Whitewater Blog

Getting All Our Ducks In a Row

This season we experienced an unusually long snow-melt run-off period, with flows staying above 1000 CFS until mid-late July. We have also been blessed with steady monsoon rains every afternoon, which has kept the flows above 800 CFS so far this season. This is the perfect water level for you to utilize our fleet of inflatable kayaks to enjoy the river!

Inflatable kayaks were invented by the airship company, Zodiac, in 1934, and have been used to give people an introduction in the kayaking world ever since! Inflatable kayaks are also often referred to as a “ducky” or “duckies,” and in order to complete this blog post we set out to uncover why they are referred to as such. First we asked some of the purchasing managers around the Four Corners Riversports shop. Their response was something along the lines of “they track on the water like ducks do.” This response makes some sense, but it was insufficient for our research. Inquiring minds want to know! Additionally, duckies of the aviary sort propel themselves using their webbed feet below the water, whereas these duckies propel themselves using a paddle from above the water.

Unsatisfied with this interpretation we turned to a scholars trusted steed: Google. Google can be your best friend, or your worst enemy and in this case it proved to be the latter. We were able to find out when inflatable kayaks were first invented, what materials they are often composed of, which brands are the best, etc. We discovered that inflatable kayaks are preferable to many beginners because users do not need to demonstrate a kayak roll in order to safely operate the craft. So even the most inexperienced kayaker could have a blast out on the water without needing an excessive amount of additional instruction. We also found that many whitewater enthusiasts find them preferable to hardshell kayaks because they are made of the same durable (and repairable) materials that rafts are constructed from. But, alas, we found no concrete answers to the question plaguing our anticipated blog post.

 

According to the many articles we combed from Google, Tributary and Aire are the best brands to purchase inflatable kayaks from, especially if intended for downriver use. We were pleased to unearth this information, because our inflatable kayaks are made from these very distributors! It seemed within our best interest to contact one of them to get the scoop from the experts in the industry. We called the Aire customer service number and the representative chuckled as we posed our inquiry.

“Most inflatable kayaks are on the water with a raft, right?”

We held our breath for a second, anticipating our long awaited resolution, but then we realized she was waiting for our response.

“Well yeah, we send all of our guided inflatable kayak trips out with another boat on the water to set safety and show our clients how to safely navigate the river…”

She chuckled again, and at this point we assumed she was setting up for a horribly dry, raft guide joke. Which is typical for our industry.

“Then you must all be familiar with lining your inflatable kayaks up behind the raft and having the inflatable kayaks follow you around in a line, taking the safest routes down the river. Just like a momma duck lines up all her duckies to follow her downstream.”

Our whole office team face palmed in unison, and then thanked the Aire representative for her time. We had finally received the information we had hunted for so long, and the truth had been staring us in the face the whole time.

Despite wasting numerous payroll hours on our quest, we felt we had gained a lot of knowledge about inflatable kayaks and managed to really educate our reservation staff about why duckies are such a great alternative to rafting if a client is looking for a safe, easy and independent adventure on the river with our team! After the whole scenario, we felt like we had finally gotten our ducks in a row (pun intended) about inflatable kayaks. BRING ON THE DUCKIES!

Upper Animas Season is on!

We should have ideal flows on the Upper Animas for the rest of the season. Book your rafting adventure today! For those looking for an epic day of whitewater rafting Class III-V, have a look at our specialty trip the Marathon. This trip includes 24 miles of whitewater in one day!

Our famous Raft’n Rail trip combines a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train ride with 12 miles of whitewater on the Middle Upper Animas. The Middle Upper Animas is mostly Class III-IV with one Class IV-V.

The Upper Animas Overnight offers up the same whitewater as the Marathon with a night of camping in the pristine Weminuche Wilderness.

If you are planning on being in Durango or Telluride in August, the Rockwood Box trip is perfect for beating the hot summer sun while experiencing a deep and steep river gorge.

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ACA Swiftwater Rescue L4

What a great weekend we had at 4 Corners Whitewater with our ACA Swiftwater Rescue L4 Skills Course. The sun was out shining as we took to the river for lots of swimming and throw bag practice. Other topics covered included wading, mechanical advantage systems, tyrolean, v-lowers, stabilization/cinch lines and more.

Everyone had a chance to show off their new skills during some scenario practice at the end of the day on Sunday. Look for our next ACA Swiftwater course next year.

