|Water Adventures Happenings - August 2017
Lovingly penned by Swirlin’ Eddy for Wild West Voyages
I’m Swirlin’ Eddy and I am the river. Today I’m here to tell ya I’ve noticed a growing crowd among my riffles recently. A very peculiar kind of folk. No oars, no motors, no tubes with these yahoos. Just a simple board with a fin, a PFD (of course) and a paddle. From below the surface I hear mirth. I see the rhythmic movement of a paddle blade moving downstream up, downstream up. Occasionally one of ‘em comes dipping down into the water, squirming and laughing, and disappears back up onto that board. Sometimes I see no paddling at all and I can tell those slackers are just lollygaggin’, lying back on that thing and soaking up the sun and scenery. Downriver they go with or without the effort.
A Wild West Voyages guide told me this phenomenon is called Stand Up Paddling. “SUP,” they call it for short, as if they’re all best friends and what-not. Turns out those boards are inflatable and come in several shapes and sizes, just like the folks who paddle ‘em. Turns out, you can get a lesson or rent one of them things, take it to a lake or a calmer stretch or river and have a grand ol’ time.
Here’s what your buddy Swirlin’ Eddy has also ascertained about this SUP craze. There’s a method to that madness. Here’s a few pointers on how to handle the thing:
1) Plan to get wet. That’s part of it! Why come to the river if you don’t want to be in the river? Duh. This is a close-up and personal form of interaction with me, your ol’ pal Swirlin’ Eddy.
2) Stand in the middle, straddle the handle, and that’s your center of balance. Loosen up and absorb the movement of the water. Easier said than done!
3) Play around with the board. Go for a stroll up and down its length, try to jump up and down.
4) Play other balance games. Try a headstand, a crazy pose, chasing games. I can’t wait to see this.
5) When you fall off (you WILL fall off, I will see to it) think, Ah, that water feels nice. Then rather than climbing back on the board, get alongside of it and give a good dolphin kick while pulling the board underneath your belly.
6) Don’t be mad when I, your favorite river feature, surprise you by pulling on that fin and dumping you when you least expect it. Or maybe I will just swirl you in a circle or mess with you some other way. Be creative with your paddle strokes. Work with me. Interact with me. I am mischievous. Thanks for playing!
7) Always always always wear a securely-fitted PFD (for those who used to call it a life vest, get with the program, it is now called your PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE)!
8) Folks in the know recommend a quick-release leash belt while SUPping on the river. Don’t wear an ankle leash, they can actually be hazardous if you get caught down current from your board. You need a belt you can reach and release quickly if you get in trouble.
9) One last word (ok, bunch of words): always inform yourself about what stretch of river you will be exploring. Make a wise choice for your skill level or the adventure you seek. Be responsible for your safety and the safety of those who accompany you. Nothing and no one can take the place of your own good judgment.
10) Git’ some gear and git’ out here! I’ll be waiting!
Wild West Voyages offers top-of-the-line HALA stand up paddle boards and gear for rent and for sale. You can even reserve a guided SUP tour on the river. Fun fact: if you rent a board then buy one within two weeks, you can apply your $49 demo fee toward your purchase. Check out our SUP shop at 446 S. Main Street in Moab (across from City Market) or give them a call at 435-355-0776. Read more Swirlin’ Eddy commentary at www.wildwestvoyages.com
Wild West Voyages offers guided daily river trips, equipment rentals and river shuttle service. Raft, kayak, or stand up paddle: All Trails Lead to the River! Give them a call at 435-355-0776 to arrange your river day, or visit www.wildwestvoyages.com
Cataract Canyon Rafting with Navtec Expeditions
by Nat Smith
As we eased our craft into the water, I thought about the slow pace of the river and how it belied the thrills awaiting us downstream. Our welcoming party at the Potash boat ramp consisted of mosquito swarms and the sun bursting through cloud cover. The biting insects and imminent desert heat had me eager to get out on the mighty Colorado. With only one day to cover nearly a hundred miles of river, we wasted no time launching. Cataract Canyon, with all its danger and beauty, awaited us.
The Colorado ran red, filled with sediment washed in by the previous night’s thunderstorm. The hue of the placid water matched the cliffs towering above us. The invasive tamarisk dominating the banks created a strip of green starkly contrasting the rust-colored surroundings. When the cliffs of Dead Horse Point came into view two thousand feet above us, our guide cut the motor. In the newfound silence, we enjoyed some strawberries and orange juice while soaking in the scenery. The guide, Dave, explained the state park’s morbid history and identified the point where Thelma and Louise took their fateful leap. The Coffee Pot Ruin, an ancient granary tucked into the horizontal crack jutting across a rock tower, was another notable landmark. We cruised through the winding flat water in Navtec’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, a craft specially designed to navigate extreme whitewater. Continuing down Meander Canyon, we drew closer to the heart of Canyonlands.
The center of Canyonlands is marked by the meeting place of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Below the Confluence, the combined force of the rivers is funneled into Cataract’s narrow gorge and the result is some of the country’s most intense rapids. Just downstream, orange and white spires peeked above the canyon walls. In 1869, John Wesley Powell named the strange, colorful pinnacles the Doll House.
We passed Spanish Bottom and the standing waves of Brown Betty marked the beginning of Cataract Canyon proper. We ran the first chute and stopped at the inviting beach. A satisfying lunch was needed before we tackled the far more technical rapids that lay ahead. Capsize, Hell to Pay, and the North Seas soaked us in rapid succession. Throughout the Mile Long Rapids, our boat’s passengers screeched in glee and terror each time we dipped into a trough and saw a massive white cap about to come crashing over us.
Lake Cataract’s flat water allowed for a pleasant respite from the relentless rapids. Some took the opportunity to go for a refreshing swim. We drifted by a beach claimed by the river’s majestic sentries, great blue herons. As we marveled at the rookery and its nest-filled trees, one heron stood alert on the sand, a few flapped languidly over the water, and others waded in search of a meal. Soon, the roar of rapids came into earshot and we dove headlong into the canyon’s most intimidating waves.
Cataract Canyon’s iconic Big Drops were before us and charging downhill into the roiling waters was our only option. Big Drop I was just a taste; Big Drop II, or Little Niagra, provided a meatier challenge. Dave deftly maneuvered by boulders and gaping holes threatening to swallow the boat. At the top of Big Drop III, Satan’s Gut, I grew tense. Even though the river level had passed its peak flow, the raging white caps were still a striking sight. The largest wave we hit smashed into me like a translucent avalanche and it was all I could do to hold on and stay in the boat.
Beyond Gypsum Rapid, the final thrill, the river returned to its mellow state. We were able to unclench our hands from around the rope and appreciate the magnificent backdrop once again. On the bank, we saw some desert big horn sheep making their way back to the cliffs.
We passed Dark Canyon and the bridge came into view, so I knew the trip was drawing to a close. The sun dried our dripping clothes and we couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces. Looking at the waters gently widening into Lake Powell, it was hard to imagine we had just come through such a perilous stretch of river. That said, it would be impossible to forget the awesome waves of Cataract Canyon.
If you are considering an overnight or daily river trip, come in and talk with us. Navtec has over 100 years of guiding and river knowledge to make your trip a one-of-a-kind experience.