. Get on your kayaks and paddle across and then up the river bed to the base of the final grade 5 fall, which Andy Jackson called Grizzly. This drop looks pretty hideous but don’t worry – everything else is much nicer! From here you are on foot. Carry your boat upstream as far as you can be bothered (Huff, puff). We put in above a tight gorge – upstream of here the valley opens out, and there are a couple of rapids which look a little bit too sketchy to be worth walking further.
GRADING: 4 (5) – a small burn best suited to groups of 3 or 4. There is nothing too nasty but keep in mind you are a long way from anything out here!
APPROX LENGTH: 1 km
TIME NEEDED: 1.5 hours for the run, 2.5 hours for all the walking and loch paddling etc.
ACCESS HASSLES: Too rarely paddled to be an issue but you are in Caledonian forest so please don’t damage the woods, drop litter etc.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs a bit of rain but not too much – probably a similar amount to the allt chia-aig or the upper Roy. On the drive up, have a look at the last drop of the Allt Cia-aig. The river should clearly be running at a good flow for the trip to be on. You’ll probably spend a while debating whether it’s worthwhile in the carpark as you peer across the loch - a certain amount of faith is required!
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Grizzly is a grade 5 fall which warrants respect. It is very easy to see where it is though.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: At the put in take some time to rest and admire the scenery as you are almost immediately whisked into a small rocky gorge with continuous grade 3 rapids. Very soon the river feeds into a narrow drop with an awkward boof into a surprisingly powerful hole (grade 4). If you are able to stop in time it might be worth setting up safety here. More of the same continues with the odd tight constriction, and a deer fence which is easily passable. Soon a bridge crosses the river and the gorge walls recede. Immediately after here there is a small rapid which is harder than it looks. There is a small siphon river right and nicely away from the main line, but do treat it with respect. It can be inspected from the bridge on your walk up. More quality rapids follow on before a major grade 4 consisting of a 2m ledge with a very sticky hole and an awkward lead in. Not long after is a lovely slide which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 100m of flat leads to Grizzly (grd 5) which can be easily inspected/portaged river left. Now it’s just a short paddle back across the loch!
OTHER NOTES: Very, very seldom paddled – I have only done this river once, so do take this description with a pinch of salt.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell
At the put in, looking down into the narrow first gorge. Paddler Patrick Styles, photo by Kirsten Rendle.
A surprisingly sticky ledge drop. Paddler Jon Harwell, photo by Kirsten Rendle.
The final grade 5 drop, Grizzly. Paddlers Jon Harwell and Patrick Styles. Photo by Kirsten Rendle.
The Gleann Cia-aig and the Allt Mhuic levels appeared to be good with plenty of water in both them, so I was a little disappointed when we got there and found the water level we did. However, that said being another 8 miles or so up the Loch and on the other side the glen it is in obviously has its own micro-climate. this is one I will definitely make an effort to go back to paddle as it looks like a smashing little river.
There was no evidence of anyone else having been up there at all and you are in true ancient Caledonian forest making the scenery and the feeling of isolation worth the effort to get there. The final grade 5 fall, which Andy Jackson called Grizzly, looks pretty hideous but with more water will open up a line(s) on the left to slide down the slab. Have walked up and inspected whilst we were there, I can report that we did not see any trees blocking the run at present.
This is one I will definitely make an effort to go back to paddle as it looks like a smashing little river.
Peter A. Kelly