Kayaking in Vermont: Lower West River Run

Kayking and Canoeing in Vermont: Lower West River Run

The Lower West River in southern Vermont runs only a few times a year - in the spring when the snow melts and one weekend in the fall due to a release from the Army Corps of Engineers' Ball Mountain Dam.  Kayaking or Canoeing the Lower West is one of the classic whitewater experiences in New England.

Lower West (class II) river runners should be comfortable on Class II+ whitewater. This powerful run is a great place for strong advanced beginner and intermediate kayakers and canoeists to gain experience with bigger, more pushy rapids.

For 2018 the West River Run is scheduled for May 4,5 & September 21,22.

Price: $99.00 per person per day includes all equipment, instruction, catered, picnic-style lunch and transportation from our base at Zoar Adventure Center and from the paddling sites.

What To Expect & How to Prepare

Goal of the clinic:

To provide opportunities for class II to class III paddlers to run the Lower West River under the guidance of an able instructor.

Who should take the clinic:

Kayakers or canoeists who are comfortable in class II and want a chance to gain experience or paddle a new river under the expert leadership of qualified instructors. Our minimum age for these clinics is 14.

What will be covered:

The instructor will lead a warm up session before setting out down the river, and will set up a river order. While the day is set up to be experiential, not instructional, students may ask for help on specific skills while paddling the river.

Trip Details

A Typical Paddling Day

Your clinic will meet at our Zoar Adventure Center in Wilmington, VT. at 9:00 am.   The clinic will start on time, so please be prompt.  Complimentary hot drinks will be available upon your arrival. Your clinic will end at about 5:00 pm.

Since river runs are designed to be recreational paddling days, there will be people in different types of boats, and at different levels. Your group may be divided up by ability or by craft (kayak or canoe) to maximize each person's experience. Your instructors will encourage you to push your limits, but in a way that does not endanger you or the rest of the group. On each river run, there may be specific rapids where options will be presented, but the instructor will have final say as to what each river runner may decide to do. Each student will be expected to carry his or her own boat from the vehicle to the water and vice versa.

The number of students in your clinic may vary.  On this clinic we have a maximum student-to-instructor ratio of 4:1 and a maximum clinic size of 8 students.

You will be spending somewhere between four to five hours in your boat.  You will be kneeling (canoeists) or sitting (kayakers) for much of this time. To prepare you will want to stretch your thighs hamstrings and torso (back, stomach, shoulders and neck). If you increase your flexibility, you will have more efficient strokes, and you will be more comfortable in your boat. 


What should I wear?

The West River in VT releases in the Spring and Fall and is always cool, regardless of the air temperature. When packing your paddling clothes, please plan accordingly.  Our clinics will run rain or shine.

Wear items such as :

  • synthetic long underwear, garments made of plypropylene, capilene, or some polyester/spandex blend.
  • fleece or wool socks
  • bathing suit
  • fleece or wool jacket/sweater (early/late season or if you tend to chill easily)

Other items to bring.

  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • retaining strap for glasses
  • nose plugs
  • towel
  • required medications
  • extra money for snacks, t-shirts, or coin operated showers.

Zoar Outdoor will provide:

  •  boat
  •  wetsuit
  •  paddle jacket
  •  booties
  •  life jacket
  •  helmet
  •  paddle
  •  sprayskirt

We provide a catered picnic-style lunch on all our clinics.  Typical lunches include homemade rolls, sliced turkey, ham or other meats, sliced cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, chips, salsa, hummus, pasta or other salad, cookies or other dessert and hot and cold drinks.  

The following statement is required by state law: "Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy."

We do not use nuts in our food, but can not guarantee that the ingredients in our meals do not contain nuts or other food allergens. If you have food allergies or other special dietary needs, we strongly suggest you bring your own bag lunch in non-glass containers and we will pack it with the other lunches on your trip. Please inform our office at 800 532-7483 or info@zoaroutdoor.com if you intend to do this.

(If you own your own equipment, we suggest you use it in the clinic to get used to its quirks.)

Getting Here

The Zoar Adventure Center at 36 West Main St. Wilmington, VT.  There is limited parking right at our base, and additional parking can be found in the public lot just off of West Main St, in the unpaved section of the lot. 


The West River is approximately 3 hours from the Boston and Hartford areas and 4 1/2 hours from the New York City area.  It's is approximately 40 min. North from our Charlemont location.

Additional Information

Shop Discount

At the start of your clinic you will get two shop discount cards good for two weeks from the date of your clinic. One card entitles you to 10% off accessories in our Outfitters Shop. The second card entitles you to a $50.00 discount off a boat purchase. All boat purchases come with free outfitting and 10% off accessories in the Outfitters Shop for the next year.

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