Whitewater Season’s Best Events

The best part of mud season? Whitewater. As the snow melts and April showers begin to fall, Vermont’s rivers come alive. There are a few weeks when the whitewater reaches a sweet spot and the races are on. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it—the rapids come and go in a flash. (Pro tip: keep an eye on waterdata.usgs.gov for water level updates.) To get your stoke on, head to the Reel Paddling Film Festival at Burlington’s Outdoor Gear Exchange on April 13.

New Haven Ledges Race, April 1

The New Haven River’s classic run, called “The Ledges,” gives you a big bang for your buck, with boulder gardens, slides and waterfalls tucked into 1.3 miles of whitewater. And it all runs alongside Lincold Rd. in Bristol. When water levels are at their normal height, this stretch of river is characterized as a challenging Class IV (on a scale from Class I to VI, with one being easy and six extremely dangerous). Kayakers navigate several drops o the ledges before the “The Toaster,” a 15-foot drop that plunges into a pool, then sprint out, slapping a nearby buoy to stop the clock.

Fiddlehead Slalom, April 14

The Fiddlehead slalom, part of New England Slalom Series, sends you slaloming through a number of suspended gates on the Winooski River. Challenge yourself to hit every gate on the course near Montpelier, which takes you through Class II and higher rapids. Canoers and kayakers of all abilities can get a feel for the course by helping with set-up the day before, a process that involves hanging gates from wires above the river.

Riverfest, April 20-23

Dartmouth College’s Ledyard Canoe Club hosts this Upper Valley waterfest. On Saturday, nationally-ranked kayakers go head-to-head in the Mascoma Slalom, the oldest consecutively run slalom event in the country. The fun continues Sunday with the Wells River Rumble, a mass-start, downriver race that includes a Class IV rapid. The Wells, a tributary of the Connecticut River, drops a total of 86 feet over the length of the one-mile course.

Onion River Race & Ramble, June 4

Canoe or kayak through the Green Mountains in Vermont’s largest river race (coming in at 125 participants last year). The course starts near Bolton and takes you ten miles down the Winooski River. Register in teams or individually, then cruise to the nish for a post- paddle and live music. This race invites both experts and casual paddlers to join in.