Ok, so this weekend wasn’t a paddling weekend, it was set-aside as a pottering weekend up at Stoer (An Stòrr), north of Lochinver (Loch an Inbhir); but I still found a wee bit of time to get some kayaking work in!
After a nice day spent walking out to the Old Man of Stoer (Bodach an Stòrr), waving at a very low-flying Coastguard chopper and wandering around the cleg-infested (but nonetheless beautiful) Peat Roads at Drumbeag (An Druim Beag), I thought I’d reccy the River Inver for a future paddle.
I’d read about the river on the UKRGB website and it sounded like a fun wee run, albeit with a ‘must-make-eddy’ near something called ‘The Cave’; I was intrigued…and I wasn’t disappointed!
Even at low levels, most of the river, certainly the fun lower section, looked runnable (probably at grade 3/4). At higher levels, I recon the river, in its lower sections at least, would bite a lot more and would be a solid grade 4; with a lot of little drops and masses of potential for stoppers, some of which I recon could get a bit sticky!
I didn’t walk all the way to the top, but the run can start at the end of Loch Assynt (Loch Asainte), with a grade 2 (perhaps grade 3 in higher water) lead-in. You’ll pass A LOT of fishing installations (pontoons, walk-ways, platforms etc.) and pass by a fair number of man-made weirs and pools on the top section.
Apparently, back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the estate altered, sorry, ‘improved’ the river (incl. installing sluice gates) to make it ‘perfect’ for salmon fishing. I’m guessing that mid-week/Saturdays in peak fishing season could result in this river being a bit of a mine field - particularly as it’s not paddled much an fisherfolk won’t be usedto boaters passing by – so you may wish to avoid it to save on hastle.
The lower section starts at (or just below, depending on river levels) the big river-wide weir which also marks the end of the top section. Looks like there could be potential for a playwave on the weir at the right level, but it was only partly forming when I was there.
After the weir, the river narrows and the proper gorge section begins. Lots of rocks on show at lower levels suggest stoppers, cushion waves and fun when there’s more water flowing! Even at low levels, however, there are a few wee drops and thing to keep a paddler occupied.
The main hazard on the lower section, ‘The Cave’, comes not too far from that end of the run and looked reasonably scary even at low levels. Even today, I wouldn’t have fancied getting sucked into it, and certainly I recon it would be game-over if you got in there when there was more water in the river.
I’m not sure what levels Ron Cameron et al, who wrote the UKRGB record, viewed/paddled the river, but ‘The Cave’ is actually a two-part siphon/sump. Water enters the first section through a 0.5m hole river-right at the lead-in to the feature. I’m guessing that part of the siphon would be all-but invisible at higher levels; but there nonetheless.
The second part of the siphon is half way down the ‘By-pass’, again on river right. Once in the flow I think it’d be highly unlikely that you’d get into it, but if you did, I really don’t fancy the changes of making it out alive. What’s more, the siphon spits outs its load through a small hole that even at low levels is below the water level in the pool below. You may be able to squeeze a body through there, but I’m not up for finding out…so, the line is left of centre on the run in (you’ll have to make a tight, hand-brake turn) then down the ‘By-pass’, passing ‘The Cave’ on river right…all done, out into a nice pool!
After the cave, there are a couple of nice little drops (probably a bit stickier in higher water) before you reach the new road bridge. You can get out here (there’s a wee lay-by next to it) or carry on down under the old bridge (and another small fall – 0.5m-ish) and out into Loch Inver (like the village, ‘Loch an Inbhir’ in Gaelic).
Oh, and make sure that you try the pie shop before you leave for home: www.lochinverlarder.co.uk
Update - Just found a youTUBE video of the Inver at (what I recon is) a low-end-of-high level: http://youtu.be/K47iLJboQLs