Roy Gorge Changes

The River Roy has changed a number of times in the past few years.  Make sure you've read the new description before ya go!

Name of River: Roy

Roy (Gorge)
Grade 3 / 4
Length 3 ½ Km
OS sheet 34


This middle section of the Roy lies in a gorge far below the road.  Tight bedrock rapids follow one another in quick succession and although the run eases in its second half, it is still good fun.  The rock in this section of river is fractured and highly unstable.  Nearly all the major rapids have undergone significant changes in the last 15 years, and it is likely that they will continue to do so.  Please bear this in mind and be prepared for anything.

Water Level

Moderately wet/Very wet


The middle gorge can be scraped at most flows, but comes into its own with more water.  Upstream from the road bridge at Roy Bridge, you will see a bank of quartz rock on river left.  If the river is up to the level of the quartz the gorge will be at a good medium level.  In very high water the Roy Gorge is fast and unrelenting, a swim here is punished severely. 


Driving up Glen Roy the road climbs to an obvious viewpoint and car park.  The gorge can be seen far below.  The road then descends to the river and after 2 miles the put-in is reached.  Park at the muddy gateway and walk across the field to arrive at the river wide reef fall that can be seen from the road.  At high flows or if you would like a longer warm up (Grade 3 (4)), continue up the glen for a further 1 ½ miles until the river obviously flattens and you are into wide shingle beds.  Take out at Cranachan (297 846) just above the remains of an old bridge.  From a here a steep tack leads up to the road; not one for those with a heart complaint.  A small stone pillar at the side of the road marks the spot where exhausted paddlers will emerge from their ascent.  If the river is high you might avoid this trauma by continuing on down the Lower Roy (Grade 2/3).


The Upper Roy is an enjoyable gorgy grade 3 section with lots of surf waves for a couple of km. It gets pretty boily at high flows and feels quite pushy. The scenery is awesome at this point. The only significant fall is Rooster Tail (named for obvious reasons) where the river drops suddenly through boulders and you need to be heading from right to left.

Eventually the river eases and the put-in for the main gorge section is reached above a notable grade 4 ledge/reef fall, which you'll want to inspect (called 'Wish You Were Here' in Terry Storrys' guidebook). The line on this one changes depending on the flow.  From here a long rapid gives a good indication of the run ahead.

There are several more fun rapids before the approach to Headbanger.  Late in 2007 a sizeable chunk of rock slid into the river and blocked the rapid, creating a new pool above.  A lot of water flows under the blockage making this a significant hazard.  The undercut section from which the rapid got it’s name is no longer visible at most flows. As before, there is a straight forward portage on river left.

Directly below the portage, seal launch into the gorge to run a ledge, The Brother’s Grimm, where the river splits around a jumble of rocks, and the following narrow s-bend rapid.  The gorge continues with plenty of grade 4 moves to make, stacked quite closely together. Early on, a steep ramp into a flushing hole replaces what was once a diagonal river-wide ledge, formally the crux of the run.

After this the river is characterized by sharp corners and small eddies ideal for eddy hopping.  The last significant rapid in the gorge ends with sump on river right. This was formed by a change in the river in 2006, when a huge block moved to create an obvious horizon line and meter high drop.  Most of the river pushes from right to left and following the main flow will take you safely past the sump, which is caused by water flowing under the block on river right.  A portage at this point is long and difficult involving climbing out of the gorge on river right well above the sump, and climbing back in again further down.  Once directly above the drop getting out to portage may not be an option as the banks are steep and slabby.

As the river widens a river wide ledge comes up.  This is followed by more mellow pool drop type rapids all the way to take out.  The gorge ends at an impressive narrowing through towering cliffs; with the river snaking through the confined meter wide gap.  At lower flows the river is flat here, but when high the river backs up and a significant drop is created.  Coming through the gap the rock walls fall away and you are now obviously out of the gorge and sitting in a large pool.  The take out is at the end of this pool on river right.  (The old bridge just downstream now no longer exists - just the pillars remain).  Unfortunately it’s a long carry up an old overgrown path to the road, and depending on water levels it may be more fun to boat the lower section.

Other Important Points

Although offering good quality continuous water, the Roy Gorge is a potentially dangerous run, with a least 2 places were the water is sumping under rocks.  It is also one of the most unstable rivers in the area with significant changes in the bed rock occurring every couple of years.  Some of these are likely to change again as the rocks settle into their new positions.  Go carefully and enjoy the river.  In very high water the Roy Gorge is a continuous and committing run where and boils and holes abound.  The crofters do ask that car drivers drive carefully in the Glen particularly during the lambing season, as there have been one or two problems in the past.  Likewise please drive carefully in the village of Glen Roy.