Taking advantage of the fantastic weather, a few friends and I made some "low water" runs down the Upper Yough. Here's what we found.
Summary: Below 3' at Friendsville, be prepared to scrape along the flatwater. Otherwise, it's fun Class III-IV.
Friday: 2.87'/337CFS (1.62 Sang Run)
Saturday: 2.81'/299CFS (1.56 Sang Run)
Overall, we had a good time on the rapids. It was nice to be able to go places you normally wouldn't want to. Monster holes became small pourovers, most sieves and undercuts were exposed or obvious. It was nice to paddle clear green water with crisp white caps on the waves instead of the typical muddy brown slop. I've run the UY about 10 or 12 times now, these were probably the most relaxing trips I've had. At normal release levels, there's a lot of "don't go there" places, and we always seem to be in a hurry. I'm not a very aggressive paddler so I was much more at ease since we weren't paddling a man-made flood. At these lower levels, you have a little more time to make your move and I didn't have the feeling of doom following me all day. I much prefer green water, it seems happier to me. Maybe it was the crisp clear sunshine instead of my usual overcast rainy runs in the Summer. Although it was 60+ degrees with no clouds, you're in the shade most of the day so dress for 40 degree weather.
Top flatwater: This gave us the most problems. Most of the time, we ran down the left shoreline, once or twice we had to run the right shoreline. At one point Saturday, we had to walk a little bit. We really missed that extra 38CFS we had Friday.
Gap Falls: The water still pushes the the left shore, overall it looks the same except the diagonal curler is smaller.
Bastard: I think this had the most dramatic difference. Looks like Bottle of Wine on the LY, you can run straight down the middle of the drop. Not much of a boof into the eddy on the right.
Charlie's Choice: The drop just before the rooster tail is steeper and shorter. The rooster tail is gone. We were expecting a rock in the middle of the drop, but even at these levels it's still under water. I'm guessing the upstream face is vertical and the water from the pourover hits it and makes the rooster tail. Be careful, if you run the right side of the drop the water at the bottom forces you into the rock on the right. Below the rooster tail is a boulder garden that is normally run riding the pillows from right to left. This one actually looked the worst, so we opted to run down the left shore along a boulder. This was nice, we avoided my nemesis, The Birdbath. The Toilet Bowl sieve on the right was halfway out of the water and easily avoided.
Triple Drop: The middle part looks about the same, but the rocks in the center of the line are obvious and easily skirted down the right, pretty much along the normal line.
National Falls: Well, it's still National. The non-hero route down the left side feeds into a hole instead of a nice slide into the pool. There's a large rock right in the middle of the drop that blocks off the center at these levels. Another few inches and you could probably run the drop diagonally and boof into the pool. The hero line actually gets harder. The boof is pretty much non-existant, running that move puts you into a hole that looks just like Charlie's Washing Machine at Railroad on the LY, but 6' steep instead of 2' or 3' high. Be prepared to get submarined up to your helmet. I found out the hard way the hole is just as sticky, resulting in my first swim on the Upper.
Tommy's Hole: A little more technical because of the exposed rocks, but much less pushy.
Zinger: Same lines, just smaller
Heinzerling: The Rifle Barrel on the right was dry, and the line behind the first big rock at Time Warp was blocked, so we ran the middle "Campground" line. The race line at the bottom is another steep V hole like Charlie's Washing machine, but this one will sink you waay over your head. Luckily your momentum brings you up in the pool. The pillow in front of the rock on the normal move has a suprise rock about 3' in front of it. Thank god for padding on front bulkheads! Start left sooner than you normally would.
Meat Cleaver: Same lines, but between the Cleavers, a few more rocks appear.
Powerful Popper: Another rock is exposed here, just before the bottom hole. It forces you to run right, or left just along the big rock that makes the ender hole. My grandmother could ride a tricycle through the Death Slot on the left.
Lost & Found AKA F-Up Falls: More technical but slower paced, easier to catch an eddy on the way down if you need to recover.
Cheeseburger: The rock that makes the boof into the right shore eddy is exposed, go left of center with the main flow, or squeak through the slot on the right of the boof rock. Be warned, there is a rock just behind and below the boof rock that's partially exposed.
Double Pencil Sharpener: This one actually looked the meatiest, but was straightforward to follow the S turn along the pillowtops.
From there, the water gets thin again but you have enough momentum from the graident to slide over most of the shallow stuff. There is one island where you can normally go left or right, go right here. Once it really flattens out, there was one spot where we had to run through the trees on the right side. Stay left past the I68 bridge.