Diana has been an avid kayaker since 2004. She started out as a dedicated swamp rat, flatwater, contemplative paddler, and slowly added other aspects to her kayaking primarily in regards to white water and year-round adventuring.
Sweet smell of the Little Date Paddled: May 20, 2017 Nearest City: Maryville Put-In: Route 411 Take-Out: Alcoa City water facility Duration: 4 hours River Miles: 8.5 Shuttle: easy roads ~ 6 miles Weather: sunny to partly cloudy 80+ Difficulty: quickwater, steady current, class I Cfs: 274
The sweet smell of privet lined the Little River. While an invasive plant, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that wonderful smell. As we paddled along, the Little was a cornucopia of live with osprey, bluebird, kingfisher, wood ducks, mallards, cardinals, robins, swallows, herons, three types of turtles, and a water snake all enlivening the journey.Beautiful outcroppings of rock provided sharp contrast to the dreamy green of trees and water. The great blue heron had nested above the river – unusual for a bird that generally builds in community. Our presence kept off the parent, but not for long as we slid under and downstream.Sometimes a paddle is wonderful for so many reasons, the color of the water, the fun rapids, the cliffs, remoteness, and so many others. The Little was a paddle filled with small details that added up to a big paddle!
Dramatic display of the destructive power of flood waters! Date Paddled: May 18, 2017 Nearest City: Alton, MO Put-In: State Route 19 access Take-Out: Whitten Landing Duration: 4.5 hours River Miles: 11 miles Shuttle: long (30 min.) road shuttle; 3 mile tough gravel road to Whitten Landing Weather: cloudy to PC, windy; 80 degrees. Difficulty: Strong current, no significant rapids; numerous hazards from flooding (downed trees, roots, misc. strainers) Cfs: approx. 2500
Less well-known than many of the Ozark waterways in neighboring Arkansas or Oklahoma, the Eleven Point is a good-sized river that traverses a lovely, if undramatic, landscape of foothills in south-central Missouri. Our visit came on the heels of a massive rain event about two weeks earlier that had caused severe flooding on many rivers in the region, including the Eleven Point, and much destruction in towns and cities in the region.
The USGS gauge on the river went off scale for more than 24 hours, indicating flows well in excess of 30,000 CFS reaching perhaps a dozen or more feet above flood stage. The devastation that this kind of flooding is capable of was apparent as soon as we got to the river.
The scope of the damage became truly clear only once we set out on the still-swift current of the Eleven Point. The speed of the water, combined with the numerous hazards left by the flood’s surge a few weeks earlier, required constant vigilance to avoid being swept toward the river’s banks that were, in many places, strewn with debris. Often the tangle of uprooted trees and flotsam extended both many feet out into the river channel and many feet up the steep wooded banks. In places it seemed like the destruction was concentrated on one side of the Eleven Point, extending for hundreds of yards. In other places the devastation was equally distributed on both sides – no part of the river seemed to have escaped Nature’s fury.Despite this dramatic backdrop, we had a lovely and scenic paddle on the Eleven Point. Animal life, especially birds, seemed to have returned to normal, and we saw eagles, herons (including three rare green herons), kingfishers, a few ducks, and many songbirds that were heard more often than seen. We also saw a few turtles near the beginning, a hopeful sign that the smaller aquatic animals had managed to weather the floods.
Scenic, small river with lots of character Date Paddled: May 16, 2017 Nearest City: Jasper Put-In: Steel Creek Take-Out: Kyle’s Landing Duration: River Miles: 8 Shuttle: difficult gravel road to Kyle’s Landing Weather: sunny 80 Difficulty: class I, I+ Cfs: 250
The Buffalo is the definition of a perfect paddle. With clear waters morphing into emerald green right from the put in, my heart filled with expectation. I was not disappointed. Even though the Buffalo is designated a Wild and Scenic River, there were regular access points. The first class I rapid was causing some issues with less experienced paddlers, notably an elderly man who end up dumping and swimming while his wife on shore filled us in on the scratches and bruises he’d already sustained as she worriedly wrung her hands saying, “A man his age shouldn’t be doing dat!” in a soft German accent. We passed him and his son again further downstream bailing Dad’s boat yet again.
