The Funnel: Millers River Rafting

Massachusetts Rafting
Apr
14

The Funnel: Millers River Rafting

“The Funnel” is a fantastic rapid on a lower section of the Millers River located in western Massachusetts, and earns its name from its classic funnel shape. At the top of the rapid, the river opens wide to form the funnel, and quickly narrows as the riverbed drops straight and steep through its “spout”. This rapid’s whitewater classification can range from easy Class 3 to Class 4, depending on water levels.

For Fun Rafting at “The Funnel” …at high flows over 2,000cfs or 4.8 feet on the USGS gage… Leave the large eddy above the rapid and move left through “the funnel” portion of the rapid. Class 2 moves through small waves and exposed rocks or pour overs are necessary. Enter “the spout” far left and gradually work toward the center with the goal of reaching the center of the rapid just below a deep hole in the top third of this section. This approach avoids this raft-flipping hole in the center, but is an aggressive path with large waves leading to bigger action below. Below the nasty hole, you head into several large waves and wave-holes on the way to the final drop. Water sluices fast off of the rock ledge on river right and ultimately drops into a beautiful, frothy wave on the right at the bottom of the spout. Angle left and square up on this beauty for some prime photos!

Below the large wave comes a brief respite lasting only a few seconds, as the center of the river quickly poses a nasty pinning threat where you face a large, wide rock. The best line is to move very far left of this rock and line up for a sweet hole that forms at high water under the edge of the tree line. This line avoids the pinning rock, gives a big hit at the hole and slows you down for easy access to small eddies on river left. Another option is to run the next Class 2 section that comes up, leading to a long pool and perfect spot to rest after ripping through “The Funnel”.

For Fun Rafting at “The Funnel” …at flows between 1,000 and 2,000 cfs, or between 3.6 and 4.7 feet on the USGS gage… Leave the large eddy above the rapid and follow “the funnel” portion of the rapid. Small waves, exposed rocks and pour overs form at these levels. Lower flows expose many rocks, and the route is picky and tricky.

Enter “the spout” from the left and move the entrance toward the center as flows drop to minimum rafting levels. Ride the small waves and a couple of shallow holes in the left to center left and avoid a large triangular rock about 1/3 of the way into the spout section. This rock will become larger and wider at lower flows. Anticipate that the water pushes left to right toward the rock, and remember that this is the rock that forms the raft-flipper at high flows.

Cut close to the rock and then move gradually right to smash the best waves and wave-holes before hitting the final wave that clearly forms off the right hand ledge at the bottom of this section. Angle left and square up on this beautiful wave that pushes from right to left. At lower flows, you cross this smaller final wave with a hard angle toward the right. Catch the eddy formed by the right hand ledge and return to “surf”. Raft surfing in this section means strong right side paddling and an aggressive left angle. The concentrated, narrow flow at this point in the rapid makes a serious wave for raft surfing, and all passengers should be braced and ready for action!

More technical rafting info for “The Funnel” …

  • Whitewater Classification in a raft – Class 3-4
  • Scenery – after leaving the Rte. 2 highway corridor, scenery is quite pleasant until re-entering the mill town of Millers Falls where river flows behind active and abandoned mills
  • Wildlife – osprey, turkey vultures, great blue herons, beaver
  • Active rail line parallels river
Raft sizes can range on the Millers depending on water levels. The most popular sizes are between 12’ and 14’ for most flows. Larger rafts will have trouble at low flows and smaller rafts would be in jeopardy at high flows, especially in “The Funnel” Rapid.M.

“The Funnel” Rapid on the Millers River comes up about 3.4 miles downstream of the popular put-in area in Erving at the old Millers Falls Paper Offices or about 1.1 miles downstream of the put-in at the Farley USGS gage. The USGS gage address for the lower Millers is http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/uv/?site_no=01166500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060.

“The Funnel” follows “Rock Garden” Rapid, the second rapid below the confluence with Mormon Hollow Brook on the left. Below “Rock Garden” is a narrow pool with a large eddy on the left, a great vantage point for scouting “The Funnel” at high water levels. At lower levels, eddies on river left as well as some small, technical eddies on the right are easily accessed. Both sides of the river offer easy walking to scout the rapid from river level.

Technically, there are many options for running “The Funnel”, depending on water levels. For most flows, the rapid can be entered from right, left or center. At low flows, it must be entered from the left. Because of its steep drop and quick flow, you must choose your line above the rapid as it is blind on entry and does not provide good eddies to stop and scout from your raft.

The bottom of “The Funnel” has eddy service on both sides of the river. A quick Class 2 section and then a long pool follow a short pool. For safety, a trail on the right at the bottom of the main portion of the rapid leads directly up to Rte. 2, a 55mph highway. Approximately one mile below “The Funnel” is a take-out at a rest area along Rte. 2. A short but steep climb brings you to the rest area. The final take-out option for the lower Millers is approximately four miles below “The Funnel” just above the confluence of the Millers and the Connecticut River. There are several informal take-outs on river right above a bridge that is in view of the Connecticut.

The Millers River is a 52.1-mile-long river in northern Massachusetts, originating in Ashburnham and joining the Connecticut River just downstream from Millers Falls, Massachusetts. We run the Millers River on special dam releases and natural flows from the spring thaw. Throughout the season, the Millers offers action punctuated by “The Funnel” and “Tsunami” rapids, and takes rafters past active and historic mill sites.

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