River Update - 2016 Tuckerman Inferno

Friday April 8, 2016

Race organizers paddled the Saco River from Thorne Pond through past takeout for the race. We removed a couple branches and trees that were in the main current. There are of course lots of trees down along the sides of the river, and as the Saco is a wild river, things could change overnight.

Rain Thursday night into Friday raised levels considerably.  Although they will continue to drop due to cooling temps and reduced runoff, athletes can expect a fast and fluid course.  The rapids will likely have fairly clean lines through them, which will make navigating the boulders easier for most.

A faster flow means less reaction time, and greater consequences for tipping over.  It also means that on turns, where the flow is pushing to the outside where there are likely strainers, that route choice and angling into the turn will be important.

Larger waves and river features increase the change of water coming into open cockpits.  Properly fit spray skirts will be important.  Make sure they are easy to get on AND off.  Thermal protection will be important to protect against water, wind, and low temps expected on Saturday.

It is strongly recommended that racers prepaddle the course. You can review the kayak transition zone map here.


  • Fit your lifejacket properly. 
  • Fit spray skirt - take the time to properly install, 20 seconds will mean nothing compared to a boat full of water that tips over. 
  • Do not stand up in the river - beware foot entrapment. 
  • Avoid strainers and wood in the river.
  • If you swim - get on your back, feet up and out in front of you, make a plan on where to swim to - and get there.
  • Wear thermal protection.  You will be warm from the run, but cold water takes strength and energy in seconds.
  • If you are going to hit a rock - lean into it.  Grab it, get stable, then work yourself loose.  Leaning upstream = flipping over.


  • Look where you want to go.  If you stare at the tree of the big rock - that's where you will end up. 
  • Look for "downstream v's" or "tongues" of water between the rocks, this is the deepest fastest water and usually cleanest line.
  • Slow is Pro - take the time to get your gear on, install yourself in the boat, and double check everything BEFORE you slide into the water.  The time lost in a swim or later gear adjustment will more than offset time gained at the put in.
  • Pace yourself.  Smooth consistent strokes with micro steering adjustments in the straightaways.
  • Torso rotation - proper paddling technique used the entire upper body and core.  Rotate with each stroke.
  • Angle into your turns, let the momentum of the water carry you around the turn as you are slicing towards the next straight section.
  • The first half is a lot of flat water pools.  The second half, from a sharp left turn that then aims at some houses, you hit whitewater.  Game on.
  • The rapid that goes under the trestle has lots of big waves.  Hope your skirt is on.

Good luck to everyone!  Keep it safe out there.  Remember - this is a wild river, and although we have people keeping an eye on things, your safety is your responsibility.  It is a very cold class 2-2 plus river, with low ambient temps on race day.  A properly fitting pfd, helmet, skirt, and thermal protection; with a prepaddle course inspection, along with your paddling experience and appropriate training will go a long way to keeping you safe.  Have fun out there!!!

Darron, River Support

Tuckerman Inferno River Safety Team



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published this page in Inferno Blog 2016-04-08 08:18:26 -0400