We came into a tight meander ending at a cliff wall sprouting from the cool green waters. It seemed as though we were in a miniature version of many of the western rivers we had run with shallow, clear to green water, steep cliffy areas, followed with a tumbling class I or II rapid and entry into a deep emerald pool. The difference here on the east coast is that our former Himalayan scaled mountains have eroded into the rounded Appalachian chain, settling into the landscape with grace.
It was a true joy to see a river so beautiful, tended and loved as the Buffalo.
Green waters of the Ozarks Date Paddled: May 15, 2017 Nearest City: Fayetteville Put-In: Turner Bend Take-Out: Campbell’s Cemetary Duration: 3.5 hours River Miles: 10 miles Shuttle: 7.5 miles gravel road Weather: sunny becoming partly cloudy 80 Difficulty: class I-II with some snags and strainers Cfs: 1120
Thinking that the Mulberry would be a “cute” river, I realized I was grossly mistaken! The river was running at 1120 cfs and with it flooding its banks in many places, this paddle had its fair share of exciting class I and II whitewater.
For green and blue beauty, the rivers of the Ozarks can’t be beat!
Fun, playful river Date Paddled: May 14, 2017 Nearest City: Tallequah Put-In: Peavine Take-Out: No Head Hollow Public Access Duration: River Miles: 9.1 Shuttle: 10 miles on OK Rt 10 Weather: 84 sunny Difficulty: Class II Cfs: 2000+
Muddy waters and alien pods Date Paddled: May 12, 2017 Nearest City: Mineola (Tyler) Put In: Route 69 Bridge Take-Out: Route 69 Bridge Duration: 5 hours River Miles: ~7 Shuttle: n/a Weather: partly cloudy, 70 Difficulty: flatwater, quickwater Cfs: 210
The recent heavy rains were much in evidence on the banks and in the water of the Sabine. This 521 mile long river was inhabited as long as 12,000 years ago and partially forms the boundary with Louisiana. The lower end’s cypress is the origin of it’s Spanish name. We shared the put in with some fishermen that seemed to be quite successful even with the muddy water conditions.
The first part of the trip was a welcome change from the arid landscapes of the southwest and long slog across Texas to Dallas. The Sabine is in the more forgiving eastern side of the state that begins to hint at the lushness of the Ozarks.People were constantly warning us about snakes, and we finally got to see some! These two were happily catching some rays. We also saw this whitish bird – I don’t remember ever seeing anything like it.
Also quite fascinating were these pods we discovered floating in the river. They looked like potatoes bobbing along, but rattled when enthusiastically shaken. We will certainly (carefully) plant them when we’re settled in Oregon. For now, I haven’t been able to turn up an answer to the – what are they – question.
The Sabine reintroduced us to vegetative paddling! I let the green revive my soul and lift my spirit – green pouring over that sandy dry landscape that had lodged itself into my consciousness. My hands showed evidence of the long, mostly dry winter spent in Bend, ridges and blisters rising up, but happily not too angrily. Truly happy to be back in the water, we eagerly looked forward to our next paddles in the Ozarks.
