GUIDE TO THE RIVER ARKAIG
NAME OF RIVER: Arkaig.
WHERE IS IT?: West of Spean Bridge in Glen Arkaig, joining Loch Arkaig with Loch Lochy in the Great Glen
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The take out is reached first in Bunarkaig by the road bridge (NN 18677 87713). Before you cross the road bridge there is a gate leading down to Loch Lochy. Parking here is limited as it is also a passing place, though there is more space on the other side of the bridge.
The put in is on Loch Arkaig at a small slipway (NN 16992 88795) just as you get to the loch. There is a small layby here, with additional parking available not too far away at the Allt Cia-aig. This is also useful if water levels are very high and the put in is underwater!
APPROX LENGTH: 2.5 km.
TIME NEEDED: 1 hour, more if you’re playing!
ACCESS HASSLES: Please don’t fill the layby at the put in as it is also used as a passing place and to back boat trailers down to the slipway.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Paddleable when everything else is low, but also great at higher water levels. The last rapid at the bridge by the take out will give you a fair indication of what most of the river has to offer. The river flows out of an enormous loch, so it holds it’s water well.
GRADING: Grade 2(4).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: One fall significantly harder than anything else here. Rhododendrons.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This is a short but pleasant stretch of water and useful when levels are low.
From the loch, paddle into the river under the wooden bridge. Main Event, the only fall of major significance (grade 4) comes after no more than a half km after this. Inspection is from a large island accessible from the right hand bank, through lots of rhododendrons. In low water this fall is about grade 3+ however can rise to grade 5 in spate. The rapid has a large pool at the bottom making for easy rescues. The best route is through the middle. The left hand channel can be obstructed due to overhanging rhodedendrons.
As of 2016 a hydro system is being constructed to effectively dewater Main Event. Inspection and portage are complicated, however if your group is happy catching the last eddy on the right you can walk down beside a concrete channel to inspect/portage.
For the next mile there are a few rapids of grade 2 which present no difficulties. Several on the fly surf waves are fantastic if you can catch them! This is a great section for coaching with eddies and jets to practice skills. Egress is on the right after the road bridge. There’s a nice beach and short path up to the road.
OTHER NOTES: There is a rather extreme tributary which you pass near the put-in...!
Philip Skinner...'It is not much cop when low, but in high water is worth it purely for amusement factor - the one shot wonder fall is great for stitching up the unexpecting. We generally sit in the last decent eddy before the corner and one by one disappear out of sight. Its other virtues are that it is really short, and ideal for tagging on the end of a River Spean gorge trip in winter when daylight is so limited.'
Kris Waring comments... 'Recommend you try it when the road at Loch Arkaig is flooded! The rapid is big (in fact there are alternative lines over the island) but the stopper seems to kick to the left and wash out quite close to the overhanging rhododendrons. Maybe the chute kicks left - I don't advise going into the stopper to test that last statement, the right hand end might be holding. The main reason for trying it is that all those scrapey grade 2 bits have turned into lines of huge standing waves - well worth the effort to try and surf (unless you're in a spud)!'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kirsten Rendle, St. Andrew's Uni, also Philip Skinner, Kris Waring, Bridget Thomas, Jeff Asplin and Mark Rainsley.
Some pictures from today: