|Class: I - IV||Length: 30km|
|Location: Chester Basin||Character: River run|
|Gauge: Weather forecast||Contributor: Karl Vollmer, Lukas Dee|
The Gold River has likely the most variety of rapids of any river on the the south shore, although they are few and far between. Connecting the rapids together means paddling across long flat stretches, which is often a bit of a mission. If you are okay with working for the quality whitewater, this river is for you. If you aren’t so inclined to paddle flat water for long periods of time, then you can still get a taste of what the Gold is like by using access points along the way to break down the run. Kill Devil Gorge is also close to the highway and easy to lap, if the upper parts aren’t of interest at all. What will stand out to most people that run the upper parts is how beautiful the scenery is on the flats, and how clean and fun the rapids are. There is no noise from roads or properties, as most of the river valley runs further away from civilization. Cabins and cottages start popping up again as you reach the end of Beech Hill Rd. When the river is high it is an amazing section to paddle. Starting below Lake Lawson and paddling the entire section will take between 4 and 6 hours, depending on the group and water levels.
This is a relatively remote run, and also a long one with some of the more significant rapids early on in the day. Risk assessments should be done as such. There is also spotty cell phone coverage. There are access points in the form of ATV trails and cabin driveways throughout the run, although knowing and spotting where these are can be difficult. The following access points listed here are only for emergencies. For put-ins and take-outs look at the access points section.
Evacuation Point 1: About 2 km after Skerry Falls the Larder River flows into the Gold. Just before the confluence an ATV Trail crosses the river. Get out on river right and when the trail joins up with a larger dirt road stay right. Following this road for about half a kilometer will bring you to where the road is paved and there are houses. A cabin on river left is also connected to this trail. If you get out here follow the driveway up and turn left down the trail to get back to the crossing at Larder River. Turning right is a dead end.
Evacuation Point 2: The disastrous dirt road ending of Beech Hill Rd. runs parallel to the Plymouth Stump Stillwater. Right before two cabins on river right Beech Hill Brook flows into the Gold. Following the brook up a short way brings you to a narrow bridge and the ending of Beech Hill Rd. Going up the hill to the left and following the road will eventually bring you to a junction where you need to stay left. Shortly after you will reach the paved part of the road.
Evacuation Point 3: A house that is up on the hill appears at the end of Little Surprise after the Plymouth Stump Stillwater. There is a driveway that leads up to the dirt section of Beech Hill Rd. that Evac Point 2 also uses. After this house, cabins and cottages regularly appear along the right river bank. The ones that have driveways or trails will all connect to the paved part of Beech Hill Rd.
Looking down from the highway bridge at the put-in is Lawson Falls. There is one main ledge where most of the water pushes to the left. Scouting is possible from the bridge, although getting a good idea of how big the hole at the bottom of the main ledge is, is quite important. The higher the water, the bigger this feature gets.
The first major drop of the Gold is Skerry Falls, which is a small waterfall of approximately 6 feet of vertical drop. The lead in can be tricky and the horizon line is hidden by a rock outcrop, so knowing when to expect the drop and where to eddy out is crucial: After crossing the Skerry Stillwaters the river narrows and picks up speed again. Some small class I leads into a very narrow, right hand, class II turn in the river where the water is fast and pushy. After the right turn, the river turns towards the left through a shallow boulder garden. At the end of this turn where the river narrows again there is a deep eddy on river left next to some open forest. This is the last eddy to get out before the river flows into Skerry Falls. If you are unsure, get out before the left hand turn to scout. There are three main lines on Skerry Falls which are: the boof on river left, the meltdown in the middle, or a boof on river right which is only a good option at lower water. After Skerry Falls there is a large pool, and slow moving water following that, meaning there aren’t many consequences. Scouting is best done on river left.
After a mix of flatwater and class I-II rapids a roaring horizon line will appear where the entire river drops into a narrow slot on river right. This is Salmon Falls and you will need to get out and scout, ideally on river left. There are two lines here: The Sneak Line: At medium to high flows a small slide forms on the far left around the big center rock. This line is relatively easy and less consequential, although still feeds into the boils at the bottom of the main chute which can feed into the large hole. Slide your way down, skip across the boils, and enjoy the waves and large reactionaries that lead into the pool below. Main Chute: The main chute down the right side is big and scary, yet so much fun! There is a lot of water pushing through this slot, and at medium-high flows there is a retentive hole at the bottom of the chute. At lower water this becomes less of a problem. At high water an eddy pocket (room of doom) forms next to the hole on the right side. Consequences may arise from a swim in the hole or eddy pocket, as well as in the event of a flip on the chute itself, as two pothole-like undercuts have been observed there. This line has only been run successfully by one paddler.\
The Mini Gorge:
Salmon Falls is only separated from the next rapid by one flatwater pool. The river drops into a narrow and longer rapid called the Mini Gorge, as it bears a lot of resemblance to Kill Devil Gorge, just on a much smaller scale. The higher the water, the bigger this gets. At low water it is a straight forward read and run. At high water there are large waves and features with very few small eddies. The Mini Gorge ends in a large flat pool, and is best scouted and portaged on river right.
After another section of swifts and class I rapids, the river flows left around some large granite outcrops, then immediately hooks right, and flows a small island. Most of the water goes right through a small wave train with a cool eddy to catch on river right. This is Devils Elbow and all features here are easily boat scouted.
