GUIDE TO THE RIVER FALLOCH
(Falls of Falloch to Loch Lomond)
NAME OF RIVER: River Falloch
INTRODUCTION: A true Scottish classic – this river is up there with the Nevis and the Moriston as one of the “must do” test piece runs in the highlands. The river is most famous for its very photogenic 30ft drop at the put in, but the rest of the run would be a classic in its own right with steep, low volume grade 4/5 that never really lets the adrenaline stop until you start to approach the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.
WHERE IS IT?: Runs parallel to the A82 between Crianlarich and Loch Lomond.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Driving from Loch Lomond you will suddenly start driving up a very steep hill, turning off at a sign for Falls of Falloch. The put in is at the picnic site here below (or above..) the falls (NN 337 208). The take out is in a layby back down the hill where the river obviously flattens out below a large bedrock slide (NN 32021 19876). On the way up it is worth inspecting the seven dwarves – a major rapid where the road crosses over the river to get a gauge of the level and difficulty.
GRADING: Varies a LOT with water level – grade 4/5 up to about 1.3 on the gauge. Solid 5 all the way down above this.
APPROX LENGTH: 2 km, Gradient Approx 50m/km
TIME NEEDED: 2.5 hours down for a first time – depending on experience and group size.
ACCESS HASSLES: No problems have been reported but there have been reports of break ins on the cars at the picnic site so lock up your valuables.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs a fair bit of rain to bring it up (similar amount to the Orchy) but you don’t want too much! The river rises and falls very fast and so can be hard to catch at the right level. The seven dwarves is your best gauge of the flow so judge for yourself there. If it’s too low go do the Falls of Dochart or the Orchy. Too high try your luck with the Kinglass or the Cononish.
There is a hydro scheme that takes water out of the river above the falls and releases it below, so the rapids immediately below the falls may be scrapey when the rest of the river is running well.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The Falls of Falloch are a clean 30 ft drop with a surprisingly technical run in. They get run fairly often but come with an obvious health warning – the falls have broken a lot of people’s backs. In low water it looks pretty easy but the pool at the bottom hits you very hard unless you pencil it perfectly.
Number 5 on the 7 dwarves is an innocuous looking drop under the road bridge called the Black Hole which can dish out some serious spankings.
Twist and shout (grd 5) is the next rapid after the seven dwarves which some may portage.
The Falls of Falloch make a spectacular start to the trip, but those wanting a more mellow start to the trip can put in in the pool at the bottom instead.
Calum Fisher runs the Falls. Photo by Byron Truscott. More photos of the falls here.
Leaving the plunge pool the river soon goes round a right hand bend into the first grade 4 where a tricky boof followed by a good brace are required. Pleasant grade 3+ leads you through a mini gorge until a horizon line appears where the gorge opens out. This is a 2m boof ledge followed by a powerful grade 4 rapid with multiple lines which lead you to an eddy river right, just above the seven dwarves. Get out to inspect/ set up safety as here the river drops through a series of seven major drops in quick succession. Picture the entirety of the North Esk condensed into 200 metres, no single drop is above a 4 but the whole lot in one go makes the rapid an exciting undertaking. As mentioned earlier drop 5 directly below the bridge – the black hole – can cause a lot of carnage but fortunately it is possible to inspect/portage from a pool between drops 3 and 4.
Jon Harwell on the 7 dwarves above the road bridge. Photo by Kirsten Rendle.
Below the 7 dwarves flat water leads you to an ominous horizon line that is twist and shout (grd 5). Inspect river left, it is a 4.5 m drop with a sticky hole at the bottom and an awkward lead in. Portage is possible river left. The final rapid immediately follows and is a very steep but very fun slidey rapid with a choice of lines. Enjoy a hurrah and paddle down to your car on river right for a celebratory beer. Or paddle the remaining 3 km to Loch Lomond if you fancy a warm down.
Kirsten Rendle in the middle of the last rapid. Photo by Jon Harwell.
OTHER NOTES: The upper river is an ok option if the lower is too high but make sure you know where the falls are!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell and Kirsten Rendle