Canoeing on the Wieprza river. A post about discovering the beauty.

The Wieprza river is considered as one of the most beautiful rivers of the polish seaside. Uncrowded, trackless and wild. In the summer, we decided to try our strength on it. It was recommended everywhere to raft on Wieprza by starting from Pokrzywna – its right-bank tributary. Because last year I was canoeing from there and I wasn’t particularly delighted (I didn’t remember anything from this river), we decided to diversify and make the trip more attractive by starting from the highest point where it is possible to go canoeing. We realized that on such uninterrupted legs, time to swim and time to overcome obstacles is balanced – but this can be considered an indispensable adventure.

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During one of the June cycling trips we crossed Wieprz river at the height of the village Żabno. On the awesome map of bicycle routes, issued by the Marshal’s Office of the Pomeranian Voivodeship from the “Pomorskie kołem się kręci – Kaszuby Zachodnie” series, a road runs through the river. In fact, it is an untreated ford, with relics of the bridge in the form of two opposite embankments and a few rotten piles driven into the bottom.

Source: map “Kaszuby Zachodnie” from series “Pomorskie kołem się kręci” issued by the Marshal’s Office of the Pomeranian Voivodship. I marked on red the place of former bridge.

 

At this point, the river is shallow, so you can freely carry your bikes. I liked this place exceptionally. Children were swimming in the stream, while on the other side a little older youth drank beer. Holiday atmosphere!

A little further, going towards Bożanka, we went down to the river with a steep road leading to another, this time a heavily overgrown ford. There, sitting on a blanket in the high grass and sipping coffee accompanied by a quiet of rustling water, we decided to take a try to start rafting from this surrounding area. We were enchanted by the picturesque and natural beauty of Wieprza river, which at this point completely forgotten about the presence of people.

Two weeks later, we went there again, this time for a walking reconnaissance, to see the river in close-up. We parked our car at the forester’s lodge in Kwisno. A bit further, the Wieprza river flows under the road connecting Dretyń and Łubno. In this place it is already quite wide and deep, especially to the south of the bridge – where there is a characteristic booth on the bank. On the north side there is still a small bridge – I suspect that in old-times it served as canoe launch. In any case, after seeing this area, we found that the first few hundred meters from the bridge would be at least a two hours horror – with such low water level and dumps every 10-15 meters, and it wasn’t just pine-trees but huge age oaks crossing the river across on height of one meter. A little further, the river flows into an open area, where it is spread with stretched meanders. Here you can freely flow, although the dumps – including the more difficult ones – are not missing.

 

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After a few days we packed our clobber, rented canoe from SurfCamp Gardna Wielka, and went to the place where the rafting started. Due to the quite late hour, we decided to spend the night at the abovementioned ford near Żabno. One of the embankments on the former bridge was ideally suited for setting up a tent and organizing a camping space.

On the German map one can see that there was a mill above the bridge.There was no greater trace left after it; small fragments of debris and bricks can only suggest the existence of some buildings here. On the Geoportal, however, using the possibilities offered by LiDAR, you can get the exact location of the mill and the outlines of the foundations of the building, as well as the roads leading to it.

Source: www.geoportal.gov.pl, access: 29 december 2018

We had a guest during the morning coffee.

We were about ten meters from him. He didn’t seem to see us at all, or he was so good at playing dumb. As if nothing had happened, he crossed the river in the shallowest part and disappeared in the depths of the forest on the other side. He didn’t look as well-fed and well-groomed striped creature, unfortunately.

We packed up, and moved … through a true ordeal. But how nice!

The leg we planned to overcome in the day took us two and a half days in total. It was caused by a very large number of fallen trees, through which we had to brake, as well as numerous riffles, which were not navigable at relatively low level of water. However, there were also some peaceful moments.

Beautiful place for coffee break and a moment for relax.

We’re moving on … and the first permanent portage. After the former industrial buildings (most probably the mill) only the outlines of foundations, retaining walls and concrete accumulation have remained.

A drop of about one meter didn’t encourage to the action. All we could do was taking the canoes by the right side. And there … a field with nettles. Our moods, however, were fine.

Another obstacles in front of us.

Bushy, dark and gloomy forest on both sides, great air. I dragged the canoe past the fallen tree on the left side.

 

This is the most beautiful leg of Wieprz river we have ever seen. Shallow, stony riffle, a long conifer corridor overhead, and a bushy, translucent steam brooding over the surface of the river. Pure natural magic. The picture doesn’t reflect this climate completely – it is one of those rare moments when the view is truly breathtaking. A metaphysical experience.

