GUIDE TO THE RIVER ROY
(Head of Glen Roy to Access Track)
NAME OF RIVER: Roy.
WHERE IS IT?: Unsurprisingly, up Glen Roy...a tributary of the River Spean valley near Fort William.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in at the head of the Glen Roy road. Most paddler don't go that far though, and launch just upstream of a grade 3 section which is visible from the road. See the top edge of this map.
This trip feeds into the lower Roy, and it is usual to paddle both at once.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 miles-ish
TIME NEEDED: Three hours?
ACCESS HASSLES: The river is in a National Nature Reserve. So killing and eating the wildlife is probably out.
'I'm the local Area Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage, and we own the National Nature Reserve in Glen Roy. I would like to confirm that there is no problem at all with access to the River through the NNR. The southern boundary of the NNR lies at the viewpoint in the Glen, and the northern boundary lies just slightly short of the end of the public road in the Glen. The River Roy forms the eastern boundary. Ground north of the NNR is owned by Braeroy Estate, and ground south of the NNR is owned by Forest Enterprise. The crofters do ask that car drivers drive carefully in the Glen during the lambing season, as there have been one or two problems in the past.' - Best wishes, Debbie Greene Area Officer, East Lochaber (Summer 2002).
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: At Roybridge, if you can see a rocky reef uncovered in the river to your left looking upstream, it will be low. If it's completely covered, the river is high and possibly quite hard. The river is usually somewhere in-between. The gorge works quite well in low water but obviously is then much easier.
GRADING: Grades 1 - continuous 4. Gorge can reach grade 5 in very high water. The upper sections above the named falls reach Grade 4 in spate.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: A portage...see below.
Mark Rainsley (November 2006)...'The siphon described below (final notable rapid in the gorge, about halfway down) caused a fatality in October 2006. A paddler paddled out of the main current (on river left) and rested up against the rock on river right, right on top of the siphon. The paddler capsized and was sucked into the siphon. The drop should not be a major concern to paddlers, as long as you follow the current down the obvious river left chute. The siphon is actually upstream of the rapid and should present little hazard to paddlers following the correct line. More info.'
Andrew Arnott (March 2006)...'We did this at very low water on Saturday (25th March 2006) and the last significant rapid in the gorge has a siphon on the right. Above the rapid there is a large eddy on river left behind a cliff. The rapid is the one which forms an S bend in low water and has a tight exit on river left. However, as we found out it also has an even tighter submerged exit on river right which led to a few scary moments and an hour and a half trying to retrieve a lodged boat. Portage is long and difficult (involving climbing out of the gorge on river right, and climbing back in again further down) and perhaps the gorge should be avoided at such low levels.'
Miles "Airmiles" Barker, Regents CC (Nov 2005)...'The "compulsory portage"; I have done this in low-ish water, Dec 2003, and the "undercut" is a perfectly parallel-sided gash.. just tilted over at 45 degrees. I saw no sign of any dangerous rock features, and it all flushes through. So I'm not sure what the fuss is about once you get past the "oooh - undercut!" factor.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: See the guide for the Upper section for more detail on the first 2.5km.
Several miles of meandering from the end of the valley lead to an enjoyable gorgy grade 3 section with lots of surf waves for a couple of miles. Awesome scenery at this point. The only significant drop is 'Rooster Tail' (named for obvious reasons) where the river drops suddenly through boulders and you need to be heading from right to left...you'll recognise it.
Eventually the river eases above a notable grade 4 ledge/ reef fall which you'll want to inspect (called 'Wish You Were Here' in Terry Storrys' guidebook). This is a good starting spot in low water conditions, it's visible from the road. A following long rapid leads you down towards the grade 4 Roy Gorge. Be on the lookout for the PORTAGE. This is where the river flows under a narrow undercut, paddleable in high water but pretty dangerous.
Directly below the portage, you'll have to seal launch into the gorge to run a ledge and narrow s-bend rapid, perhaps the trickiest part of the Roy. If there are no rocks exposed in the water above this ledge, the river is high and the stopper is a 'nasty'...I watched a friend get four 'ends' in this stopper in as many seconds, which would have been great if he'd intended it.
After this, you have the rest of the Roy Gorge to contend with. A detailed description is pointless, but there are plenty of grade 4 moves to make, stacked quite closely together. There used to be a diagonal river-wide ledge and stopper early on, but this is no longer there. Instead, perhaps the biggest challenge is where the gorge reaches its narrowest, and the water s-bends to the left of a rock into a confined gap.
The gorge is a remarkably continuous piece of grade 4 water, more so when it's high...inspection/ protection is not always easy either. Enjoy it, for it's one of the best stretches of Grade 4 paddling in the country. Eventually the river flows through a metre wide gap...and the gorge is suddenly over.
The track up to the road is on river right but it's best to carry on into the lower Roy.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Debbie Greene, Andrew Arnott and Miles Barker.
There was a big turn-out from KCC. It was a genuine pleasure to get together for a few drinks with all those who were present on the Roy. They are good people.
So, no black ties, only happy gear.
Thank you all for your kind thoughts. I found this site by accident just now. Steve loved canoeing - so keep it up.
His funeral is at 2pm on Wednesday 15th, at St John The Baptist church in Grove near Wantage, Oxford if you can make it.
Thanks to all of you were there and who helped that day in whatever way possible, we really appreciate that so many people worked together to do their best for our Steve.
Janet and all Steve's kids, Richard, Grace and Rob
In the weeks since Steve's death, KCC have carried out a number of actions, some of which I will outline here. They have been in contact with relatives of the deceased. They have also been working on collating a full report of the event in order to submit to relevant authorities. Next Wednesday members and friends of KCC will attend the funeral and pay their respects.
KCC have continued to impress me with their professional and supportive approach to dealing with this tragedy.
Please pm me if you need details of the funeral.