Mission: Explore

Chapter one

Complacency is an easy trap in which to fall. I find it easy to return to a run I’m familiar with, and get to know it better. Though this is a worthy pursuit, nothing is more exhilarating than exploring a run that is new to you. It takes confidence in your river skills; eddy turns, peel outs, scouting, portaging and reading while running. This is the thinking behind my mission to explore more of the water of Colorado.

Plateau Creek

Running off of Grand Mesa, Plateau Creek makes it’s way through Collbran to the Colorado. As silty as the river it joins, but more discreet. Hiding between sandstone walls and riverside ranchland a whitewater run awaits intrepid paddlers. It begins with a rolling enjoyable pace but about a half mile before the takeout it shows its true potential and explodes over rocks and gradient.

South Platte

We first set out to run Waterton Canyon. By the time we arrived the water had nearly doubled. As we walked down the canyon and scouted, it became clear that none of us really wanted to commit to that run. So we ran up the South Platte a few miles and ran the chutes. A super fun run, and made our time getting there well worthwhile. We will be back for Waterton.

North Fork of the Gunnison

Industrial and stark surroundings have attempted to confine and control the river, and mother nature has revolted in continuous and furious whitewater. A gem of a run, plenty of action and energy to make you concentrate so hard on the water, you almost don’t notice the mining. Not that I really mind it, after all it created the whitewater on this run.

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Fraser Canyon

I could find very little information on this run. Frankly, that made it all the more appealing. I’m not sure we found the real put in, but we got on the river. From the moment we got on the water, the Fraser was demanding our vigilance. We ran through braided channels, rock diversions, and low footbridges until we got to the canyon. It began as consistent engaging whitewater. The crux upped the ante with more gradient, ill placed boulders, constricted channels and occasional wood. Even the run out was littered with strainers and fencing in the river. The Fraser is an excellent whitewater canyon that I would gladly run again, but it will make you use every river skill you have.

So far so good, and it’s only May. Chapter two coming soon!

 

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The Road Trip

The Conception

After a summer of working six days a week managing the river operations of Stand Up Paddle Colorado, creating water-based education programs for middle school and high school students, and teaching and guiding river SUP tours I realized it was time for some extended paddling time for Trinity and I. Some of us at SUPCO had already discussed finishing the season with a Westwater trip. Why stop there? I began to research water levels, rapid classes, charted paths in my atlas, checked driving miles, river miles, it was starting to come together.

The Plan

I adjusted the itinerary constantly as the dates approached. Planning the end of season Westwater trip, planning my own three week road trip, and wrapping up a grueling summer of work I love was beginning to wear on my ability to stay in the moment. My vacation was weeks away, yet I was already gone in my mind. A path began to become clear as I looked at the whitewater parks and river stretches I was interested in.

Westwater Canyon

A well regarded whitewater run at any level, Westwater is an excellent mix of breathtaking scenery and quality whitewater. Gorgeous sandstone and schist provide a dramatic backdrop to one of the runs I adored for years as a rafter, and consider some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a SUP.

Cascade Whitewater Park

A breath of fresh air amidst urban sprawl. The features are fairly well spread out, so we scouted them out, picked the one we liked the look of, and sessioned into the twilight. Enough fun that we returned the next morning to shred some more before heading further west.

The Grand Canyon Of The Snake

Already being familiar with this run’s reliability into the fall, it was an obvious candidate for inclusion in the trip. Even at fall water levels this canyon holds onto a big water feel, and can be run in just a few hours.

The Main Payette

I had hoped to run parts of the North Fork, the South Fork, and the Main Payette, but dropping water levels left us with only the third option. It was everything we hoped for. After the big water feel of Westwater and the Snake, some technical water was in order.

Kelly’s Whitewater ParkImage-1444451646341

The infamous location of the Payette River Games. A well designed whitewater park, and even though it was super late in the season, we had a blast surfing and swimming for hours.

The Alberton Gorge

An absolutely epic run. Stunning scenery and challenging whitewater. The intro rapids were super fun and the inner gorge delivered some excellent technical drops.

Yellowstone National ParkIMG_20151014_113350

We didn’t run any water in the park, but it was a perfect end to the trip. Watching the water steaming and bubbling out of the ground, and the Yellowstone river cascading over the Upper and Lower falls, served to connect us further to the resource that has changed our lives forever.