Great fishing and nice scenery but a bit short on wildness. Date Paddled: March 30, 2017 Nearest City: Farmington, NM Put-In: Crusher Hole boat ramp (Rt. 511) Take-Out: U.S. 64 bridge in Blanco, NM Duration: 6 hours River Miles: 15 miles Shuttle: 2 cars (approx. 15 miles) Weather: 60s, ptly cloudy & breezy Difficulty: quickwater, class I & I+ Cfs: 1500
The San Juan is a world-class trout fishing stream that flows out of the mountains of southern Colorado and through the still waters of Navajo Reservoir before traversing the four-corners region on it’s way to join the Colorado River in southern Utah. The section we visited in northwestern New Mexico begins as the outflow from the Navajo dam and provides about 80 miles of generally easy floating and paddling as it transitions from forested mountain terrain to the desert canyons to the west.We put in several miles below the dam, avoiding the section of tailwaters reserved for anglers, and found ourselves swept quickly along by a good and continuous current with some occasional easy riffles and rapids. Unfortunately this section of the San Juan resides in a moderately populated agricultural valley which, though scenic at its margins, presented us with nearly continual views of houses, power lines, cell towers, and other trappings of civilization. Paddlers seeking wildness and solitude should look elsewhere (including, perhaps, the lower San Juan in Utah – a classic canyon/whitewater trip).One challenge we encountered along the way developed after we mistakenly floated into a diversion canal used for irrigation. Separated from the main river channel by both increasing distance and elevation, we found ourselves being swept rapidly through a narrow channel toward a low diversion dam. We quickly pulled over to scout – the dam looked like an easy portage but the overflow stream, leading back (presumably) to the main river channel, seemed sketchy. So we elected to drag our boats a hundred yards or so through the thorny riparian underbrush to get back on the San Juan. Thereafter we kept a keen eye out for suspicious looking side channels and managed to stay in the main flow the rest of the way.There was one additional low dam that required a rather laborious portage on river-right. This one might have been runnable through a somewhat imposing-looking sluiceway that seemed to be open and free of obstructions – but this wasn’t obvious until we had the view from downstream.Despite the proximity to civilization we saw lots of birds, including many herons, kingfisher, various geese and ducks, and the ubiquitous but always delightful red wing blackbirds. We also saw muskrats swimming with us in the cold, silty water. Unfortunately there was also some trash along the banks in places. As we continued downstream, the terrain flattened out somewhat and the scenery became less enthralling. We passed what turned out to be a much better take out – a newly-developed boat launch that would have shortened our paddle by a merciful 4 miles or so. We were unable to determine the road access to this site but would recommend this as a better take out for this trip. As it was we had to pay the campground owner in Blanco $20 for permission to park and pull our boats out at route 64. While this wasn’t our favorite paddle, it was still better than going to work!
Surprises in Arizona Date Paddled: 3/29/17 Nearest City: Safford Put-In: Montoya Lane, York Take-Out: Owl Creek, Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area Duration: 3 hours
River Miles: 11.5 miles
Shuttle: Two vehicles – would be difficult bike shuttle
Weather: overcast, sunny later
Difficulty: quickwater, class I and I+ up to class III in high water
Written by Diana
The Gila showed us an Arizona that is often over-looked, wild, remote, and panoramic. Tucked away in the south eastern part of the state, the Gila flows into Arizona from New Mexico where it presents those with class III/IV kayaking skills the opportunity to paddle through the Gila National Forest.
On this side of the border, the Gila runs muddy in the spring time and clear as the rains settle down and the water levels drop. We paddled the section upstream of the Gila Box Riparian Canyon since we had only one day to devote to the paddle. The next section is a remote two day, 22 mile trip through an inaccessible canyon which we hope to do next year.The first four miles where northerly with pleasant views and fun rapids. The next miles heading westerly were more wild, with high cliffs and more challenging rapids. Channels were sometimes tight with overhanging shrubs.This narrows was the beginning of the second half of the paddle with a more remote feel with geological wonders!
We saw a variety of birds from the various duck, hawk, song, wading and varieties. Our favorite was the scarlet tanager with their startling red bodies and black wings.
The Gila left us longing for more… we loved the river and also the high desert terrain, nearly empty campground, and spectacular starry night skies perfect for dreaming of more kayaking adventures.
What does a kayaker do when white mounds of winter line every road and rivers run cold or not at all? It is a trying time, to sit and watch as the numbers come in: 32 or 22 or worse, freezing hopes. I watch Mt. Bachelor and the Sisters turn white, avalanche, turn white again.