There were numerous streams flowing down the right, lower bank, going down the black, wet rocks.

Quite heavily tired after a nice seven hours of canoeing, we pitched a tent over a beautiful bend near the ruins of a concrete bridge. The nearest village: Bożanka.

The mentioned bridge connected both banks at a height of about 5 meters above the water level. There is virtually nothing left of the passage itself except for piles driven into the bottom of the bed, while on one side there is a large-sized reinforced concrete structure, heavily washed and cracked. The access road from both sides is completely forgotten by God and people.

We moved forward on the third day. The river calms down and expands. We flow into the land of alders.

Another numerous obstacles, and accommodation just before the Bożanka.

In the morning (at 12 O’clock) we move on, the fourth day. We start from the scarp turning.

One hundred liters of water in a canoe, but it was worth it!!!!

The river changes its character, it becomes quite wide, and on its banks there are rushes and swamps, and pitched alders.

Magic…

 The car noise on the trunk road no. 21 is much more clearer.

There are beautiful meanders and backwaters just behind the bridge in Bożanka. We moored to the fallen birch on the left to drink coffee and have some snack. We barely made a bonfire and unfolded the campsite tarp, the storm raged around. It hardly touched us. This is called luck! I was still waiting for a walk along the busy road to Bożanka to get water, and we can go on. Of course, getting rid of the water, which attacked our canoes.

Behind the Bożanka river, three portages around the valves were waiting for us (big fish ponds on the left). The first valve, probably the worst, because the wild one, through nettles and wood full of ticks and mosquitoes. Oh, here I was cursing so much…

Behind the third valve there is artificial riffle, also onerous.

 We pass the feeder of Pokrzywna river on the right and the campsite “Mnich” in Broczyna. In the meantime, the unbowed Studnica river comes to the Wieprza river on the left. If the water in Wieprza had been icy so far, then after supplying it with Studnica’s waters, I would describe its temperature as scandalously low! 😉 We will survive…

A few kilometers away we can see a characteristic, low wooden bridge, which means only one: Kawka / Biesowice. This place is very rich in infrastructure, because there is a large shelter with tables and benches, entirely with a concrete floor; as well as place for barbecue and outdoor gym.

There is also a dog, even two. Both friendly. Only one let us pet him.

Because we have given out our provisions in a few days, I went for my first shopping while rafting. The goal was Biesowice: about four kilometers of marching, mainly along a narrow, asphalt road leading along the slope of a deep gorge. In the village, a hard party beside the shop, and behind the shop, and next to the shop… generally everywhere. Booze, breweries, liqueurs, everything. Bacchanalia…

It’s too early to put up a tent. So, we are rafting further, slowed down a bit by… wild raspberries growing on both banks of the river. As fruit lovers – I personally love wild raspberries – we couldn’t lose such an opportunity and a for half hour we were eating delicious ripe fruits.

The first of several power plants on Wieprza river: Biesowiczki is in front of us.

Thanks to the kind gentleman, we could see the object from the outside and look inside through the windows. It is under renovation, so you can’t visit it inside. The portage is relatively good, although the strengthening of the shore behind the power plant in the form of sharp stones covered with a wire mesh force us to tow the canoes further into the forest.

The slowly ending day means that we are looking for a suitable place to stay with a map in a hand.

Another power plant – in Kępka – is preceded by a snaky would-be lake, with terribly dirty water and a sludge, where you can just settle down on the ground. In addition, the surroundings of the power plant on the other side of the river looks like a rubbish dump, or maybe it is a rubbish dump. The portage next to the power plant is relative, but again concrete, stones and wire cloth. Maybe it is worth thinking sometimes about other river users, for example about canoeists…

We managed to find an accommodation about two kilometers before Kępice, on the meadow on the right side of the river. The place was previously visited, as testified by bottles, butts and foils around a makeshift campfire. The supper, quick sanitation, and sleep.  We experience the first serious symptoms of physical fatigue.

In the morning we move on. A poor weather to start: it spits and blows.

However, the enthusiasm doesn’t leave us, especially as we took a break in Kępice for shopping and ice cream.

However, our faces fell, when we had to move canoes about four hundred meters to bypass the Kępice power plant. This was my first portage, where I pulled the canoe uphill more than down. The power plant is extremely friendly: private area no access, no entry, etc. In other words: dear canoeist, get out of here!

