GUIDE TO THE AFON YSGIR
(Pont Faen to Pont ar Ysgir)
NAME OF RIVER: Afon Ysgir. 'Yscir' on some maps.
WHERE IS IT?: It's a tributary of the Usk.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: At Pont Faen the Ysgir Fach and Ysgir Fawr converge - this is the best get in - upstream it is littered with trees.
The takeout is upstream of the bridge at Pont ar Ysgir. The house owner here does not like people parking near his house and he claims he owns the banks by the side of the road. We carry downhill and join our cars by the water works 100m upstream from Pont ar Ysgir (nice waves under bridge but we're always surfed out by then!). Room for two cars max parked in tight (tractors use road all day long) by waterworks. Climb up by side of waterworks and look at boxed in weir you will have to shoot if you miss the get out. (There are other getouts but they're marginal - room for one boat at a time and not worth the risk). This weir - sloping and anti scouring has a huge towback (15 metres+ in high water), It is LETHAL.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 km.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: We have not received any problem getting on this river but we are very discreet. Park sensibly and run it only out of fishing season. Farmers we've passed have waved and locals often stop to talk as they've not seen anyone paddling it before - that speaks volumes because I've paddled it for 15 years. Paddlers must be inconspicuous and good relations will continue.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: There is a gauge on the put-in bridge - it needs to be on 2 or above for a good run. I've run it on 5 when it was heart in mouth but one of my mates has done it when he had to duck to get under the bridge.
GRADING: Grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Paul Bayliss (Feb 2005)...'At time of paddling 11/2/05 there were no fences across the river and no trees, a very pleasant run!!!'
Trees...worth adding here that in high flood this river picks up trees and deposits them willy nilly - I've run it on consecutive weekends and couldn't believe the change - like the Gods had been playing chess! Weir after getout.
Mike Kelly (Dec 2003)...'Padled the Yscir today for the first time this season - low/medium levels. There is a tree down at the put in at Pont yr Yscir and a further two trees down within 500 metres of the start - these could both be sneeked on the left at today's levels. More worryingly there were 4 separate strings of barbed wire - some with fence posts - across the river after approx 1km. All of these needed portage - some had more than 1 strand. In poor light these might be very difficult to spot. On a positive note the large tree after the runs largest drop has now been cleared away as has the large tree after the first large sloping man made weir.'
Ian Kirby, paddling with Baldock Canoe Club...'On Dec 14th 2003 a group of us paddled this river at a medium level from Pont Faen to Pont ar Ysgir. We found Barbed wire stretched across the river in 3 separate places and was a major hazard to negotiate. The barbed wire is difficult to spot and at higher levels with a faster flow break-outs beforehand would become very difficult. We portaged the first wire but managed to duck under the 2nd and third wires near the bank. I can't recall the exact locations but I believe all three lots of wire were in the top half of the river.'
Mike adds (Jan 2003)...'There is a river wide tree down 1/4 mile after the get in at Pont Faen, this is best portaged right. 200m after this tree there is a second tree river wide but this can be sneaked on river right through the roots which have now washed away. The tree I mentioned in my description which was blocking the right hand option of the main drop has now gone, there is now a broken tree in front of the left hand side of this drop but this does not get in the way much and a river-wide tree on the bend 20m after this drop this can be boofed river left into branches or in the centre when the river is high.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Get on about 50 metres upstream of the gauge which gives you a busy start straight into a small rapid with a drop under the bridge into a stopper above where the two rivers meet.
Grade 2 and 3 natural weir drops and steps follow for the rest of the trip with an abundance of surf waves every 20 metres or so and some excellent eddylines for squirting, though the whole river tends to be too shallow usually for aerial acrobatics.
The river runs through a tight gorge which is tree lined and you need your wits about you - trees can lie round every corner - some are dodged, others limboed, if you're unlucky you have to portage - mostly river left.
After 5 km you come to another small gorge with a waterfall on the rock on river right. The horizon ahead disapears - shoot this drop (smaller than it looks) and eddy out tight on right before a much bigger and gnarly riverwide drop with a meaty stopper. I've run this in a big boat over the centre and several times tight right through two stoppers - the first of which slows you to a stand still and you need to work hard to punch through the second which gave one of my mates a pasting! For the last two years there has been a tree jamming river right option.
Continue down over a number of natural ledges till you reach a larger ledge - hit this hard or use the convenient chicken shoot river right. Half a mile further on is a large man made sloping weir (approx 12ft, 45 degree angle). This looks awful but I've shot it without problem in all levels, either centre through a tongue or tight right. Portage right if unsure.
Dwnstream of this is 200m of water that you'd swear was on the Onde in France! Look back and see the steep steps and drops - superb! Big tree across the river here for the last three years, spoiling it a bit at lower levels and would cause a nasty pin.
Coming near to the end now. You see a caravan parked in a field river left. River tightens and some splendid waves as you see a house on the left - break out left to surf them coz you can't get back to them if you drift past. Get out just after these waves river right and carry up by the side of a house onto the road.
OTHER NOTES: Paddled this once with South African Lisel Walker, well known local paddler and while eddying half way down the river a young lamb climbed onto her boat!