The other day we received this email:
My friend and I are planning a trip to India next summer, starting in the Kerala region for the Malabar River Festival, and then making our way up to the Ladakh region for the Ladakh River Festival. The reason for this email is we are very curious about getting river beta for the said areas. Are there any whitewater guidebooks or websites that you guys may know of that offer a sufficient amount of beta on local runs? We have been looking but are having a hard time finding anything. Thanks a ton!
First, a shout out to planning so far in advance. That’s just impressive. Second, it’s super cool you all want to make your way up from Kerala to Ladakh, that too in the summer months during monsoon. That’s awesome, and good luck staying dry.
But what really struck us about this email was what we had to write in reply. River beta? In India? Hmm. Let’s be real. River kayaking in India is a whole different ball game than in other parts of the world. Let’s remember that it was only six years ago that organizers of the Malabar River Festival were detained by Forest Officials for paddling the Kali River in northern Karnataka. And that river is big, relatively. Kayaking is still (relatively) new, so river beta is largely doesn’t exist in the way it does in other countries.
We thought we’d take the opportunity to jot down as many resources as we could think up, with the hope that you’ll add more in the comments section below.
Two come to mind. The first is Darren (“Daz”) Clarkson-King and Tsering Chotak’s book, White Water Ladakh: A Guidebook. (Daz tells us that it’s available in print only now.) And just released is Meghalaya Rivers by Joe Rae-Dickens, Dan Rae-Dickens, and Zorba Laloo. (Check out the website for how to purchase it.)
Tell us, are there other India whitewater guidebooks out there? (Pic credit: Joe Rae-Dickens and Amazon.in)
Online Forums and reports
Perhaps the best way to access river data in India is online forums, such as UK Rivers Guidebook (search “India”). In particular, check out the CUCC Guide to Paddling in India (a little old, but still lots of good info). And there’s a “Kayaking India” page on FB, which is great for advice. Check out this “Chhattisgarh Whitewater Guidebook” or some info titled “India - Uttarakhand & Himichal Pradesh”.
YouTube and Vimeo
Check out these links:
Check out this whitewater.guide app: “Imagine that you are on a kayaking trip in an unfamiliar region. It has been pouring all night and in the morning all the rivers in the valley are too high. Your paddling schedule is ruined and you want to find anything worth paddling right here, right now. Normally you would need a lot of time to browse a map, read guidebooks and blogs, check any online gauges and ask your friends on Facebook. The whitewater.guide is an all-in-one mobile app that helps you to make your choice quickly, so you can just go kayaking!”
Reach out directly to the people who have been running these rivers for years, they know. We’re not going to publish their names here, but they are often active on the forums and/or someone will surely put you in touch.
Maps or Other Resources
Generally, our best advice to you is to try not to get arrested.
Last note: the one thing we can tell you is that rivers in India are very regulated. If you are coming, it’s best that you do your homework beforehand (as much as you can), learn the laws of the land, and follow them. Laws differ according to state, so be thorough. Best, perhaps, to reach out to trustworthy individuals in each state who can advice on the legal requirements of running rivers.
So. What would you add for river beta sources in India?