Back in New York, I would know what to do, where to go to get my fix of open water, the same rivers that are known from warm forays. That is the key. To propel oneself down a river with rapids, as they all must have to stay open, with no experience with its particular foibles is foolishness. Some would argue that even with experience, it’s still kinda crazy. Less so in the northeastern U.S. as the rivers are wider, with more forgiving edges, eddies and shallows close at hand. Here, the rivers are cold and swift, off on an important mission – there’s no lollygagging.
Then there is the question of trees. They do have a tendency to jump right into the middle of things especially with the heavy snows bending their backs or filling their long needles with rounds of white.
The stated goal of Kayak 50 is to paddle in all fifty states. Of course I expected to learn as I paddled rivers formed differently, surrounded by unfamiliar habitats, and subject to water and light propelled at strange angles off intriguing surfaces. Quite surprising, the actual experience. Cross currents from bouncings off cliffs, rock walls, and boulders alarmed me. Most I found not too deep, fairly safe to ignore. The trick was to keep the flow of the river in mind, estimate the percentage that was errantly bouncing, and viola – safe or not safe was the answer. Safe meant, keep on paddling, unsafe that there was maneuvering to do to stay out of the cross movement.
Then there were upwellings. Upwellings occurred when there was a bounder or other obstruction under the surface of the water. I think of them like an animal track, letting you know about something furtive that may or may not be there. These mushrooms of still water are eerily unsettling. It’s hard to gauge the depth of the water, generally they are deeper than you think, but occasionally you find yourself hung-up, often with the indignity of facing upstream. Worse case scenario is a dump/swim, pretty chilly in most rivers in the northwest at any time of year.
So the dreaming goes on – waiting for the ice to melt, days to grow longer, spring rains. That magical time when the world once again leaps into motion. Flows and floods, rain and rapids, the call to join in the ancient dance of water and watercraft, the tranquility and the action, together again.
We’re in Bend! Our plans meandered to the west as we came to grips with the fact that the wide-spread drought conditions in most of the US have left the rivers unhappily low. Our hopes to paddle in the southern states in the fall/early winter followed by the south western states evaporated, but we flowed into Bend where Peter and I have been considering moving after our Kayak 50 quest.
We rented a wonderful apartment in Tumalo, an area north of Bend. This is our incredible view:
Bend has a huge ski resort, Mt. Bachelor (9,068 feet), that is filling up nicely with snow at 94 inches – 7.8 feet! Peter will soon check it out. A big snow storm last week left about a foot of snow where we are in the high desert – very unusual for this area where most of the moisture falls on the mountains. They effectively help contain and define the moisture laden coastal area of Oregon, known locally as “the valley.” This high desert has the advantage of sunny/partly sunny (300) days, with out all the rain and dampness of the coastal areas. Compared to New York, there are much milder winter temperatures that dance around freezing for a month or so and then warm up into the higher 30’s and 40’s starting around mid-January.
We recently spent a few days with Claire for our early Christmas with her in Portland. It was great to watch Scrooged, exchange gifts, and feast on great food. What a heart-warming delight! The drive (about 4 hours) was a real treat too, filled with snowy desert and the mists of the Columbia River Gorge.
We’ve also spent quite a bit of time looking at homes and land in the area, especially Sisters, a small community a bit further north of where we’re staying. It’s lovely and quaint. While the quest for a new home can be quite wearying, it’s also exciting to imagine a new life. We’ve already had a fun preview while attending a Christmas party given by the local kayaking group. It’s great to know we have a place to share our passion! Looking forward to checking out a Sister’s church for Christmas Eve.
Our hearts reach out for our loved ones at Christmas, those with us and those who have crossed over into another life, united in love. Sending you love and thanks for reading our blog and coming along on our Kayak 50 adventure! Wishing you a…..