Places to Paddle Whitewater

Whitewater Kayaking Guide to Slovenia’s Soca River

‘The emerald green whitewater kayaking paradise that is Slovenia’s Soca River offers a relaxed whitewater kayaking experience with something for all levels of kayaker, and a trip there is much more attainable than some might think…

The Soca has been a favourite of whitewater kayakers from all over Europe for years now. It’s reliable feed of water allows provides access to stress-free grade 3 whitewater. Set in the north-west corner of Slovenia, The Soca sits at the base of the Julian Alps. With emerald water, rolling mountains and easy access most grade 2/3, paddlers are sure to return to the Soca time and time again.

Logistics

One of the main attractions of this location for whitewater is that once you’ve made the long journey it has everything you need for a relaxed boating holiday. Your first stop once you’ve gotten over the long drive should be the tourist information in Bovec. Here you can purchase your river permit. This revenue from the sale of this permit is essential for keeping the put-ins, toilets and river facilities maintained. The tourist office will also give you up to date information on water levels and even have photographs of some of the hazards. All put-ins and takeouts are marked from the road too! It really is handed to you on a plate.

The Kayaking

The Soca valley is by no means the most challenging whitewater. If you are looking for steep grade 4/5 whitewater then you are best hitting Val Sesia, Ticino or head to Austria for early season volume. You can fit all the sections of the Soca and its tributary the Kortnica in 7 days easily.

The Soca lends itself well for a first paddling trip abroad; the ideal conditions it offers means that it is overtaking the typical French Alps trip for most clubs and paddling groups as an introductory European destination. Each section of the river is clearly signposted and the name and grade of the section marked. All you have to do is decide what cag to wear! There are so many combinations of the sections of the Soca you can do any permutation you choose as you drive up and down the valley. We’ve included some of the main sections, just to whet your appetite! Some sections do get a bit low as the season progresses so do use your own judgement.

Krosvec – Kamp Toni

Grade 2/3

Bring your Camera! In classic summer levels, this run starts with the typical meandering gravel beds that are a familiar in the Soca valley. After a short stretch to warm you up you come round a corner to spot the river disappearing into a gorge. You can inspect on either side, it is also to walk down from the road on the drive up. This gorge is stunning with a great little lead in that wants some thinking about. A grade three rapid narrows into a stunning section of bedrock and emerald water. It makes for an interesting lead with a group so if you are unsure then walk down from the road to have a look. In higher water, this slot drop becomes more continuous.

From here down to the confluence of the Kortnica, which flows in on the right, you can enjoy some mellow read and run grade two. Here you can either take out at Kamp Toni and go again or enjoy the grade 2 run down to the bridge at Cezsoca. The section below is no stress giving time for the paddler to enjoy the valley as it opens up.

Boka – Srpencia 2

Grade 2/3

Put in under the bridge by the hotel on the corner. This section is a mellow warm up for a first-day shakedown. It begins on an open gravel bed, giving paddlers to surf a few waves and break in and out.

The most interesting section begins as the river bends right and gorges in slightly with an almost jungle mishmash of trees distancing you from the road above. Here the river picks up with some fun surf waves and boily eddy lines. All of this adds up to a section that is ideal for paddlers getting used to the nature of the river. All the rapids are read and run.

This section finishes as the river pools out by a beach, on the right-hand side. A great spot for practising rolling having a swim or a civilised lunch. A short but steep walk leads you to your car.

Srpencia 2- Start of Slalom Course Trnovo

Grade 2/3

This section is ideal for paddlers who want to hone their skills whilst on the move. The whitewater is more compact, keeping a paddler busy as they snack around boulders and peer over horizon lines to keep them on their toes.

There is nothing of a real hazard on this section all perfect read and run, with fun grade 2 plus to grade 3 rapids. Lots of eddies and stunning pools give the paddler a real sense of beauty.

You can take out river right on a gravel beach. This is the start of the slalom course section.

