The best parking and launching site for sea kayaks is the viewpoint car park in front of the Oyster Inn on the on the A85, GR 909 343, this is on the south side of the water. You can also park on the old road at the northern end of the bridge but the carry to the water is horrendous with a sea kayak. Full details here
Paddling the falls
The falls are a useful venue for sea kayaks on both the flood and ebb tides and throughout the spring-neap cycle
Spring Ebb tides
Please refer to the schematic on the playboaters page to get an idea of how the falls flow.
- If you are expert, (and I mean expert!) you can try the main wave and centre wave. These waves are difficult in a long kayak and if you can stay on them you are likely to get a dramatic pop out. BEWARE Be very careful on the main wave on low tides. I believe that it would be possible to hit the bottom with the front of a sea kayak. Expert sea paddlers seem to prefer the centre wave as it is longer and has a lot more depth below it. You can get there by making a high cross on the main wave, an exciting move in itself.
- However, the Forever Wave is the top choice in a sea kayak. If it is working, carry your kayak over the kelp covered rocks under the bridge and launch on the upstream side. Float down backwards to the waves left of centre of the northern flow. The first wave is not often steep enough but the second one is superb. Alternately, if you are fast, get out into the broken white water in the middle, head for the north east corner of the white area and break into the current upstream of the waves.
- For sea paddlers, the southern shore also provides plenty of fun. Paddle up-stream under the bridge in the eddy by the southern bridge pier and break into the main current. Wow! Ride the jet and break out southwards through the boil before the car park. This is great fun and can be both challenging and exhilarating. BEWARE there is an old sewer pipe running into the water 30 meters east of the car park. It is fairly obvious but you would not want to hit it. The upstream flow from the eddy boil tends to take you towards it.
Spring Flood tides
There is plenty of sport to be had on the flood tide in a sea kayak. It has a safety advantage over the ebb tide in that it is heading inland, so it is ideal from a coaching point of view in that “situations” are less likely to get out of control.
The best time to paddle is the last hour before and 30 minutes after high water. The flow won’t reverse until 2 hours 10 minutes after high water but from 1 hour after, it is quite feasible to paddle “up” the falls, i.e. westwards back towards the sea and the car park. If you want to get off earlier you can portage the rocks on the South side (easy) or the North side (awkward). For flood tide times see the tide prediction tables
There are several hot spots.
- On big tides a fast jet of water runs between the north bridge pier and the shore. This drops about 40 cm and generates a smooth and very stable green wave. A good spot for coaching improvers. This jet produces a tail race so that there is a strong current each side of the north bridge pier and a tight but useful eddy behind it.
- Out in the middle of the narrows, about 50 metres east of the bridge a large dome of water forms as the flood pours over the central reef. At the eastern edge of the dome a smooth trough forms with a wide wave train beyond it. These waves (see below) tend to form up and crest cyclically. In a sea kayak, you can get a good ride on these waves. If you lose them, head north and use the eddy behind the northern reef to get back up stream.
- A strong boil (known locally as the “washing machine”) forms by the rocks on the small headland on the southern shore. A set of waves, sometimes surf-able, form off the point.
- For more information, including (for BCU/SCA coaches) access to the Coaching Guide for the Falls of Lora contact Tony Hammock at firstname.lastname@example.org
The falls at times other than spring tides are well worth paddling. They provide a challenging and entertaining playground with a wide range of moving water features and conditions. They are ideal for coaching sea paddlers in moving water skills in preparation for trips around the Argyll coast where many fast water situations can be encountered.
Although this is a very exciting venue, we are not aware of any serious incidents. (Please let me know if you have witnessed any yourself). However, it can be a long swim. So please consider the following recommendations.
- Secure hatches and bulkheads front and rear, high spec P.F.Ds., etc are essential.
- Wear a helmet. You are unlikely to hit the bottom with your head but you could easily get donked by your own paddle.
- There should always be at least one group member acting as a spotter at any time. This is to avoid the possibility of someone getting into serious trouble without anyone else noticing.
- If you are one of those people who paddle it solo, please don’t! But if you choose to persist with this, then at least call me or knock on my door before you go on and let me know when you have finished. Surely this is sensible Telephone 01631 710173 I might even come out to keep you company if I have time.