Burnt Potato Falls:
The next rapid is Burned Potato Falls, and is easily identified by the large amount of bare granite boulders here. Most of the water flows down the right side and this is the only straight forward line. There is some manky eddy hopping that can be done through all the granite on the left. The right line starts off with a very straight forward wave train that leads into a small pour over drop. There is always a hole here that is always retentive and gets quite big with more water. Sticking close to the rock face on the right here will line you up with the narrow tongue of green water that goes past the hole. The flow then turns slightly left towards the middle of the river and flows down another small drop. There is another retentive hole on the right here, that can be avoided by actively following the main current to the middle of the river. A flat pool follows. This drop rarely gets scouted, but is likely best scouted from river right.
After Burned Potato Falls a longer section of still water will have you believing that the whitewater is over until the last few kilometers before the end. Oh how you are mistaken. Shortly after Joe Bill Brook flows in from the left, a long rapid that consists of multiple small ledges and long wave trains will stretch out in front of you as far as you can see. You’ve made it to Big Surprise. Easy to read and run, yet quite long (~400 meters) with a left turn that takes the end of the rapid out of view from the top. At low water this is not much more than a break from the flatwater. At high water the wave trains here become quite big and often over head high. It ends in a flat pool.
Just around the corner from Big Surprise is: you guessed it, Little Surprise. Like the previous rapid Little Surprise is a rapid that mainly consists of wave trains. It is shorter, yet narrower than Big Surprise, meaning the waves here are bigger. There can be a rowdy feature towards the bottom of the rapid.
After a long section of slow moving flatwater a small swift flows around both sides of an island, and right after that a small wave train leads in to a horizon line that might not be big, but is very hard to boat scout as there is no eddy close to the ledge. This Underestimation, and it is likely a human made weir of sorts, It acts a bit like a low head dam and creates a large and flat recirculating hole. The hole is strongest on river right, strong with some weak spots in the middle, and gets weaker towards the left side. If unsure where the weak spots are, getting out is easiest from the eddy on river left. Swims will likely not be pretty here.
Myra Falls is a small class II rapid where the river splits around Hemlock Island. Going right is faster and narrower, going left will hurt your boat less (more water, less action).
Moshers Falls is the rapid right before entering Kill Devil Gorge. There is a cable above the river with two faded red balls attached to it, as a warning. A series of small ledges that stretch across the river create some small holes to punch. It is easy to read and run. Make sure you are able to spot the eddy on river right after the rapid to be able to get out before the gorge.
Kill Devil Gorge:
Also known as just the ‘Gold Gorge’, Kill Devil is the main attraction of the river and can be broken down into two main sections; The top drops, and the run out. The top drops are three main ledges, the first being more of a wave feature, the second two being hole features. These ledges are back to back, and are the crux move of the rapid. After the ledges there is some fun boogie that leads you into The Cauldron. The Cauldron is a large boily pool that is surrounded by rock faces. Getting in and out is possible with some roping on river right here. The gorge continues after The Cauldron but with less force than at the beginning. You can expect some more fun boogie with one significant drop that can create some big features. Kill Devil Gorge ends in a flat pool with a gravel bank on the right side. To scout or portage, there is a nicely cut trail along the entire gorge on river right that leads all the way to the gravel bank in the pool below. The trail is up in the forest. When only running this section and using Access Point 2 you can walk along Gloade lane before going into the woods where the trail is. Be respectful of the homeowners here. Paddling down to scout if you know you are going to run it is always a better option.
At the end of Big Cumberland Pool the river turns to the left and flows across some ledges. The first ledge on river left forms a surf and play feature known as Cumberland Wave.
The last notable rapid is Generals Corner, which is just above Generals Pool. Where the river narrows and rounds a corner to the right is where the first feature of the rapid is. Big Finale is a wave feature in the first wave train that can be surfed and accessed from the eddy on river left. This can be a rowdy surf and the feature can be quite big due to how narrow the river is here. After the first wave train the river runs through a narrow corner towards the left. Some more wave trains can be expected here.
Google Map Link The put-in is located beneath Lake Lawson at the NS Trunk 12 bridge. Getting down to the water is easiest on the downstream side of the bridge on river right. Parking space is available in a small turn off where an old logging road used to be shortly next to Lake Lawson Rd.
Access Point 1:
Google Map Link This access point is located along the Plymouth Stump Stillwater and can be used as a take-out when not running the entire section. The dirt road here is narrow and almost always in very poor condition. As you paddle across the stillwater turn right into Beech Hill Brook where two cabins side by side mark its entrance. Paddling up the brook a short ways will bring you to a small bridge where the road crosses the brook. Parking is best done a short ways up the hill from the bridge in a gravel opening. Off Road worthy vehicles are highly recommended.
Access Point 2:
Google Map Link The next commonly used access point is a forest path that is next to Gloade Ln. This can be used as the put-in to the Kill Devil Gorge section. Park along Beech Hill Rd. next to the path and walk your boat down to the water.
Google Map Link The take-out is at the NS Trunk 3 (Lighthouse Route) bridge. Getting out on river right upstream of the is easiest. Watch your footing as the rocks on the way up are loose. Parking is best along the picnic area across from The Gold Bean Cafe.
The gold river doesn’t have a gauge, so levels have to be guessed from rainfall, and general moisture in the ground. The water-source for the gold is up in New Ross so rainfall amounts there can be used as an estimate. Usually rain in that area means the river has started to rise, and approximately 24 hours after heavy rain in New Ross, Kill Devil Gorge will be up.
Historically when the ground is wet, 40mm of rain in New Ross / Kentville will bring the Gold up within 24hr. >75mm in less than 24hr will bring it up in almost all cases.