Sampling Vermont’s Rivers

A canoe feels like an unstable vehicle so naturally I have always thought of canoeing as something that one does on flat, stable bodies of water.

If the vehicle can’t be stable, at least the water should be. The impetus for my decision to canoe a few rivers came in the form of catalog listing numerous outdoor adventures across the United States.

The words, “inn to inn,” and “fine food” caught my eye under the “Best of Vermont River Sampler” listing. The trip is a six-day/five-night journey operated by “BattenKill Canoe,” based in Arlington, Vt. Trips start in late April and run through mid-October each year. The trip is excellent for anyone wishing to explore several of Vermont’s rivers without having to arrange the logistics of shuttles for put-in and take-out, not to mention making accommodation and dining arrangements.

Details Are Handled
Initial contact with “BattenKill Canoe” will result in a packet of information containing trip details, river descriptions, accommodations, and a loose schedule of the trip. I say loose because while the accommodations are set, the rivers to be canoed are not. Each inn location is in the vicinity of enough rivers to offer a choice each day. Often the choice comes down to water levels and flows. If one river is too low, another is substituted.

Guests begin arriving late Sunday afternoon, with dinner that evening being the first meal of the trip. A full trip is considered to be 12 guests with two guides. The trips draw a diverse group from all across the United States.

The excursion begins at the “Three Stallion Inn” in Randolph, nearly the geographical center of the state. Vermont derives its name from two French words, “vert” meaning green and “mont,” meaning mountain.

Driving to Randolph, one readily sees the reason behind the name, with green mountains rolling one into another. The mountains are part of the Appalachian chain that stretches from Alabama to Canada. There are no billboards in Vermont, by state law, blocking the lovely views.

Derivation Of “Morgan Horse”
“Three Stallion Inn” is located on farmland that once belonged to Justin Morgan, breeder of the famous “Morgan horse,” the first pure breed of horse developed in the United States. The inn sits on the 1,300-acre “Green Mountain Stock Farm” that has plenty of recreational opportunities including hiking and biking trails, tennis, sauna, pool, and fitness center.

Monday morning the guests are ready to tackle their first river, which is usually the Winooski. The name is Native American for “wild onion.” The Winooski cuts a deep gorge across the Green Mountains as it makes its way to Lake Champlain. This river has a little quick water, with many calm stretches for leisurely paddling or simply drifting along.

The exception is “Tire Iron Rapids,” so named because it is shaped like a tire iron. After giving instructions on running this little Class II set of rapids, the guides then give guests the option of running the rapids or portaging around them. Near the take-out the river passes through a scenic area of sheer granite walls.

The second night’s stay is in the “Stowehof Inn,” a Swiss-Austrian style structure. The inn’s builder took weathered boards from five old barns to use as interior and exterior wall coverings. This coupled with the two huge sculptured white maple trees supporting the entranceway makes for an architecturally distinct place of stay. The maples were cut from the property, hauled in on a flatbed and erected in their current positions. The inn’s location high on the hillside offers spectacular views of the surrounding area. Many guests find the hot tub a welcome sight after the day on the river.

Lamoille’s Scenic Beauty
The next river of exploration is the Lamoille, which has a few rapids. This river is appreciated for its scenic beauty as it passes through low-lying farmlands with the ever present Green Mountains on the horizon. At noon, guests hit shore for the usual riverside lunch, after which the van and trailer are used to portage around a set of waterfalls for the afternoon’s canoeing.

That evening finds folks at the “Village House Inn” in Albany. The Victorian-style home/inn is owned by a young couple, Jon and Kate Fletcher. Jon is an outstanding gourmet chef. Dinners are exquisite and quite popular with the local population. The inn itself is quite cozy, with its eight rooms each with a private bath.

The next day presents a fairly long ride to the Connecticut River, which forms the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. The Connecticut handles 40 percent of Vermont’s total drainage, and its 407-mile length make it New England’s longest river.

The put-in is on the New Hampshire side of the river by the Columbia covered bridge. Here we have a long stretch of flat water before hitting a few minor rapids. At low water levels, one must skillfully maneuver around the rocks, some nearly invisible under the azure sky’s reflection on the surface of the Columbia. Downstream a few cows wander into the edge of the water to check out passing canoes. You will find yourself selectively picking your way through rocks and low places at the take out.

The “Willough Vale Inn” overlooking Lake Willoughby is the accommodation for the night. Robert Frost wrote of his stay in the “Willough Vale” in his poem, “A Servant To Servants.” Sitting on the wide veranda enjoying the fresh air, view, and relaxing atmosphere, one is tempted to wax poetic.

Clyde: A Technical River
The rivers of choice for the next day are the Clyde or the Black. Of course, a day of shopping in Newport is an option to those needing a break from the rivers. The Clyde is by far the most technical of the rivers and it was our river of choice for the day. Narrow, boulder-strewn, fast water with overhanging trees, the Clyde is a “pinball” challenge, dodging one obstacle after another. It gives guests a chance to use all the paddling techniques learned during the week. Once on the river, there isn’t any time for relaxing, constant attention is demanded to avoid the obstacles.

That evening it is back to the “Three Stallion Inn,” where guests’ vehicles were left at the beginning of the trip. The White River is the river for Friday. The best is saved for last, as the brochure says. It is one of New England’s favorite rivers for canoeing. It seemed that every other vehicle we passed had a canoe strapped to the roof. The White’s quick water, rapids, and ledges provide ample challenge and a memorable end to an excellent week.

Making The Trip
The Vermont River Sampler proved to be more than a sampler, it was a canoeing school. However, the brochures say “no experience necessary,” and it’s true. I had basically no experience and when I finished the trip I was ready to buy a canoe. Thanks to Rusty the guide’s patient teaching, I now know how to “read” a river, navigate and even “surf” rapids. The trip price includes all canoeing equipment, lodging, and meals (dinner Sunday evening through lunch Friday), guide service, and accompanying support van.

Call for current pricing, but when we went the base price was $1,175 per person. If one requests single accommodations there is a single-supplement. If one is traveling alone and is willing to share a room, but cannot be paired with another traveler, the maximum charge is 50 percent of the single-supplement. This charge is based upon what the inns charge the company.

Call for current departure dates.

For more information, contact:

BattenKill Canoe LTD.
P.O. Box 65
Arlington, VT 05250
Phone: 800-421-5268
Fax: 802-362-0159

Stowehof Inn and Resort
P.O. Box 1139 , 434 Edson Hill Road
Stowe, VT 05672
Phone: 800-932-7136
Fax: 802-253-7513

Three Stallion Inn
Green Mountain Stock Farm

Lower Stock Farm Road
Randolph, VT 05060
Phone: 800-424-5575

Village House Inn
Route 14
P.O. Box 228
Albany, VT 05820
Phone: 802-755-6722

Willough Vale Inn
RR2, Box 403
Westmore, VT 05860
Phone: 800-594-9102
Fax: 802-525-4514

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