Corsica River Guide


Forward to Introduction part 1 - Life in Corsica

My Corsica story starts about a two decades ago (and I should warn you that this guide is based on my trips to Corsica from the late 1980s).

It was a time in Britain when "waterfall jumping" was becoming the big thing in canoeing (squirt boats and rodeos were some years in the future). Rumours had come from Germany of a mythical canoeist's Shangri-La. An island where crystal clear water cascaded down steep-sided mountains, creating fall, after fall, after ever bigger fall.

I knew that these stories had to be tested out.

I first went to Corsica in Easter 1988, travelling with three friends for a fortnight at Easter. We found immediately that the rumours were true. Corsica is stunning. We gorged ourselves on day after day of superb white water. We were like children in a chocolate factory, bliss all around, not knowing when or how to stop.

In fact, like those children, we gorged on too much hard canoeing, and returned home two days before our planned time, totally burnt out.

Neverthess the Corsica bug had bitten, and I went back to Corsica with various friends in the two subsequent years. I then wrote a small river guide in an attempt to promote Corsica to other British paddlers. These web pages are based on the text of that guide.

Strangely Corsica has not become popular as a frequent destination for British paddlers, which I find strange. I still strongly recommend it to many types of canoeist. It is famous for its waterfalls, and those are superb. But Corsica also has many other rivers. There is a lot of enjoyable, scenic water at grades no harder than the Dart loop, or Serpents Tail on the Dee. The island has about 60km of grade 6 water (according to the German Haas guide), but it also has about 60km of grade 3, and about the same amount of every other grade, including grades 1 and 2.

As a good example, the upper Rizzanese has a stunning grade 6 section which incorporates the the famous (and photogenic) 10m drop. What is less well known is that the lower Rizzanese runs at grade 2 through wonderful wooded scenery down to the coast, where it is possible to paddle across the bay, around the headland, and into the local town. You can then step straight from your canoe onto a Pizzeria terrace, to enjoy the sunset over the Med as you eat and drink.

Perhaps people are put off by the travelling time, but this may be a false perception. According to my computer Autoroute programme, Marselles, the Corsican Ferry port, is just under 13 hours from London by car (allowing 90 minutes for the Dover/Calais ferry). One short overnight ferry, and there you are in Corsica. That is only one hour more driving than in the journey from London to Inverness for a trip down the Findhorn, a standard Easter option for many English paddlers.

Whilst a trip to Scotland may not have the expense of car ferries, in my experience the cost of Scottish or French Easter trips tends to be very similar. In the cold wet Scottish evenings it is so tempting to while away the hours in a pub, with beer at two pounds per pint. By contrast, two pounds could buy a bottle of Corsican rose to sip whilst sat outside your tent on the wild riverbank by a warm driftwood camp fire. It does not take many Scottish pints or campsite fees to spend the money you think you save by not going abroad. The price difference between a top of the range dry top or dry suit (essential in Scotland) and a lightweight top (often worn in Corsica) could pay for a ferry ticket by itself.

As for myself, I have not been back to the island since those three trips I mentioned. I discovered squirt boating and found a new way of life. The lower Golo was excellent in a squirt boat, but I got a bit scared by the Tavignano gorge undercuts, so although squirting was possible in Corsica, it was not ideal, so I started to go elsewhere.

Even so, Corsica is still very firmly in my mind. I have wonderful memories (and photographs) of canoeing on crystal clear water, down fall after fall, in places where the satisfaction of teamwork, skill and competence is hard won, but truly felt. I also have memories of the mountain town of Corte, camping in the shadow of it's castle walls, and of travelling through the haunting, high mountain village of Vico, in a valley unmatched by few things this side of the Himalayas.

I would urge you to think about a canoeing trip to Corsica. I will be going back myself, although perhaps not in a canoe. I want to walk the hills and explore the towns, and find all the things I ignored in my youth, when my eyes were looking only at the stoppers and the rocks. If you go to Corsica to go big-drop canoeing then we probably will not meet, unless in a cafe eating pizza and watching the sun set over the Med.

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