Western Rafter

Damnation is Awesome!

Damnnation Poster

I am not a much of film critic and I am not much of a crier, but I loved Damnation and was brought to tears (both joyful and heartbreaking) multiple times through the course of the film.  Everyone has to go watch this film!  For a list of shows check here: Damnation Screenings

Westwide Basin Look as Peak Snowpack Draws Near


As peak snowpack nears for many basins across the west (and may have passed for an unfortunate few) it is time to take a look at the winners and losers.  The story is pretty simple this year.  Your friends to the north and east that posted sick powder shots all winter on insta will also be boating great spring runoff.

Deer Creek Narrows on Colorado River Closed

The National Park Service has closed the Deer Creek Narrows from the Patio down to Deer Creek Falls and the Colorado River.  From the NPS Press Release:

Deer Creek Drainage, river mile 136.9, right bank of the Colorado River

Rappelling or ascending and descending on ropes, webbing or other climbing and rappelling devices whether natural or man-made, withing Deer Creek is prohibited.  This restriction extends from within the watercourse of the creek beginning at the Patio (northestern-most part of the Deer Creek Narrows) and extending to the base of Deer Creek Falls.

(This restriction is necessary for the protection of a significant cultural resource)

For full text of the closure statement click below:

2012_grca_compendium.pdf (application/pdf Object).

The GCPBA has this to say in their weekly RiverNews:

It seems that the area was closed without any prior public notification or hearing. Wally Rist, President of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, has been working to discover the rationale behind the sudden closure of the narrows to public visitation. As Rist points out, the area has been visited by explorers, river runners and hikers since Canyon visitation began more than 143 years ago, with virtually no impact.

UPDATE (6/21/12): I have spent a lot of time thinking about this in the past 24 hours.  There is a lot of damage to the sandstone at the entrance to Deer Creek Narrows from the Patio due to numerous ropes being used over the years.  The tribes have identified this as a cultural resource and it is being damaged by recreational user groups including rafters, but also hikers and canyoneers.  The NPS has identified a problem and solved it.  The park superintendent does an excellent job of balancing the demands of a diverse set of interests.  I know the rafting community is frustrated because they were not consulted on this decision, but what would we say? The tribes get to say if it is a cultural resource and any ranger can go out there and snap a couple photos and see that it is being impacted by ropes.  The closure is specific to the problem and not overreaching to close the Narrows entirely.  If you are comfortable climbing in and out of the Narrows without a rope then you are still free to go in there.

UPDATE (8/7/12): The NPS has updated the language in their closure to include climbing with our without ropes:

Updates and Closures
Climbing and/or rappelling in the creek narrows, with or without the use of ropes or other technical equipment, is prohibited. This restriction extends within the creek beginning at the southeast end of the rock ledges, known as the “Patio” to the base of Deer Creek Falls. The trail from the river to hiker campsites and points up-canyon remains open. This restriction is necessary for the protection of significant cultural resources


Late Season Class V

With most of the nation in the grips of the worst drought in 25 years not much is still running with the beginning of August just around the corner.  Even reliable desert runs like Cataract are at record low or near record low levels.  Unless you live in Oregon, Washington or Idaho your boats are probably rolled up and stored away for next year.  Dam controlled flows on some of the West’s best test-pieces may be your savior!  Cherry Creek on the Tuolumne still has 1,200 cfs releases for four hours daily,  NF Payette is crankin’ with 2,200 cfs, and  Gore Canyon on the Colorado still has 1,100 cfs!  What these runs have in common is they are all dam controlled, all Class V and all must-run whitewater.  Put on your wetsuit (for abrasion resistance) and Git Sum!

Gore Rapid on the Colorado River

Aquaseal for Raft Repair?

One of my rafts is a 1999 Maravia Spider that was used commercially for the first five years of its existence.  It was originally red and is now pretty faded and the urethane just isn’t what it used to be.  But this boat is still really fun to paddle and is still going strong.

On my Big South first raft decent a couple of years back I put a foot long gash in the urethane.  The cut went all the way through the urethane, but didn’t cut the nylon fabric underneath.  The leak rate from this foot long gash makes it so you have to stop and pump up the boat a couple times a day, so it is more annoying than anything else.

