Wednesday, March 18, 1998


Galicia – a quiet whitewater playground

1998 and I was invited to join a short ‘reconnaissance’ trip by Woodmill to Galicia.

The Region
Galicia is situated in the North West corner of the Iberian peninsula, bordering Portugal. A mountainous region (with peaks at around 2,000 M) and steep gorges. We had (unseasonal) wall-to-wall sunshine for the duration of the stay in mid-March.
The guide ‘Kayak en Galicia’ (in French and Spanish) The guide ‘Kayak en Galicia’ (in French and Spanish) by Andres Sio Gonzales describes 23 rivers within the region, which include 30 grade IV – V1 sections and over 25 "plus faciles" – easier grade II/III runs. Some of these rivers are dam controlled and retain paddleable levels well into the spring.
All this paddling territory is enjoyed by only 20 local Kayakers. To crown that, no permits are required, and the small group of paddlers have got the system so well organised that they can phone up dam operators to order more (or less) water. These guys enjoy perhaps one of the best and emptiest white water playgrounds in Europe or beyond.
The Rivers
These lived up to Andres’ photos. In the short time available to us we paddled a number of rivers that seemed a good sample of the many available in the region:-

  • The Rio Deva – a shallow, narrow ditch but with a few interesting drops that offered a good grade II/III warm-up, exercising travel weary limbs.
  • Rio Mino - (grade II) but at 200 cumecs this took a number of Dartmoor paddlers by surprise.

  • Rio Lerez – (grade IV/V) : The Classico section proved to be classic – perhaps best described as a scaled up East Lyn. After about one kilometre of III, the river bites in to a gorge and becomes pretty continuous IV punctuated by some exhilarating V falls.

  • Rio Deza (III/IV(5)) – that’s a hell of a confusing grading isn’t it! - another ‘Classico’ run

We broke our return journey with a short grade II bimble on the Sella (the last stretch of water of any interest in the Picos still open to kayakers).

I had enjoyed a week of paddling in the Picos several years previously but things had changed and most rivers were out of bounds. We weren’t allowed on the river until 11am, and kitting up at 11:03 we were challenged by some bloke in a uniform who looked pretty disappointed when he saw our permits – sad! (he had failed to notice that while Phil had 5 permits for himself, the four other paddlers were technically at fault!).
Published in Canoeist Magazine July 1999