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Vermont’s West River will transform into a whitewater hotspot this weekend

A shallow river with small rocks and ripples at sunset that casts a yellow pink glow. Trees along the banks are just starting to change color  -- yellow and green.
Lauren Pellegrino
Vermont State Parks
The river that flows through Jamaica State Park will become full of rapids this weekend when the Army Corp of Engineers releases 1,500 cubic feet of water per second from an upstream dam.

A usually calm section of the West River that meanders through the town of Jamaica will flow fast and high this weekend, when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers releases tons of the water from the massive Ball Mountain dam.

The scheduled release typically takes place twice a year for both recreation and water management, said Lauren Pellegrino, the manager of Jamaica State Park, which becomes a party for white water paddlers.

“People are coming from all over — they are people who have done this for years and years and years,” Pellegrino said.

The fall release is scheduled to run from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, when the Army Corp will free 1,500 cubic feet of water per second from the dam, according to Pellegrino.

“So those will probably be the big times where everybody is shuttling their boats back and forth from the park to Ball Mountain dam, putting their boats in at the base of the dam, and then going down the rapids to the end of the park,” she said.

The fall release has been canceled for several seasons because of technical issues, drought and the pandemic. And this year, a popular trail along the river that paddlers typically use to shuttle their boats is closed, following a landslide after the July floods.

Still, the park is expecting a good turn out. The campground is fully booked for the weekend, but you can enter with a day pass.

And this is not the only time of year when the dam releases water.

“They actually released it earlier today just because we’d gotten a lot of rain,” Pellegrino said early this week.

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Lexi Krupp is a member with Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.

Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.
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