USFS Project on the Big Branch

A few NH/VT boaters and I have been in an email conversation with the USFS for a few weeks about a proposed project to place large woody debris (LWD) into the headwaters of the Big Branch. Naturally, we were all pretty concerned — LWD is the kind of thing that kills boaters. The USFS has been very receptive to our concerns and altered their plans to try to minimize impact on us and offered to meet with local boaters at the Big Branch to discuss the project. Today, Adam Herzog and I drove over there to meet with them and check it out. Would’ve been nice if a few other boaters had showed up, but at least we were there.

A shitty picture of Adam on one of the bigger drops of the Upper Mile at 4′.

They were very informative and overall, it sounds like their project won’t affect paddlers. They are going to be dropping logs into upper stretches of the Big Branch and into parts of another tributary, Ten Kiln Brook. Typically, they only drop logs that are longer than the river is wide. They want the wood to stay put as much as we do, or the whole project will have been pointless. All the logs on the Big Branch itself will be above a culvert, meaning even in large floods they probably couldn’t make it through into the stretches we paddle. The Big Branch wilderness — and much of the Green Mountain National Forest — was logged and otherwise torn apart 100+ years ago. Many of the trails in the area are on old road beds. There’s one that runs down river right from the putin through below cave drop that’s pretty obvious. The whole forest up there is very young so the stream doesn’t have the dead trees falling into it that it should, meaning the river habitat needs some pushing and prodding to get back to its natural state.

Xavier Engle boofing Cave Drop.

A couple things to note. First, they mentioned that because of the age the forest is reaching, we should expect to see more and more trees naturally falling into the river — so be careful. Second, they’re happy to collaborate with us on all their projects. You can sign up to be notified of any river projects they are considering (or actively pursuing) and contact them if you’re concerned about the impact they may have on paddlers. Finally, they’re very receptive to our concerns so if you ever have an issue, send them a polite email or give a call and they’ll be happy to discuss it.

Assorted boaters cruising down the last drop by the takeout bridge.

Also — one of their current projects is on Bingo Brook, and one of the guys there mentioned the idea of building a whitewater park there in a way that would help both fish habitat and whitewater boaters. I doubt they have a ton of money, but if anyone else has any other ideas for whitewater parks inside their jurisdiction, it might actually go somewhere if you get in touch with them.

They also suggested we check out Lake Brook, a tributary of the Big Branch at the end of one of the forest service roads up there. Turns out it’s definitely a wide enough river bed to be runnable. Gotta look a little closer to decide if it’s ever worth it (based on gradient), but if you get up to the Big Branch and it’s over the gauge sometime when the road is open, well…give it a shot, drive up to the end of the road and put in. Could be fun.

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