Tucked away just outside the village of Dent this Class 4/5 gorge section runs fairly regularly with significant rain although there may be occasions when there can definitely be too much! It can become a very challenging undertaking at high flows with undercut walls and ‘boiling’ eddies. At perfect, mid-level, flows it is my Yorkshire favourite. A sensible decision can be made at the put-in: if it’s floatable and navigable it’s going to be good; however, if there’s a raging torrent, it will be full-on and the gorge will almost certainly be un-runnable. The river starts road-side around 5km outside Dent and the road follows the river for most of the run. In fact it’s only the last km that feels remote. A series of small slides and boulder rapids lead to a slightly bigger slide that right-angle’s to the left. This signifies the end of your warm up.
At the time of writing there is a tree across the river just above a slide that can be run and scouted river-left. If there is a paddle-able amount of water running over the right-hand side of the slide, making it a drop, it is probably a good idea to get out after this. Once the slide/drop has been run it is your last chance to get out (with any ease) before the gorge.
It would be ideal if you could scout the gorge before getting on but this is made difficult – if not impossible – due to a private farmer’s field sitting between the river and the road. If you choose to run the gorge (around 500m in length) this will take time and scouting is a must. It will be pretty obvious as the walls get higher and you soon reach a horizon line. Get out river-left and take the opportunity to scout the whole gorge from here. If there are eddies between the three falls then it’s at perfect levels. The first drop is a clean pour-over style with a must-make eddy immediately after it (river- right).
It is from here that you can either run the second drop or complete a small abseil to portage. Either way it’s essential to make that eddy. If the abseil is chosen then you can find a secure ring fixed into the rock on river-right. This is solid and a very helpful anchor when making the small descent. If you choose to run it, make your boof stick at the top and stay away from the undercut wall on the left.
Directly downstream lies the coolest feature on the river – a large undercut wall where all the water goes under with (depending on levels) about 3ft of clearance from under-wall to water. The river is moving slowly at this point so it’s relatively safe to experience. Soon after the wall comes the last drop on the gorge. If you come to a small rapid that bends to the right, don’t be tempted to run it without inspection as there is a 15ft waterfall lurking around that corner and a certain levels it can become sticky.
It can be very difficult to get out of the eddy just above the lip of this fall – virtually impossible without assistance. At manageable flows this drop is the best on the river. From the bank it looks a lot like a slide/drop when in reality it’s more vertical so a stroke at the lip of the fall maybe a better option than a late one… From here the river mellows out dropping around 2km down to the village of Dent with only Class 2/3 rapids between you and the bridge take-out. Again this is a relatively little-known section but when you get it right it’s just magic.
Words and pictures: Nathan Butler