GUIDE TO THE RIVER PATTACK
NAME OF RIVER: Pattack.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The take out is at the obvious falls (NN 56649 90322) by the A86. There is a car park here, frequented by tourist buses in the summer months.
There are a couple of possible put ins, depending on whether you can get access up the track, or how far you’re willing to walk.
If you can get a vehicle up the estate track that crosses the river about a km downstream from the take out (see access hassles below for details), drive up until you get to a large gate barring the road near the Falls of Pattack (NN 55653 88247). There is a gully down to the pool below the falls that you can scramble down. The problem with this put in is that you cannot leave a car here, so your driver is going to have to walk in from the main road anyway.
If you can’t get up this track, there is an alternative track just east of the take out car park through a group of houses marked on the map as Feagour. A new bridge has been built up this track across the river just above the final gorge. There is plenty of parking here as the area is no longer used for construction of the power pylons. You could put in here for a very short paddle in low water, or there is a rough path up river right from this bridge that goes all the way to the falls (about 1-2km).
APPROX LENGTH: 2.5km.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours, plus probably a good faff with the shuttle.
ACCESS HASSLES: The estate track through Gallovie is a private road barred by a coded gate. The estate is usually quite friendly to paddlers and will happily give the code out to groups when contacted, however they do object to codes being shared around the internet without their knowledge. Please drive carefully on this track and do not leave cars at the top as they may impede access for forestry vehicles.
The following are the details of the contact with the Ardverikie Estate.
Duncan Leslie, Arverikie Estate Office, Kinlochlagan, Newtonmore, Inverness-shire, PH20 1BX
Tel: 01528 544300
Fax: 01528 544304
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Stays up quite well a few days after rain. You can judge the levels fairly well at the fall by the road. If it looks doable and not scrapey, the run is on, if it looks big and intimidating the run is high, if it looks grade 5 and nails the Upper Spean is probably releasing what are you doing still here?
GRADING: 3-4. The final gorge is grade 5 in high water, not sure about the rest of the run.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The Falls of Pattack have been done, but most will want to start BELOW them!
There is a high risk of trees in this river, so scout accordingly.
A good trip for intermediate paddlers. From the falls there are various grade 3 rapids, all boat scoutable. The first grade 4 drop is worth a look and runs down either side, thought the right is shallow in low water and sticky in high water!
A narrow gorge follows, containing some nice grade 3 fun.
The final grade 4 gorge can be inspected from the take out car park before you drive up and splits roughly into two rapids with a chance to pick up some bits if you’re quick between the two. The first is a ramp into a couple of holes and is fairly straightforward. The second is a small drop split by a boulder into a cauldron which then falls over the slide you can see from the road. Smile for the tourists!
This river has been paddled right from the Loch at the head of the valley, but we haven't done this. You would need to figure out how to get an estate key to take the roundabout road to get there. You can't drive straight up the valley (even if you had the appropriate key), the bridges are too weak. Anybody done this section?
OTHER NOTES: The full trip from the top of the valley would probably be an interesting 'expedition'?
Chris Fawcett (November 2004)...'As long as you stick to the access arrangement as previously mentioned eg ring or call in at the estate office I would suggest you'll have no problem. The gate mentioned is in fact an electric barrier which is opened by a code (hence needing to contact the estate office). The estate office appeared to be more than welcome for canoeists to paddle the river, a refreshing change! If the gorge section looks runnable (you can view this section by walking up from the car park at the egress) the rest of the river will be ok. We paddled Wed 17.11.04 and found the river at a medium level.'
Further essential info from Gordon Miller (11/5/00)...'In late March this year the club (during a one week Scotland trip) went to paddle the Pattack. As advised by Glenmore Lodge staff in previous years (when on courses etc.) we called in at the Ardverikie Estate Office to 'check-in' prior to going onto the estate up the private road to the recognised get-in at the Falls of Pattack. The 'long and short' of the conversation I had with them was that whilst they are happy to let canoeists paddle the river - and have no objections to them doing so - they have had complaints from the people who live on the estate concerning the way that some cars are being driving up and down the estate road.
I understand the main concern is that there are several cottages/houses/farmsteadings with families and young children along the length of the estate road and that the amount of traffic from canoeists and the speed that they sometimes drive at is being seen as potentially a danger. I was told that on a few occasions last year (1999) there were several near misses (with cars/children) which could have ended in a tragedy. I think that we, as paddlers, must bear in mind is that we are dramatically increasing the number of traffic 'movements' along this private road which hitherto had only a few slow moving estate/farm vehicles a day. Bearing in mind that this is a private road then I feel we should try to ensure that we take into consideration the wishes of the estate and those
that live along the road.
The Estate office asked if I would pass on their request that canoeists forewarn the estate office of their intent to paddle on the river (in effect use the estate road - see later comment) either by letter, fax or e-mail (addresses below). They did not say if they would refuse access - however, my feeling is that this may be an attempt to control numbers in busy periods. Bearing in mind that the estate office is concerned with the number of vehicles on the private road rather than the number of paddlers on the river I think they have a very good argument. Again my 'feelings', but a telephone call may suffice in the less busy periods - or even a visit to the office before getting on to the river. When are the busy periods - who knows? Certainly the weekends during the autumn, winter and spring when the river is up.
In discussion with the estate office it became apparent that the 'estate' does not 'own' the land along the whole length of the river. The land at the bottom end of the river - which includes the grade 3/4 'gorge' section is owned by the Forestry Commission. Thus, to park at the bottom car park (the recognised get-out) and to carry boats up to the top of the gorge section (~400m) does not involve the Ardverikie Estate - only the Forestry Commission. Given that there are footpaths open to the public along this section then there should not be any problems whatsoever. However, I must admit - I don't know where the Forestry Commission's land stops and the Estate's lands begins.'
Ian Thom offers some advice on paddling the section described here...'We arrived early on in the day and found the gate locked on the road, and with no sign of the landowner we drove back down to the carpark by the bottom fall. The river was pumping down with heavy rain from the previous night visibly filling the river up. We decided to carry our boats up the path on river right inspecting on the way. We put on about one kilometre up. The run was fast and continuous, with one inspection about 150 metres above the bottom drop. The last rapid ending in the bottom drop (Visible from the road) was approaching grade 5. This only took around 1 hour all in all, so we had plenty time to paddle another two rivers that day. I would recommend this as it means:
- a) You don't have to drive on the bumpy tracks or arrange shuttles.
- b) You get to do the best bit of the river and inspect it all on the way.
- c) You minimise faff and will have plenty time to get another run done.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kirsten Rendle, Mark Rainsley, Gordon Miller, Ian Thom, Richard Repper, Jonathan Swale, Chris Fawcett and Dave Aldritt.
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Also, the tree on the last drop is still there, but the branches have all snapped off leaving sharp half foot spikes allong the trunk. However it is pressed up against the gorge wall, so is out of the way, but could still pose a risk.