Nith

nith.jpgThe River Nith flows east from the hills of South Ayrshire, then south through the towns of New Cumnock, Sanquhar, Thornhill and Dumfries, some 64km to the Solway Firth. Much of the river is of slack water with occasional falls of Grade I, mainly in the lower section. However, for a stretch of about 12km the river runs through the Drumlanrig Gorge and here its fall is more pronounced. In this section alone the fall of the river is about 250m and the river flows over a series of rapids, which can be as difficult at Grade V in high water. For its last few miles, after the town of Dumfries, the river flows into a tidal estuary. The Nith is a relatively short river with a small catchment area and hence it rises and falls fairly dramatically. The river is certainly at its best after heavy rain and it can be in condition at any time of the year. For most of the length the river valley is used by the A76, which is the main Dumfries - Cumnock trunk road and allows easy access to the river at various locations.

Glen Airlie - Drumlanrig Bridge.

This 7km section of the river offers the most continuous stretches of the white water, and the stretch from Glen Airlie down to Enterkinfoot is used for the RAF Wild Water Racing Championships.

The major rapids on this section are:

a. Start Rapids. At low to medium water levels immediately after the start is a 600m stretch of technical (Grade II) water, as the river is forced through a narrow rocky channel. At high water levels this presents a series of stoppers and large standing waves culminating in a Good Grade IV stopper directly under Glen Airlie Bridge. The next 200m is flat and deep water immediately followed by a tight 'S' bend then a 1km stretch of fairly continuous Grade II water, which leads on to:

b. The Graveyard. (Often referred to as the Gorge). - This is a 100m stretch of Grade III water (Grade IV+ in high water), which offers a variety of routes depending on the water level. Particular care is needed at low water to avoid the possibility of getting jammed broadside across the river. In high water the stoppers and standing waves on this rapid are epic! From here the next 500m offers some good Grade II/III water before the river deepens and slows over a 300m stretch of flat water which leads on to:

c. Campbell's Island. This Grade II/III rapid is encountered after a sharp right hand turn from the flat stretch. The rapid is split in the centre by a large island, the best line being down the right hand bank. High above the river on the left-hand bank is a railway embankment. In the early 1970's a goods train loaded with a well-known brand of soup, popular in Scotland, shed its load from the embankment into the river. For those seeking excitement the line down the left of the island offers a good 4-foot drop and the possibility of something extra for supper. From here the river runs at Grade I/II for 500m down to:

d. Dodd's Folly. This Grade II/III rapid is best tackled down the left-hand bank, with a sharp left-hand turn at the bottom round a large boulder. This obstruction forms a really nasty hole and whirlpool in high water and has caught many an unwary racer. From here the river runs at Grade I/II for 1.5km with an interesting 'S' bend with a high breakout potential, below the white cottage at Enterkinfoot. Followed by a large island with shallows, which present route-finding problems in low water. From the island it is 150m to the finish of the RAF Wild Water racecourse, although there are a couple of tight bends immediately before the finish.

Footnote. The Nith can provide excellent white water conditions at a variety of levels; unfortunately the river is not canoeable at really low water. However, the RAF Wild Water Racing Championships have been held successfully at this venue since 1977. The continued use of the venue for our Championships; depends greatly on the goodwill that exists between our competitors, the local population and the landowners. Please observe the Country Code at all times and drive carefully between the Race Start and Finish points.