Without a truck – trap for the canoe you better don’t come here. Because I have predicted such “attractions”, and wanted to borrow such a trap for canoes. Unfortunately, the guys from Surf Camp couldn’t rent us any, because all of them had already been booked. It is true that you can drag the canoe through the grass (the last meters through the wet sand) without harming the equipment, but the effort is colossal.

You can deduct four from these four hundred meters, which you can flow down…

 

or simply give in to the stream.

There was a huge grunge in the woods right behind the power plant. Bottles, nappies, debris. This is the humanity inside out. Extremely unpleasant area. We escape quickly from there.

 The Wieprza river leg from Kępice to Korzybie is generally not worth the attention. In Korzybie, in the place of the ruins of the bridge on the left, there is theoretically a place for camping. It is quite a large square, with a place for a bonfire in the middle and several benches that have not yet been completely devastated. However, the high and steep bank, the inability to safely leave the canoe and – unfortunately – the terrible grunge in this place make us stay there no longer than necessary.

 Tired of rowing and exhausted with a harsh portage in Kępice, we are looking for a place to stay. It is extremely difficult to find it on the leg from Korzybie to Sławno. The banks are either steep or even craggy, or overgrown with rushes and inaccessible. One place in the meadow on the right side turned out to be convenient for someone, but steep descent to the river on gravel (who once had wet gravel in sandals knows what it means!) and the wind at the top spoke to the disadvantage of this place. Practically at dusk, we managed to find a place on a small escarpment in the beech forest, on the left. Fortunately, there was a convenient place for hauling canoes, because the hardened steepness was a bit farther away, easy to overcome on foot. There were mosquitoes and ticks everywhere, but it’s already something normal so we got used to it. Although on the other hand, as I am an animal lover, they love me too. And these are not just cats and dogs. They are also mosquitoes, ticks, and botflies. After the rafting my legs and hands for a long time suggested me a participation in military operations…

 The next morning (we already have Saturday, which is the sixth day of rafting), we were passed by two canoeists going from Korzybie to Darłówko. We greeted each other and went on. Soon after, we met each other again on the portage around the renovated water threshold. Because it was prohibited to rafting there and informed about monitoring, we found it safer to get around this obstacle. Especially that from the shore the first threshold looked quite scary. Similarly to the previous hydrotechnical obstacles, there is also a complete lack of elementary facilities for canoeists even in form of steps to the water here. The dream seems to be the simplest canoe slip, similar to those found on Drawa or Brda. Everywhere, stones are girded with a steel net.

The road to Sławno is basically dull, among precipitous meadows and fields, with the northern wind. There are other portages at the very beginning of Sławno, associated mainly with the fish ponds, fish ladders and the Wieprza fork for the city channel and the current river stream. There is not a very convenient place there to safely pull canoes ashore. The most reasonable place for that is between the river and the influx of the fish ladder; here, where the stones are:

 But not only the stones, but also masked steel sheet piles, perfect for ripping the canoe cover.

The portage is not long but onerous, all the more that launching on the other side takes place in a private area. Fortunately, nobody chased us up with a gun.

In Sławno, on the bridge of the former trunk road no. 6, we decided to end the trip, mainly due to the anticipated difficulties in finding a place to stay. Taught by experience, we preferred not to risk. The leg from Sławno to Staniewice personally clicked to me, unlike Magda. A wide, calm river, sometimes narrowing to the width of two canoes due to dense trees and shrubs growing on both banks. In addition, as if to say goodbye, we were accompanied by two kingfishers. I managed to capture one of them about 40 meters from the canoe.

 In Staniewice, we reached the shore beside a large camping and recreation area with a very good place for launching.

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 This is where we finished our this year’s adventure with Wieprza river. I consider the canoeing to be very successful, although relatively difficult. Not so much because of the obstacles in the upper course, as these relatively numerous trees and shoals have diversified our time, representing some kind of entertainment and challenge.

It was difficult, above all, due to the willingness to continue the portage, among which the power plant in Kępice is definitely “winning”. There is also a lack of civilized infrastructure in the middle course.

The river isn’t heavily foul. The water seems to be very clean, I personally assure you of its low temperature. The shores are not covered by tires and other crap – such a scandalous sensation we have seen at least once: at Studnica in Miastko.

In the river we have found only one fridge separated into three parts on a length of about 100 meters.

There was also some overturning, which I’ve done. Fortunately, there are no equipment losses.

I can calmly recommend a canoeing ride from Żabno to experienced canoeists, necessarily in single canoe and of course, with luggage limited to the necessary minimum. Impressions from this leg of the river have already been outlined.

To sum up: brilliant.

© translation by Author and Anita Bernaś.

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