Upper Animas Training Trip

This Sunday we headed to the Upper Animas for a training and scouting mission. We did the Upper Animas Marathon trip from Silverton to Tacaoma (24 miles of whitewater in one day!). The river was running about 700cfs below Silverton and about 1900cfs at Tall Timber. The day was filled with sunshine, whitewater and amazing waterfalls visible from the river.

Waterfalls flowing into the river just below Silverton.

The San Juan snowpack will deliver a long Upper Animas season this year. We can’t wait to get you and your group up there for your next adventure.

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Self Support Kayak down the Grand Canyon

Nothing like a trip down the Grand Canyon in a kayak! Ten days and 225 miles on the river with a group of friends for great kayaking, hiking and camping! Mix in a well timed High Flow Experiment (HFE) release of 36,000cfs and now you get a premier big water trip!

Lees Ferry Put-in Lees Ferry Put-in

Here is the release from Glen Canyon Dam:

The powerplant can release a maximum of 21,000cfs, so they ramp up to that and then begin opening one overflow tube per hour until they get to 36,000cfs. The entire ramp up process happens in about six hours. We were on night 5 about 90 miles into the trip when the high water hit us. When we got to camp in the evening, the river was running 6k-9k cfs, when we woke in the morning, the river was flowing at the full capacity they were releasing and then some.

High flow taking over camp. High flow taking over the Crystal Camp. Whitewater for breakfast!

What better place to have high water hit us than Crystal? We were impressed with the amount the river rose on the shoreline that night. We heard a rumor it would rise 4ft, try more like 8-10ft (I think Cruise said 20). The water took over camp, there was some 5am boat and tent moving that had to take place.

This was the possible release plan:
Possible HFE Release

And this is what actually happened:
Lees Ferry HFE 2016

Here is a short video from Lava. The first clip is Cruise gutting it down the middle. He is so small out there!

Featured image photo by Matt Gerhardt.

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Sorry Folks… Park’s Closed

It’s that time of year… time to clean and store all the gear in preparation for winter. We are all finished up for the 2016 rafting season.

And so as the Moose should’ve told us at the gate, “Sorry Folks… Park’s Closed”.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on an adventure, we you hope you left with some memorable stories to share with family and friends.

Here are some sweet photos from the season.

cam-sawmill

nice-splash-smelter

sierra-having-fun

kevin-stands-raft-up-smelter

cam-having-fun

stu-smelter-shot

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Photo of the Day

Photo for blog

Conditions are perfect. Book your trip now.

The Rafting Season is in full swing

The 2016 season has started out strong on the Animas in Durango, CO. With the additional late snowfall in May, we are sure to have some great rafting for you this summer. We have been running trips daily in Durango and Telluride. The Upper Animas season also started up and has been great so far.

Join us for a great time today!

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Private Boaters – Preparing for the Grand Canyon

This past weekend, April 9-10 2016, we held a class for a group preparing to go down the Grand Canyon in about two weeks. They will be launching on a private group permit from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek. For some in the group, the information covered in this class was just a refresher, for others, it was all new.

Day 1:

We began in the classroom with whitewater swimming techniques, including the defensive and aggressive swim. We discussed throw bags and how/when to use them. We then went outside and did some dry land throw bag practice. A little less than two hours into the class and since there was a break in the weather, it was time to get our feet wet.

After a quick snack and change into our river gear, we headed to Smelter Rapids on the Animas River to practice everything we had discussed in the classroom and on dry land. We began with swimming, jumping in at Corner Pocket and swimming through Ponderosa and then self-rescuing into the eddy. Some found the barrel roll technique helped them to cross the eddy line.

Once we were all comfortable with swimming, we practiced our throw bagging. Each person took turns swimming and throw bagging. The dry land practiced had paid off, lots of great hits with the bag.

We brought a raft with us to do a little training on how to get back into a boat. Each person would practice climbing back into a right-side-up and up-side-down boat. As easy as it sounds, we all struggled a little bit to get on top of those rafts. It’s definitely harder than it looks. We then got comfortable being underneath and swimming underneath a raft that was upside down.

Climbing on top of upside down raft

Ashleigh successfully climbs on top of the upside down raft!

At this point, most of the people were quite tired and cold from being in the chilly waters in early April on a cloudy and rainy day. So, we headed back to the shop to get dry clothes on and then break for a late lunch.

The afternoon included classroom discussion of topics like the risk matrix, river absolutes, personal protective equipment, first aid kits, and more. Then we got some ropes out and spent the rest of the evening practicing our knots. Again, some of the people in the class already knew most of the knots and more, for others this was all new information. We practiced an adjustable knot called the taut line hitch. It’s useful on the Grand Canyon for tying your boat up at night so you can adjust your boat according to the water level. We then moved on to knots like the bowline, figure eights, clove hitch, munter hitch, double fisherman’s, and the water knot.

