Corsica River Guide
The Golo is one of the longest rivers in Corsica. It starts as a small mountain stream close to the Col de Verghio, the island's highest pass across the spine of Corsica. The river initially drains the snow fields of the small Capu di Verghio ski resort. Although the skiing will be poor by Easter, there will still be enough snow to swell the river when the sun shines. In fact when last I visited the area the highest start point on the river was still above the snow line.
The river slowly drops and swells, collecting tributaries on the way. The Calasima joins high up, before the river plunges through the massive gorge of the Scala di Santa Regina. Further down the valley the Golo collects the Asco, the Tartagine and the Casaluna, becoming the islands nearest approximation to a mature river; wide, meandering, dam controlled and sometimes polluted. Nevertheless there are still many enjoyable sections to paddle, especially if a section can be found away from the encroaching civilisation.
The most scenic part of the Golo river complex is undoubtedly the highest section. The water level can be checked at a gauge where the RF9 crosses the river at the bridge west of Albertacce. The river Calasima joins just above this point (it is in fact the bigger river) and it is wise to walk up to the confluence to check the relative water levels in each stream before deciding which of the two tributaries to paddle.
|From||NW of Calasima village (road D318)|
|To||RF9 Road Bridge (W of Albertacce)|
The Calasima needs a level of at least 230 centimetres, and ideally about 280, to make a trip worth while. The access point is reached by following the D318 through Calasima village to where it peters out near the river. At this point the river is shallow and wide, and the high water levels are needed to get enough water to float down the first couple of miles. The river eventually enters a gorge section, becoming much tighter, deeper, and more enjoyable. The actual grade depends on the water level, and varies between 5 and 6.
|From||Maison Forest de Pappaghia (or anywhere convenient nearby)|
|To||RF9 Road Bridge (W of Albertacce)|
The highest normal access point is the Maison Forest de Poppaghia, where a track leads close to the river. The Golo needs a lower water level than the Calasima, and is possibly worth attempting with anything more than 2 metres on the gauge, although checking the water levels high up the river is reccomended unless the gauge shows a more acceptable level of 230 and above. An inspection to pick a different start point in low water should be possible. Due to the enclosing pine forest blanking out the maquis it is possible to get down to the river from various other points on the road.
The Golo runs at grade 5 to 6 depending on water level, but watch out for fallen trees.
I have not paddled the short stretch of river from Albertacce bridge down to the reservoir, but a quick look from a passing car certainly showed canoeable water.
|SCALA DI SANTA REGINA (MIDDLE GOLO)|
|From||Middle of Gorge|
|Length||Up to 9 km|
The "Stairway of the Holy Mother" is a superbly impressive gorge linking the high valley of the upper Golo with the flatter lands of the north east of Corsica. The Golo here has been dammed for a hydro electric system, and much of the water is removed at the head of the gorge to be returned near the bottom above the Ponte Castirla. This water can alternatively be piped south and discharged into the upper Tavignano.
I have not paddled this bit so I can make few reccomendations, but it is easy enough to recce from the road. The upper part of the gorge section is narrow but mostly low gradient. The bottom half of the river shows most promise. The biggest problem will be finding the right level of water, as most of the water may have been removed by the hydro electric-scheme, but at a good level this would probably run at grade 5-7.
Below the hydro-scheme outlet the river changes entirely for the last 2 kilometres if you are lucky enough to find a release on. The river is still turbulent and tricky, running at grade 4-5.
Once past Ponte Castirla the river bedrock changes from granite to schist, and the character of the scenery changes too. The more open and gentle character of the lower Golo produces an enjoyable and faster flowing river, with little appreciably above grade 3. The main fall of note is the "Vacuum Cleaner" a shallow inoccuous looking drop tending to suck canoes under to the occupant's great surprise. They are always released safely, but often inverted or vertical.
Below Francetta the encroachment of civilisation become evident, as well as the Corsican habit of using the river as a rubbish tip. This is normally annoying but harmless, but stay alert. In 1988 Chris Sladden was surprised to be joined in a stopper by a floating six foot fridge freezer. The river level depends almost entirely on the level of release of the hydro-scheme in the Scala. It will be paddleable at any level above 1 metre on the gauge at Ponte Castirla, but really needs another 30 centimetres to become really enjoyable.
The river continues from Ponte Leccia to the coast in much the same vein, although the lower Golo gorge by Barchetta does raise both the grading and the scenery by one step, possibly two in high water. The water added by the tributaries around Ponte Leccia will have some effect so it is difficult to quote helpful gauge levels. Inspection of this stretch of the Golo is fairly easy however, so you can check the river yourself. Most of the problems will come from the occasional weirs. Many can be shot, but watch the stoppers and towback if water levels are high.
|Grade||3-4 (5), then 2|
The major tributary of the Golo, the Asco drains the northern flanks of Monte Cinto, Corsica's highest mountain, as well as other surrounding peaks and snow fields. For this reason the Asco is unusual in Corsica in that it can display a daily rise and fall in sunny conditions, like rivers in the French Alps.
The other unusual feature is that the road runs alongside the river for a large part of it's length, making recconaissance easy. The normal stretch to run is the gorge, starting above Asco village at a Genoese bridge. The first 3 kilometres run at grade 4-5 with two portages.
A second popular start point is the lay-by just below the second blockage. This is clearly visible from the road about 2 kilometres below Asco. When flowing well the Asco below the second start point is a superb playground of a river. It runs mostly at grade 3-4. The profusion of simple drops, waves and playholes make it a good river for an intermediate group of paddlers, or ideal for a bunch of jaded big water tyros looking for a relaxing day without any waterfalls, or hard decisions to make.
It is normal for jaded tyros to get out at the end of the gorge near Moltifao. The river touring purist will want to continue down to the river Golo at a sedate pace, drifting down a river which is now a grade or two easier.