Average Gradient
270.00 ft/mi (51.14 m/km)
1.40 mi (2.25 km)
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The Middlebury Gorge is Vermont's most committing commonly run river. With overhanging walls, several sieves and undercuts, and a blind waterfall, the upper section known as the Birth Canal is not for the faint of heart. The lower section, while still a solid Class IV and V, is much more accessible. It is highly recommended to only enter the Birth Canal with the aid of a guide who has done the river before. Because the gorge is so narrow, it often remains iced in well into the spring.

From the takeout, drive 1.4 miles to the third pullout on the left. Park here and begin the steep climb down to the river. If the river seems fluid, or even medium, reconsider. The gorge section below constricts the flow significantly, requiring low water in the rest of the river. A few Class IV drops lead to two log jams you will need to portage.

When the North Branch of the Middlebury comes in on river right, find an eddy and take out on river right to scout the lead-in to the first blind drop, Fallopian (Class V+).

People often portage the top portion of the lead-in, as it contains a sieve right next to the main line. After that, a long Class III boulder garden leads to the narrow lip of a 15-foot waterfall with undercut walls on either side of the pool at the bottom. Do your best to get a late boof and land in control. 

Once below the boiling pool, another pool follows, and the gorge walls rise in waves straight from the river. The geology here is truly fascinating. Before the next rapid, take out and scout on river right once again.

Another longish series leads into a narrow slot called Cunnilingus (Class V) where the current folds, often trying to flip paddlers to the left. At the top of the lead in, both the right and left sides are runnable. Immediately below the slot the flow is divided by a boulder: the left side funnels into a calm eddy, and the right side pushes directly into the next and most hazardous rapid. Be sure to catch the eddy on the left. 

Rebirth (Class V+) is the last and most consequential rapid. It drops about 12 feet over two broken ledges, while the bedrock walls lean in from above, coming within feet of touching. Two holes form at the bottom of the ledges, with the outflow pushing directly into a severe undercut on river right. It is imperative that paddlers remain in control through the bottom of the drop, paddling away from the undercut, as no realistic safety options exist.

The river mellows considerably below Rebirth, although it becomes more continuous. A rapid called Tester (Class V) is marked by a massive midstream boulder. Scout early from river right, as this rapid has a nasty sieve. Run it far left over the ledge, or portage on the right.

More Class III and IV boulder gardens follow for the rest of the trip until reaching Your Mom (Class V), a 6-foot ledge that often has strainers blocking the only reasonable line. Scout and/or portage on the left.

One more Class IV series of boulder gardens and slides leads to the takeout below the Route 125 Bridge. Takeout is on the left.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass

Not Required


Beautiful gorge. Runs frequently.


Very difficult. Several hazards.

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)


Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

East Middlebury



Overall difficulty


Route Characteristics: Character

Pool Drop
Steep Creek

Suitable for



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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