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.
Since the hydro construction in 2016, the river is usually either low (even when reasonably wet) or monstrously high when its proper been chucking it down and the loch has filled right up.
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.
As of 2016 a hydro system has been constructed to divert water from Main Event. There is an intake weir above the rapid with a gravel beach beside it on river left. Land here to inspect and portage. There is a portage path that goes all the way to the bottom of the rapid.
In low water you can eddy out above the 4 on the island. In high water you can't inspect but the grade 3 shoot on left side of island goes, you can then paddle back up to the bottom of the 4 to inspect for future runs.
In low-med water the weir can be tricky to get down on the left but goes via the central shoot, in high water best stick hard left and pass next to the shrubs. In low-med water the grade 4 is two smaller drops, the first going into a boily pool which can offer the playboaters some fun backlooping action. In high water the whole thing becomes one clean ramp/ green wave taken in the middle. In huge water when the loch is flooding at the top the river is prime, big bouncy alpine like 3/4. The lead in to the first drop after the weir forms a few large river wide holes and waves but the drop itself runs cleanly via various lines.
On a more positive note, the hydro has created a new wave perfect for long and short boats, just below the hydro river right - awesome even in low levels.
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. In huge water this section is one big washed out wavetrain. 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: Jessica Leggatt, Kirsten Rendle, St. Andrew's Uni, also Philip Skinner, Kris Waring, Bridget Thomas, Jeff Asplin and Mark Rainsley.
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