Whitewater Blog Category: Raft Trips
For many people, history is a major part of the travel experience. For these people, a trip to southern Pennsylvania would not be complete without a visit to Gettysburg and a trip to San Antonio would not be complete without a visit to the Alamo. What is in store for these travelers when they visit Durango and the Four Corners region? Here are a few facts about southern Colorado and its history:
Many Native American Bands Inhabited the Area
The Ute people were the first inhabitants of the areas around Durango, Colorado. In fact, the Ute people inhabited lands across Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The Utes traded with other Native American tribes in the region, including the Peubloans and Navajo, as well as the Spanish after their arrival in the area.
Today many of the Ute people live on the Southern Ute reservation and Ute Mountain Reservation. Visitors who wish to experience the culture of the Ute people can visit the Southern Ute museum in Ignacio, Colorado. To experience life the way the Ute people did, fishing, kayaking, and raft trips along the Colorado, San Miguel, and Animas Rivers will take travelers through the areas where the Ute people would make their winter camps. The Ute Mountain reservation sits adjacent to Mesa Verde National Park, which preserves early dwellings of the Puebloan people who also inhabited the area.
The Four Corners Region is Unique
The boundaries of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah were effectively set in 1863 when Congress separated the Arizona Territory from the New Mexico Territory with a line running due south from the corner of the Colorado Territory. This guaranteed that four states would meet at a single point, the Four Corners, when the territories were later admitted to the U.S. as states. The Four Corners Monument marks the only location in the United States where four states meet. In addition to four states, four Native American tribal nations, Navajo, Ute, Hopi, and Zuni, cover the area around the Four Corners region. In fact, the Navajo nation placed the bronze disk marking the actual four corners where the states meet in 1931 and assumed responsibility for administering the monument in the 1960s.
Durango Was Established to Support the Railroad and Mining
Durango was founded in 1880 to serve as a rail stop because of its access to water and coal. Silver and gold mines had operated in the area since 1872 and mining operations opened smelters in and around Durango because they too required easy access to water and coal. Durango, Colorado was named after Durango, Mexico by Alexander Hunt, a former governor of the Colorado Territory, because the areas resemble each other. “Durango” is derived from the Basque word “Urango” which refers to a town near water. This access to water makes tourism and recreation, such as kayak and raft trips, the largest industry in present-day Durango.
The Animas River, or River of Souls
A popular attraction for raft trips, the Animas River was named by a Spanish explorer in 1765. The Spanish name for the river is Rio de las Animas which translates to River of Souls. In a series of newspaper articles published in the 1890s and early 1900s, reporters and editors sensationalized the Animas River as the River of Lost Souls. Since then, many legends, mostly unconfirmed, have grown up around the Animas River as being haunted or cursed. Despite these ghost stories, the Animas River has become a popular spot for rafting and fly fishing trips near Durango.
The San Miguel River
Another popular river for raft trips is the San Miguel River. The San Miguel River is a tributary of the Dolores River. The Dolores River flows into the Colorado River which, at 1,450 miles long, is the only major river in the southwestern United States. The San Miguel River starts in the mountains above Telluride near a mining town called Pandora. The mines around Pandora originated during the 1870s during a gold and silver rush in the area. The mines and mill in Pandora continued to operate through World War II to contribute zinc and lead to the war effort. The mine and mill eventually closed in 1978 and Pandora is presently a ghost town.More Gallery Images
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.More Gallery Images
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.
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.More Gallery Images
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.
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!More Gallery Images
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.More Gallery Images
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.
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.
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.
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.
2016 continues to be a great El Nino winter for Southwest Colorado. According to the Snotel Data site, the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins are at 128% of average snow water equivalent as of February 4. One of the tributaries to the Animas River, Cascade Creek, is currently at 140%. This means we are looking forward to a solid river rafting season starting this May.
Don’t delay, book your rafting trip today, use the promo codes to receive early season discounts of 10-15% when you pay in full during checkout.
Happy New Year from Durango and the team at 4 Corners Whitewater. Winter is in full swing here in the San Juans and the snow is piling up! We know some of you out there are already making plans for next summer so we would like to let you know that we are offering some great preseason deals on select trips. Please visit this link for further details. Looking forward to getting on the water with you in 2016.
More Gallery Images
It’s December 22, 2015 and so far this winter is shaping up to be a great one. About 8″ of fresh snow last night with 15″ in the last 72 hours. Current base at Purgatory Resort is 42″.
Possibly 2-4 feet more on the way this week! We will keep you posted.More Gallery Images