GUIDE TO THE AFON ARTRO
(Cwm Bychan lake to Llanbedr)
NAME OF RIVER: Afon Artro.
WHERE IS IT?: South of Harlech, Mid-Wales. OS Landranger Map Series No. 124 - Dolgellau Surrounding Area. Flows South-West into Llanbedr (585.268).
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There are two possible put-ins. For Medium water, put-in at the bridge on the track to Cwm yr Afon. For High water, put-in at the Cwm Bychan lake (645.315). At the lake, it is easier to change in the car park at the end of the lake and drive back to the start of the river to get in. Determine water level at the Cwm yr Afon bridge. If the rapids look well submerged here then the top should be navigable (with bumps and scrapes!). Take out at the car park just below the weir about 200 metres from the road bridge in Llanbedr.
APPROX LENGTH: 4.5 miles from the lake and 3.2 miles from the above bridge.
TIME NEEDED: Around 2.5 hours from the lake and 1.5 hours from the above bridge.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The Cwm yr Afon bridge as above or the river under the road bridge in Llanbedr. Flood conditions here would mean a demanding paddle further up.
GRADING: Grade III (possible grade IV in the gorge due to the limited access and safety).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The third fall in the Gorge section can only be seen from the top of the Gorge. It looks like a flat tongued flow, but it is a drop of about three feet. Land rescue is difficult due to the sides of the Gorge. There may also be several trees across the river at various points (three major hazards which had to be portaged when we paddled on the 2nd October 1999). One was against the bridge (601.271) and could be inspected on the way to the put-in. There was another visible from the road just below the bridge put-in. Watch out for rock pins especially on the section just below the lake.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Put in where the river leaves the lake and follow the main flow down a technical rocky stretch. Watch out for trees growing over the river. There is a three-part fall which can be inspected clearly from river right. Rescue can be set up just below the middle part of the fall. The river moves away from the road and continues to be rocky and technical. There are several small river splits that drain the main flow and create very shallow rock hops. As the flow begins to swell, the river becomes deeper, more entertaining and easier to paddle. As the river twists and turns, inspection may be necessary to avoid drifting around corners on to trees or falls. By the time the bridge alternative put-in is reached, the river is a good grade III. Similar in nature to the lower Tryweryn above Bala Mill falls. Most of the river can be easily inspected and leaves some interesting holes and surf waves. Just below the bridge after the put-in is the Gorge section. This is best inspected from river right. Be sure to make the breakout! Best to inspect the breakout on the way up. The three main falls in the Gorge are technical, but the river flow gives a good line. As mentioned above, the third fall looks like a flat, tongued flow, but is a drop of about three feet. No major problems on the falls other than the steep sides of the Gorge making rescue more difficult. Follow the river under the bridge at Pen-y-Bont. The next bridge after Pen-y-Bont had a tree across it (no way through!) when we paddled. Again, inspect on the way up. The breakout here is river left to carry the boats over the bridge and get in river right (seal launch off the concrete river bank) if the tree causes a hazard. The Afon Cwmnantcol merges into the river from river left just below the bridge and adds more flow. The run down to the Llanbedr road bridge is continuous. The weir below the bridge (about 200 metres) is runnable with care. Get out just above the second weir, next to the layby.
OTHER NOTES: The water level dropped while we paddled it so the bottom part of the river looked different from when we inspected it. The weir below the Llanbedr road bridge changed dramatically! Overall, a great paddle.
CONTRIBUTED BY: David Lowe and Neil Morby.