Castellane river, Roussillon, France, January 2021
Words: Quim Fontané i Masó, Núria Fontané i Masó | Photography: Agata Sobieraj-Jakubiec
Winter in Catalonia often means flat water and canoe polo training in the pool. It’s hard for the locals to make it through the winter blues. However, on some lucky days, when the rain hits the thirsty land, the call to explore is on. It’s a short window that needs to be quickly answered, or else the opportunity is missed. Nuria Fontané Maso had no need to set any alarms on RiverApp; her brother Quim is a walking weather forecast and river guide app, all in one. He always has a stupid plan to hit some absolutely random river nobody has ever heard about. Such missions often end in the form of tragicomedies, lots of portaging, little kayaking, and extreme scrambling. But every now and then, they actually find some gold. This was one of these exceptional days. This time the destination was in the South of France; the Castellane River, in the Roussillon region of southern France, had seen its last descent about 20 years ago.
After getting some beta from the French guy who opened the river 20 years back, it was time to put the Castellane back on the kayaking map. The section was about four km of what was deemed to be Class IV-V. As they arrived at the put-in, they knew it would be a good day. The section started with a photogenic and clean six-meter drop into a narrow slot under a bridge. The great start seemed to promise more stouts ahead; unfortunately, the overall character of the section was a nice continuous Class III+ – IV granite boulder garden with a couple of bedrock rapids. Not hard, but pleasing kayaking nonetheless. There seems to be a much harder section downstream yet to be opened that promises scary Class V with portages in a tight gorge. This certainly needs discretional scouting of all the rapids. They will definitely be back for more—there are many more unexplored or forgotten rivers in the area.