The paddle today will not be forgotten. The Valeira Cataract was the greatest obstacle to navigation on the Douro till the first great hydraulic project was carried out between 1780 and 1791. This project was to demolish the falls, and they succeeded in making it possible to navigate up the Douro to the border with Spain. This made possible an important development of the wine industry, and in fact, this was the reason for the project. This incredible project didn’t eliminate the dangers of the river. It only made it possible to pass but still with significant risk. A point worth mentioning is that the wine casks were only half full so that when a boat hit the rocks, the wine casks would float and be saved. The man who made the first detailed map of the river, Baron Forrester, drowned in this place 70 years after it was demolished.
All five locks on the Douro River are the same size, but the water levels we are lowered or raised to differ from lock to lock. The locks allow ships up to 272 ft. in length, 37 ft beam (wide), and a draft of 12.5 ft. Today we will pass the Valeira Lock (2.8 miles from Ferradosa 1.5hr), which will lower us 108 ft. Passing through a lock in a kayak for the first time is an exciting experience, and you’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.
As usual, we get on the water early, and we’ll have a picnic lunch at a beautiful site a short distance below the lock. After lunch, we’ll continue to Pinhao to our takeout. In Pinhao, time permitting, we’ll visit the famous train station to see tile work dedicated to the working vineyards in the Douro Valley. From Pinhao, we’ll portage on to Peso da Regua where we’ll spend the night.