GUIDE TO THE AFON OGWEN
(Ogwen Bank Falls to A55 Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Ogwen.
WHERE IS IT?: In Snowdonia, hidden up the A5. Keep going past Capel Curig and Llyn Ogwen, when the road drops into a spectacular U-shaped valley you've reached the Ogwen valley.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Get on at the caravan site at Ogwen Bank (there's a layby on the main road, A5). Take out at a bridge on the A55, see below for details.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: Take note of the fishing regulations, which stop about end of September and start about mid March, or they get a bit annoyed. There is some kind of a unofficial agreement that if you put in and take out at the locations above and DON'T get out anywhere else, (especially at the A5 half way bridge) and only run this river outside the fishing season you should not get any trouble. By sticking to this I've not had any trouble in the last 10 years.
The following letter is from the Ogwen Valley Angling Association. Read it and appreciate the enlightened approach...
I am writing on behalf of the Ogwen Valley Angling Association, who fish the River Ogwen, Bethesda. I received an e-mail from one of our members concerning your website and in particular the page concerning the River Ogwen. My thanks go to yourself for the comments regarding access ang egress of the river whilst canoeing. The fishing season and areas outside of it are very important to both the environment and future fish stocks, something which I'm sure will benefit all of us wether directly or indirectly. Further to the comments on the page regarding egress points, the area at Halfway Bridge is a thorny subject between canoeists and fishermen. This is for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is a prime fishing area but also because in September/October it is a weak spot for fish to return to the sea i.e. they are vulnerable and need easy and unhindered passage through this area. I would be grateful if your members were made aware of this fact and I would appreciate it if they would egress from the river at the A5 flyover, where the water is deeper and indeed, there are better opportunities both for parking /pick up and also egressing the river. It is true that an unspoken agreement exists and that canoeists do use the afore mentioned point to leave the river and Ogwen Bank to enter the Ogwen and I personally would be very grateful if your members would continue to use these points. It is no secret that fishermen and canoeists do not see eye to eye where the River Ogwen is concerned and past experiences from both sides have not helped to resolve the issue. I am of the opinion that there is room for us all, providing that the local environment is respected, local traditions are followed and most of all local knowledge is sought and opinions from all sides are heard and considered. Indeed, many visitors who come to canoe the area have been doing so for many years and hopefuly will continue to do so. Finally, if your organisation/ group/ members require any further information or are unsure of any details or even in need of some advice regarding the local area, they are more than welcome to contact myself through e-mail or by visiting our website through the following address: www.ogwendesigns.co.uk . If any photos are required I have an extensive collection of which I would be happy to send the relevant ones for your website, with no copyright!
Stephen Jones Secretary
Ogwen Valley Angling Association
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs heavy rain. Not worth the bother in low water.
Tom Laws supplied this useful link.
GRADING: Grade 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Ogwen Bank Falls.
Dave Luke (8/6/05)...'There is a large tree fallen ( 2 feet in diameter) across the Ogwen, 50 m below the confluence with the River Caseg, just before the first main rapid into Bethesda. This will NOT be passable in any thing above low to medium water levels.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Get on above, or below, the major falls beneath the bridge. If you fancy a go, the usual line is centre (right of the island) and hard left. I've done it successfully in highish water... and nearly drowned when it was tanking. So do be careful, won't you.
Stephen Clemmet adds (March 21 2000)...'I inspected the Ogwen Bank Falls last week whilst in Snowdonia. I was scouting rivers for another day whilst on my way to Plas Menai. The route in the guide down Ogwen Bank Falls needs amending. At the moment there is a tree blocking the right hand route of the island and so *must* be inspected. It is a fair size piece of tree and it looks like it's there for the duration. Added to that there is a plastic bin in there with it (all caught up). It *cannot* be properly inspected from the either the river (canoe type inspection as one drifts into pending doom over the fall), or the left hand river bank. The best inspection is from the right hand bank in the caravan park. Egress river right above the drop to inspect it.'
For those sane(ish) of mind, get on in the eddy river left beneath the falls. Look at the rapids below, the 'Gunbarrel'. You'll see why! In high water the bottom hole is entertaining.
Bimble down the next 3 km or so. Nothing compares to what you've just done. In mega high water (do something else?) a bridge needs portaging, but there is stopping room.
After a km or so of flat, a high bridge and obvious rapids on a right hand bend warn of the 'Fishermans' Gorge'. The next 2 km or so are fantastic, technical eddy hopping as you try to work out the line (for the first time at least). In high water, there are some entertaining pour-overs and if all the rocks are covered it'll be a superb grade 5. In low water you're better off on the Rivers Conwy or Llugwy.
The rapids are easing off (but are not overly easy, especially in high water!) and the A5 road bridge is passed. Get out here if you're hitching for the shuttle (but see above). If not there's another km or so to the next large road bridge (A55). In high water pass a footbridge and get out, as the weiry thing shortly after looks rather unpleasant. To get under the bridge by car, drive up the valley from the A55/A5 roundabout and take the first left...at least I think it's the first? It's only small, so watch out. Pass a farm, and the road hangs right, and under the bridge...
Dec 2003 - Darren Chapman gives a general update on the lower half (below Fisherman's Gorge)...'Following my most recent couple of visits to this stunning river. (30.11.03) High'ish' levels....still clear water, as was proven by John R inspecting the river bed...three times :-) I'm not sure if anyone has reported any alterations to the lower sections of this excellent trip, but in a number of locations, relatively 'tame' rapids have been altered by some tactfull placement of rocks, creating a notable improvement in the channels direction at lower levels and certainly half grade higher 'weir/ rapids' at upper levels. (Can anyone shed light on why and by whom.....they need congratulating!!). The first noticable one is on the first 90 degree left turn around an island. It's a possiblity this was created to prevent paddlers shooting river left of the island, since the route is blocked by a number of fallen trees. There's possibly half a dozen areas like this (but I stopped counting, needed to concentrate). In addition, trees still complicate routes around the other channels, but intermediates and above should have no problem navigating around them. Enjoy it! In my opinion It's got to be the best, within sensible travelling time.'
OTHER NOTES: Enjoy, it's damn nice.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jamie Wright. Updated by Robin Jones, Dave Luke, Stephen Clemmet, Tom Laws and Darren Chapman, Knottingley Canoe Club.