Lately, I have been hearing what an amazing tool Aquaseal is.  I knew you could use it to fix neoprene like kayak spray decks, wetsuits and waders and even dry bags or dry suits in a pinch.  It turns out Aquaseal is urethane based and is amazing for tons of other applications. I put a bead of it over the gash in my Maravia and it is holding air beautifully!  This was by far the easiest patch I have ever done.  I roughed it up with 150 grit, wiped it clean with a rag and squeezed the Aquaseal on straight out of the tube with no applicator or brush.  10 minutes max and it was dry and ready to use this morning with no Cotol for a fast cure.

Maravia boats are notoriously hard to patch (and equally hard to puncture) and the previous Clifton and Stabond adhesives need to be replaced in your patch kit annually.  What if you could reliably leave these products at home and get by on Aquaseal, Tear-Aid and a Speedy Stitch?  Once you get home, buy a new bottle of Stabond and put a real patch on in your dry garage with a heat gun handy. I don’t think this is too far fetched…

Save Ernie’s Canyon – Last Day for Comment

Today is the last day for public comment on the proposed Ernie’s Canyon hydro-project!  Please see my previous post on this important topic:


Poudre Canyon Blackwater Rafting

The High Park Fire in the Poudre River Canyon has been contained, but its effects will be felt for decades to come.  In total the fire consumed almost 90,000 acres and 259 homes.  Part of the fire’s destructive path was 25+ miles of the Poudre River up from the Canyon Mouth on both sides of the river.

As soon as the fire was contained, Colorado started the annual cycle of monsoon rains which prompted numerous flash floods, mud and rock slides.  The river turned black and folks still went boating.  The footage is incredible:

This commercial raft sees an amazing blowout/ash slide about 1:30 in:

Help Protect Ernie’s Canyon – North Fork Snoqualmie

Ernie’s Canyon is full of spectacular old growth Washington rainforest and a top-notch Class V run.  This watershed is threatened by the  proposed Black Canyon hydropower project.  Currently, FERC has issued preliminary permit for this project.  Public comments are now open and you have a chance (until July 24th) to oppose this hydro-project and save Ernie’s Canyon.

Comments can be made online and take less than 5 minutes:


Please reference proposal number – P-14110

You don’t need to say much, just say that you are opposed to the project and this is an important natural and recreational resource.

From American Whitewater:

The river section proposed for development has been found eligible and recommended for designation as a Wild and Scenic River by the United States Forest Service, and is identified as a protected area from hydropower development by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The river forms the border for the Department of Natural Resources Mt. Si Natural Resources Conservation Area that includes some of the best remaining intact old-growth riparian forest at low elevation in the western Cascades. Finally, the lands along the river are protected by a conservation easement held by King County that specifically prohibits hydropower projects of the scale proposed.

How to Stay in Your Seat when Paddle Captaining

I flew to CA for my bachelor party and rented a 1970′s Hyside with military valves called “The Lorax” (It was the only boat we could get) and paddle captained some of my good guy friends down Cherry Creek. That thing was a taco fest and a true guide launcher like I had never experienced before. It was so bad that I actually knocked my front tooth out on one of the first drops when my face contacted the first aid kit strapped to the front thwart. Lewis’ Leap was a launch like no other as evidenced in the video which I have included for everyone’s enjoyment.

My point is, the boat may have a lot to do with it. I have paddle captained a lot of boats and and am pretty good at not getting launched, but “The Lorax” was something special indeed. Since getting a new boat (SOTAR and Maravia are really good about not launching) may not be practical, here are some other tips:

  1.  Put more air in the boat. This will reduce the taco effect and thus the amount of launch you get.
  2.  Sit more along the side of the boat instead of the highest point on the back.  the paddler in front of your isn’t getting launched so stay closer to them.
  3. Change up your foot placement. If you guide right, jam your left foot behind you at the confluence of the floor and both sides.
  4. Get off the tube. Its embarrassing to sit on the floor, but it may keep your teeth in your mouth. Standing up and using your legs as shock absorber is often a great option.

Knocking the tooth out on the bachelor party wasn’t too big of a deal. Shannon Carroll (Bad-A chick kayaker) was guiding a commercial trip and was also missing a tooth from an experience on Upper Cherry Creek. It also provided an excuse to medicate and it was kind of like in the movies.

Chances Increase for El Niño

La Niña is officially over, but the various models disagree on how quickly the ocean surface temperatures will trend the other way to El Niño.  One thing seems for certain though, El Niño is coming back in time for the winter of 2012-13. El Niño winters in the Western US are characterized by a more southern storm track across California, Arizona and New Mexico.