Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 5 in the Canyon: The truth about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon

By Day 5 packing the boat is getting pretty easy.
Day 5 in the Canyon contains a bunch of fun whitewater as we drop into the Upper Granite Gorge with some big name rapids like, Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, and Horn Creek. We covered 20 miles from Rattlesnake Camp (mile 74) to Granite (mile 94).  Nothing like camping above a big rapid to make for some slightly restless sleep.

Mike dropping into Hance.
When I was a kid paddling around the Southeast I heard stories about the whitewater in the Grand Canyon and I saw videos of the huge waves and holes flipping giant rafts.  I didn't think I would ever kayak anything like that.  It only took me a few years to realize those thoughts weren't true but still when I first enter the Canyon I have a little bit of concern for the rapids.  I think that nervynous that I feel is tied mostly to the history and lore of the river but I also think the remoteness and size of the water adds to the mystique.  During the winter trips add in the cold dark shadows that the canyon walls cast over the river and it starts to get a little bit of an ominous feel to it some days.

Jeremy Approaching Horn Creek in the Shadows
The truth of the matter, however, is that if you have a bomber roll and can paddle sideways down through waves you are good to kayak the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.  There is no doubt that some of the rapids have serious moves for rafts but almost every single rapid in the Canyon is "hey diddle diddle, right down the middle" for a kayak.  Yes there are a few features to avoid but they are very obvious.  Yes there will be different water levels that may affect this determination but for the most part its all good to go.  Tentative kayakers have highways to avoid the big stuff and solid boaters can paddle right down through the biggest parts of almost every rapid.  There are a couple whirlpools that will bury you for a second and if you are upside down they might torment you enough to make you swim but those are few and very far between.  The one rapid that throws some curve balls at you is Lava.  The easiest line can be hard to hit and the angled curling waves come from different places that can slap you around hard if you are in the wrong place.  My goal by mentioning this isn't to belittle the whitewater, my goal is to clear peoples minds of fear for the whitewater so that anyone may take the opportunity to float through the Grand Canyon.  This is a trip that every paddler should make in some form or another.  The paddling is super fun and I enjoy every riffle whether I am in a tiny playboat or a long loaded missile.

The Team is all there.
Heres a link to see all the photos from Day 5 in the Canyon.

More awesome whitewater tomorrow.

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