Corsica River Guide
Each Corsican river and valley has a different character and image in my mind. Some rivers are defined by the scenery, such as the upper Golo and Calasima. Others by the exceptional quality of the canoeing. The Travo is a good example here. To me the Liamone valley is memorable through it's interplay of history and geography.
For centuries invading armies and administators would come and go on the coast and on the flatter lands to the east; collecting taxes, trading, and importing new customs. For most of them it simply was not worth bothering with the high Liamone valley. Agriculturally destitute, away from the trade routes, and ruled from Vico by a powerful feudal lord who liked his independance, the massive valley of the Liamone remains undeveloped, underpopulated and hauntingly impressive.
The biggest river in the high Liamone valley is in fact the Fiume Grosso, and strictly speaking the whole valley should bear that name. This river joins the Liamone shortly above the D23 bridge close to Vico. River levels in the valley are dependant on both snowmelt and rain. They can be checked at two positions. A gauge at the Punta de Truggia gives the most accuarate indication. Alternatively the water level at the D23 can be checked by looking for the depth of water flowing over a wide flat boulder about 70 metres above the bridge, at the end of a small rapid, just to the river left of centre.
|UPPER FIUME GROSSO|
|To||Bains de Guagno|
The high Fiume Grosso above Bains de Guagno is a straight forward grade 3-4. Access to the water can be tricky, being a case of searching out a suitable footpath leading down to the river. Once on the water the difficulties are over, with simple rapids and drops leading pleasantly down to the exit bridge.
|FIUME GROSSO / UPPER LIAMONE|
|From||Bains de Guagno|
|To||Pont de Belfiore|
Below Bains de Guagno the fun starts. I have not paddled this section, but I vividly remember seeing three members of the 1990 BCU rally sat in a Vico cafe, staring into space, totally wasted, after a day on the Fiume Grosso with a lot of water in it.
Phil Blain paddled it the following week, most of it solo after his colleague lost his boat - another casualty of high water levels. When I discussed the trip with Phil five weeks later I could still feel the adrenalin surging at me down the 'phone lines. This is Phil's description.
"If the truth be known this is another Corsican classic depending on your taste. Lacking any one memorable stretch or the grandeur that the other rivers seem noted for, it's continuity of grade and difficulty should put it high on the list of those seeking true adventure. A good level is when the slab above the bridge at Vico is only just awash, stoppers and backtows being more manageable. we paddled with 5 to 10 centimetres flowing over it when it was a difficult but excellent trip.
For most of it's length the river follows a deep gorge, but the difficulties are obvious and can be scouted. Allow 6-7 hours for a first attempt at this section. The river starts pleasantly, and gives ample time for a warm up till it drops into a small gorge littered with boulders and a right angled turn. The route is all too obvious. For the faint of heart the portage goes high on the right bank. The difficulties then become very continuous and consistent, rather than excessive. The Liamone creeps in almost unnoticed, swelling the river.
At one point it runs through a steep sided gorge, the entry rapid proves quite difficult. The river resumes it's wild rush through a boulder strewn bed before the last problem, a steep right angled bend. The river, wide at this point, proves difficult to protect. It is possible to portage on the right over large boulders. The river, having given up it's secrets, relents and rapids become more spaced. The bridge at Vico will be met with relief or jubilation. Whichever it is you will have completed one of the finest trips Corsica can offer.
|From||Pont de Belfiore (Vico)|
|To||Pont de Truggia|
|Grade||4-5 (6), Continuous 5-6 (7) in high water|
The most popular section of the Liamone runs from Vico to the Punta de Truggia. This section can be run at 30-70 centimetres/rock shallowly washing over (see advice on water levels in introduction above)
The river starts with wide fairly shallow falls in quite a wide gorge. If the water is low these will be no more than grade 3-4, but high water will transform them into good surging and flowing falls approaching grade 5. The river slowly steepens and closes in to become more difficult and powerful. In higher water inspections will become fairly frequent and portages around the more vigorous of the falls not unusual. There is only one steep drop in the first half of the river. A sloping double step falls about five metres, easily shot down the left side.
A sloping 2 metre weir-like drop into an enclosed plunge pool marks the start of the hard work. About 200 metres below this fall is the start of the short Liamone gorge. Exit on the right to inspect. The entry fall into the gorge is normally considered unrunnable. Almost the whole of the rest of the gorge is often portaged, although all but the first fall can be shot, seal launching into the gorge from the chosen point along it's side after careful inspection.
The strongest argument to run the gorge is that the portage is fairly arduous. Follow the track on the right bank, leading up the slope to parallel the gorge about 50 metres above the water level. Crossing a small ridge after a few hundred metres will require an awkward jump. The track will then start to slowly descend, and after another hundred or so metres look down to the river, and you should see a large rock platform situated about 5 metres above the water. Your task now is to lower your canoes and paddlers onto the platform, then seal launch into the water. It is in fact a lot easier than it looks. You will be seal launching into a grade 3 rapid at the tail of the gorge, so check your gear carefully before leaping into space. This is not the place to follow Greenslime's example and have your deck pop off as you land in the rapid.
Once round the corner the gorge peters out. The river from here down slowly eases off into a grade 3-4 approach to Punta de Truggia, which only about 2 kilometres away. Egress is possible at the bridge, but is less strenuous if you paddle down about 100 metres to get out by a small rock stump on the right bank. A path follows a winding but much flatter course up to the road.
From here the Liamone continues down to the sea at grade 2.
|To||East of Lopigno|
Above the boundary the river runs mainly at grade 3, with the occasional harder stretch. A level of at least 50 centimetres at Punta de Truggia is really needed to make this worth while. Another 30 centimetres would dramatically improve matters. The highest canoeable point depends on the water level, and will have to be determined on the day by inspection, but it has been paddled from as high as Frassetto.
|From||East of Lopigna|
|To||Pont de Truggia|
The boundary between the easy and more difficult stretches of the Cruzzini comes where the road stops running close to the river. There is a convenient spot here for camping, frequently used by canoeists.
Once on the water the river slowly increases in difficulty to become a good grade 4-5, with portages unlikely. Any water level above 40 centimetres would be runnable, although a bit more water would vastly increase the pleasure.
The Cruzzini in this section is fairly user friendly, making it a good option for a warm up, or an alternative if the Liamone is washed out. Short simple rapids, easy to inspect, and not too many hard decisions to make. Nevertheless the river offers some interesting boat control challenges, mainly due to the tight nature of the rapids.