Silvertip: Whitewater recreation site’s chequered history

Image copyright Holme – Boorman

The 23-metre-long Silvertip was cut in 1955, over 100 years after the first spawning named male dam was first sighted.

Ian Frazier, from Silvertip Watch, says he is still blown away by seeing the Dorset site.

He was recently quizzed by a journalist from the BBC who wanted to know: “What’s your craziest escapade with a teddy bear?”

Frazier wrote: “The greatest of all my escapades. I was driving for the exit to a lake on a tour with an American friend when we noticed one of the officers at the other side looking in his car to see if the road was clear.

Image copyright Holme – Boorman Image caption Frazier in 2001, shortly after Silvertip was cut

“He told us that we could not cross this highway because the bridge was over a brook and it was not safe for us to cross in the dark!

“He was too out of his depth for ideas, so we had to go back to the hotel where we stayed – he was my guarantee not to be hurt in an accident as there was a second bridge nearby!

“When we got back to the hotel we noticed the brook was a bit longer but he refused to tell us where the bridge was!

“I do not recall what he said, so I will not try and write about it here. However I do remember the look on his face when he saw us in the rain and mud on the crest of the bridge, as he thought ‘my goodness you are a mouse!’!”

Commenting on his wildest escapade, Frazier says: “That would probably be in the Mexican border on a Native American canoe with a barefooted Polish backpacker, travelling alone, a Burmese gay bloke and a little stoic English butch bloke.

“They were all on an organised canoe trip – the hostel where we stayed at was empty. So, standing at a lake in torrential rain on our own, feeling vulnerable, we all volunteered to be rowing the small raft.

“I took the lead and left the bloke in charge of keeping track of the compass.

“He was good enough to try and keep me in touch and when he found me without a compass he instantly realised I was not at my best.

“I had lost sight of the cable and our anchor. I felt like a monkey. And in fact I was, but with animals, not human beings.”

News was largely unknown about Silvertip for more than 100 years. In that time other big dams such as Acomb had been created. And Silvertip “did not enter the national sporting scene until 1884 when Canada brought it to prominence” says Frazier.

Image copyright Ian Frazier Image caption Frazier, in 1959, said Silvertip was the biggest whitewater rafting site in the world

In 1959 Frazier estimated that Silvertip was the biggest whitewater rafting site in the world.

It was featured on BBC Two’s Natural History Live series. Also during the 1960s and 70s it was popular for bungee jumping off, then it started to be used more as a vehicle run up by police as a place to park vehicles waiting to be towed to police stations, or, as it was referred to as, “concealments”.

Leave a Comment