Day 2:

We began the day outside with mechanical advantage rope systems. We put a raft up against a huge boulder and setup a river scenario in the backyard. We setup a Z-drag 3:1 system using our rafting wrap kit that includes the basics: a static line, anchors, prussics, pulleys, and carabiners. Some mad scientists began discussing the physics behind the mechanical advantage systems. We took a quick look at how one would go about setting up a 4:1. However, there are other methods before going to a 4:1 that we looked at. Such as, adding a vector pull to the static line that is already under tension from the 3:1. And the good old boatmans trick of helping to free a raft from a pin by bleeding some air from the tubes in order to allow the water to pass around.

We headed back to the river for more practice in the water. We covered topics like wading, live bait (tethered rescuer) and using a rescue PFD. We practiced a foot entrapment rescue using a support line and a snag line. A very simple strainer scenario, practicing getting over a strainer by aggressively swimming at it and barrel rolling over it. Plus topics such as combative swimmers, managing unconscious victims, runaway rafts, and more.

Loving it!

Super excited to be going down the Grand Canyon!

Again, the weather was a bit chilly, especially for most people that only had wetsuits on. And so, we headed back to the shop and took a quick break for lunch. Everyone wanted to get an early start home, so the afternoon was very basic. After the group did some shopping at 4Corners Riversports, with finished up with discussions of rowing techniques, some water reading, and things to think about taking for a Grand Canyon river trip.

What a great group of people heading down the river. They are well on their way to having a successful and memorable trip down the Grand Canyon.

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Gold King Mine

On August 6th 2015, the Animas River closed due to the EPA triggering the release of acid mine water into Cement Creek, a tributary to the Animas River in Silverton, CO. Many images were taken of a river that should have been clear that time of year and was instead running a mustard yellow color. The river was closed as the plume made its way downstream slowly making its way to the confluence of the San Juan and then finally Lake Powell. Most likely, Lake Powell will act like a pea trap and most of those heavy metals will settle to the bottom.

This was a very emotional and sad week for all of the communities up and down the river. It affected our economy and our way of life. Farmers had to close their head gates and not allow any of the contaminated to enter their irrigation ditches. Fishermen were not only unable to fish, but were scared that most of the fish would not survive the yellow waters. The river was closed to entry and recreation including rafting, kayaking, and tubing.

Confluence of Cement Creek

The confluence of Cement Creek with the Animas River in Silverton, CO. This shot was taken about a week after the EPA accident.

The Animas River is strong and tough. Within days of the initial plume passing, the river was significantly clearer. As the water receeded, it left a bath tub ring of sediment on the rocks. More evidence of sediment settled in some of the eddies. About eight days later, the river was reopened after the water had been tested to show it was within safe levels for human contact. Luckily the fish dodged a short-term bullet and survived the initial impact of the metal-heavy waters. Long-term effects on the fish will be closely monitored and studied by the Department of Wildlife.

Gold King Mine Metals in Eddy

About a week after the accident evidence of metals in the eddy just downstream of the confluence with Cement Creek.

Since then, we have had a couple of small run off events that have raised the river just a little bit. One was a rain event, the other from snow melt when temperatures warmed up towards the end of February. Each time the river would rise, its color would turn a slight hint of mustard yellow, but not nearly as drastic as the initial plume. As the water begins to significantly rise in early May, we should see any remaining sediment quickly wash away.

After the accident, the EPA went to work setting up a water treatment plant above Silverton. This plant will treat all discharge from the Gold King Mine. The EPA will continue to closely monitor the water quality of the Animas. The Animas River took a huge hit from this accident, but hopefully a positive to come out of this situation will be the cleaning up of more of these old mines and closer monitoring of the future water quality.

Gold King Mine Treatment Plant

A view of the water treatment plant being built at the Gold King Mine.

After much deliberation, the Gold King Mine and other mines in the Silverton caldera mining network have been designated an EPA Superfund site. With money coming in to help clean up these mines, we hope the future of the Animas will be an even cleaner one than it was before the accident.

What does all of this mean for rafting on the Animas this summer? Lots of Rafting! Currently the water quality looks good. Let’s get out there on the water and enjoy the beauty of the Animas River. Let’s work to take care of the river and inform future generations of the need to clean up old mines and prevent this from happening on other rivers and to other communities.

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