Slalom Course

Grade 3 (4)

The slalom course begins as the footbridge crosses the river. This short read and run boulder garden are perfect for the paddler who wants a blast in the evenings or something a bit quicker. A grade 4 paddler will have no problem route finding as they boof and flair their way down. There are small eddies and pools to pick up kit if you are quick. A cobbled path river right leads you back to the top to do it all again.

The only hazard you need to be aware of is the start of Syphon Canyon: a gorge that begins directly below the slalom course. Thus you want to scout the take out previously or speak to the locals. You do not want to be taking paddlers down the slalom course in high water who do not have a reliable roll.

Otona- Napoleonov

Grade 3

This section is one of the best on the river when it comes to quality of whitewater for the grade 3 paddler. The walk down to the get-in is a long way up from the river, and one thing to remember on to take the smaller steeper track down to the river. This will save you a lot of hassle and is the quickest way.

You will arrive after a hot walk down at a stunningly beautiful pool. The first rapid you will see does have a small siphon river left, at low water, this can be sneaked easily, or portaged river right. In higher water, it can be a bit pushier. Take it as you, please.

Next, up lies a fun read and run boulder garden, where a few moves are needed to get a clean line. A quick glance river right can tell you all you need to know if unsure.

The river opens up with some more read and runs grade 2 until you come to a distinct drop in the river. Here the river funnels in and makes a quick turn left. You can easily inspect river left in needs be.

The river continues with clean read and run, keeping you busy. Any rapids can be scouted just keep your wits about you and use your own judgement. The gorge continues but never feels intimidating or pressing. Everything is scoutable and stress-free. This run is a bit busy in terms to whitewater, so it’s best to make a day of it and enjoy the gorge.

The river flattens right out as the walls gorge in, the high bridge of Napoleonov marks the get out. You can scramble up a steep short bank or paddle a further 400 meters down to a gravel beach on river left. Here a clear walk to a big car park can be found.

Koritnica – Kamp Toni

Grade 2

This section is a must for any grade paddler. The lines are clean and clear, with stunning micro gorges breaking up the journey down. The marked steep path down leads you to a messy grade 2 you can walk around this or just bimble on down. There is a big eddy river left where you can have a look at the 300-meter gorge. This gorge is no more than grade 2 maybe 3 early season but is worth having a look for any log jams. The line is straightforward and stunning so take your camera!

From here the fun continues with smooth read and run grade two with small jets, round boulders and a feel of an almost jungle nature. Before you know you will find yourself at a boulder garden rapid leading down to Kamp Toni, usually be marked by swimmers and men in speedos! This is a nice little rapid for walk backs that provide a variety of challenges depending on the levels. (CK Stopper)

Useful Info

Flying in  – The nearest airports for the area are Venice/Lijbunaja. From here it is a few hours’ drive to the town of Bovec.

  • Hiring Boats – Alpin Action. These guys have a full fleet of whitewater boats, which makes for a stress-free trip to the valley.
  • Not Just Boating -There’s plenty to do if you have managed to bring a non-paddling partner. With great walking and mountain biking in the area, not to mention the ice cream that comes in a rainbow of colours in Bovec.
  • Accommodation  – The valley is full of holiday apartments, Bed and Breakfasts and well-equipped campsites, all of which are located right next to the river. Kamp Toni has everything you need for a stress-free camping experience, right next to the Kortinica/Soca confluence and with fire pits, wifi and clean showers and laundry facilities.
  • Local Amenities -The small town of Bovec has everything you should need for a holiday. The small supermarket will stock your needs while the local pizzeria’s ice cream parlours and restaurants make for affordable eating whilst on your holiday.
  • Other Rivers  – Once in the Soca Valley you have got pretty much everything you need for the grade 3 paddler. If you are driving down then pop into Imst or Landeck for a blast down the Inn or Sanna.
  • Ferries  – Depending on your route, you can book very cheap ferries across to Dunkeque. www.norforkferries.com even peak season you can pay £60 for a van.
  • Seasonality  – The Soca has one of the longest seasons in Europe. From slightly pushier grade 3/4 in May down to mellow grade 2/3 all the way to September before things start cooling off.

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