Winter is slowly coming to an end and Evert and I decide to close the whitewater season in style by making one last run on the river Salm, combined with a partial descent of the river Amblève, and a return hike on foot. Indeed, now is the time, since the official closing date of the season is March 15th, which is tomorrow.
It may be true that winter is coming to an end, but during the drive to the put-in location on the river Salm, it doesn’t really look it, as we are surprised by fresh snow on the road above 400 m. At the put-in in Rochelinval, snow turns to rain, while we gear up for a frigid descent.
The river Salm is probably the most sportive in the Belgian Ardennes that can be run without special permission. After a fairly dry period, the river has a good flow today, thanks to yesterday’s precipitation.
Due to an issue with Evert’s raft, it takes until 10:30 am before we are finally on the water. Soon, we reach a first drop, which is so much fun that we run it twice. Afterwards follows a quick succession of rapids and lower drops, which remains fun until the end. Salm may be quite sportive, it however is not particularly scenic. Especially the part around the town of Trois-Ponts is below standard in this respect, however even this section remains fun to paddle.
We reach the confluence with the river Amblève and paddle to Coo where we portage around a well-known 13 m high waterfall. At the other side of the falls, we continue paddling the Amblève river. This stretch of the river is rather laid-back, but as the flow today is good, we make decent progess. We find a lost paddle, which probably belongs to a kayak rental shop, and we decide to take it along until the take-out.
After having paddled 17 km, we take out at the Cheneux bridge, pack up, have lunch, leave the found paddle behind, and start hiking in the direction of Rochelinval. The trail starts climbing almost immediately and passes the village of Monceau. As we climb higher, the sky breaks and sunny spells arrive, returning color to the landscape.
On the crest of the hills, at around 500 m, we encouter some remains of this morning’s snow, and then start our descent towards the village of Mont-de-Fosse. The weather is very changy now, with a quick succession of sunny spells and intense rain and hail showers.
From Mont-de-Fosse we hike to Bergeval through silent woods, and then take on our final descent back to Rochelinval. We arrive around 5:30 pm, after a trip of a bit over 30 km.
Today has been a great day, with very enjoyable paddling, beautiful views during our hike, and basically all types of weather including snow, rain, hail and sun.
(Trois-Ponts: 5.32 m3/s; Stavelot: 9.78 m3/s)