July 2009: A possible last descent?

An internal flight into Erzerum and a taxi to Yusufeli saw us finally arrive at Birol’s campsite on the Barhal river.

Boats being loaded onto the plane in Istanbul

The whole Coruh valley is to be lost to vast lakes and numerous hydro electric dams as Turkey strives for more ‘green’ electricity. Work has already started on two of these dams and it wont be long before the first one is complete, putting both the rapids and the countryside several feet under water. I don’t know for sure, but I would be surprised if come next year it was still possible to paddle the top of the traditional multi-day section.

Beth on the lower Barhal

After a quick warm up on the lower Barhal and a blast down the Yusufeli gorge we were keen to set off on the multi-day section of the Coruh. By July it is already late in the season and the water levels are dropping fast.

We put in just above Ispir, the site of the most advanced dam and paddled through the ‘Joan Collins Set’ amongst the rubble and falling boulders from the workmen above.

The Coruh through Ispir (Photo Maddy Boddy)

Meanwhile on the road above (Photo Maddy Boddy)

We took our time, paddling the river over 3 days, with two nights camped at the side of the river on the way back down to Yusufeli. After a days rest and a walk to see the local monastery we carried on down the Coruh to ‘King Kong’, which is a really nice big volume rapid about 25km down stream of Yusufeli.

King Kong (Photo Tom Woodhead)

A great few days on the river, I really enjoyed being back on bigger water and the adventurous feeling of multi-day paddling. Although everyday I got off the river I had a big grin on my face you cant help but feel sad that soon all of this will be lost forever.


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