Fun, playful river
Date Paddled: May 14, 2017
Nearest City: Tallequah
Take-Out: No Head Hollow Public Access
River Miles: 9.1
Shuttle: 10 miles on OK Rt 10
Weather: 84 sunny
Difficulty: Class II
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
Weather: partly cloudy, 70
Difficulty: flatwater, quickwater
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+
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!
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.
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…..
Mild, western PA river with small ledge drops and quickwater
Date Paddled: 11/8/16
Nearest City: Clarion
Put-In: River Road
Take-Out: River Road
Duration: 3 hours
River Miles: 7
Weather: mostly cloudy, 50’s
Difficulty: quickwater, class I
With no need to rush home from western Pennsylvania. we decided to seek out another river to paddle. The Clarion, flowing generally north from the hills NE of Pittsburgh toward the Allegheny River, came up in our search as a class I/II river that actually had enough water flowing!We made our way several hours north from the Yock, meandering through the rustic hills on windy back-country roads, for a peaceful, if unspectacular, paddle on the Clarion. The section we selected provided an easy bike shuttle on adjacent River Road; the section immediately upstream looked more enticing (better rapids and scenery) but presented a far longer and more difficult shuttle.We shoved off early in the afternoon careful to dress warmly for the shallow but quickly-flowing waters of the Clarion, under cloudy skies, and brisk air and water. The paddle was relaxing, looping back and forth between nice forested hills. We saw a few kingfishers, mergansers, an eagle, but no signs of people, though River Road was almost always close by on the right bank.This is the kind of paddle that makes you think that it’s way better than being at work! Next time we visit the Clarion, we’ll be sure to paddle the section upstream where it’s designated a Wild and Scenic River.
Classic white water river through a deep and scenic gorge
Date Paddled: 11/7/16
Nearest City: Uniontown
Put-In: Ramcat Road boat launch (Confluence, PA)
Take-Out: Ohiopyle S.P.
Duration: 3.5 hours
River Miles: 9
Shuttle: rail-trail – 8.5 miles
Weather: 60, clear and sunny
Difficulty: quickwater, class I, II, II+
(Peter) The Youghioghenny, or “Yock,” as it’s referred to locally, has held a special allure for me over the past two decades. Regular trips across the country have frequently led me across its path on I-70. I had even cycled a section of the rail trail that accompanies the Yock on much of its convoluted 134-mile course roughly northward from its headwaters in West Virginia and the western panhandle of Maryland, and on through the rugged hills of southwestern Pennsylvania to its confluence with the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. Set in a deep and lovely gorge (one of the deepest in the state), the Yock had cried out as the perfect way to earn our Pennsylvania state sticker.Fed by a reservoir and several significant tributaries, including Casselmans River that joins right near our put in, the Yock generally holds its water well into even a dry fall. This year, however, it was touch-and-go: the week prior we had passed through, hoping to paddle, only to find the water a bit below recommended levels. The blessing of a little rain in the intervening period boosted the water level just enough that we directed ourselves back to SW Pennsylvania to give it a try. From our previous attempt, we knew we’d have a peaceful, wooded campsite, fully furnished with warm bathrooms and showers pretty much all to ourselves, which made the decision much easier.And we were rewarded by about as nice a paddle as anyone could expect in the Northeast in November. With a beautiful day ahead of us we decided to leave my bicycle at the take out in Ohiopyle State Park and go directly to the put in just north of the village of Confluence. A friendly couple from Ohio was putting in at the same time, but we saw no one else on the river. After exchanging pleasantries and getting some reassuring information about the river and its rapids, we set out into the fast current and faced a nice class II rip just around the first bend.And there were many bends, as the Yock weaves its way through a maze of hills that rise as much as a thousand feet on either side of the river. On the left bank we were accompanied by the rail trail, part of a trail network stretching from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh and beyond. On the right bank is an active CSX/AMTRAK rail line, so our reverie was occasionally interrupted by the rumbling, clanking and shrieking of mile-long freight trains working their way up or down the valley.The water was clear and crisp, and afforded reasonable warning of the many rocks that lurked at or just beneath the surface of the fairly shallow river. And there were many rocks in the numerous easy rips and rapids that were interspersed by calmer stretches that never really stopped moving us right along.The rapids were fairly easy to navigate at this low water level, save for bouncing over or off a rock or two – at higher spring levels I would imagine that most of the rocks disappear and large waves become the source of entertainment on this stretch. The next section of the Yock, from Ohiopyle to Bruner Run (featuring class III rapids), is the busiest whitewater river section east of the Mississippi. The upper Yock, runnable in spring only, is a famous class IV/V run. And right in Ohiopyle, with official permission on certain days, expert kayakers are permitted to shoot the 18-foot falls (pictured below).
The shorter days of fall brought the shadows of evening upon us early as we paddled the final miles beneath the steep hills. The rapids picked up a bit in frequency and intensity as we approached the end – we knew that if we missed the take out there was a waterfall just around the bend! But with a few hours of shadowy daylight left we found ourselves at our destination. I set out on my 40-minute rail trail ride while Diana explored the little touristy village of Ohiopyle and awaited my return with Vincent.
Pleasant paddle on designated Scenic River
Nearest City: Xenia
Take-Out: Morrow at Miami Canoe
Duration: 2.5 hours
River Miles: 7
Shuttle: Bike path (rail trail on east bank)
Weather: 50’s with water temperatures colder, calm, cloudy with some sun toward the end
Difficulty: quickwater, flatwater, class I
Cfs: gauge height 5.0 feet – has water all year
(Diana) The Little Miami is one of those rivers that after you’ve paddled it you totally get that it’s better to be on just about any river than it is to be working. A pleasant paddle under misty conditions, the Little Miami’s main feature for us was that it had water in a drought-filled year! This is because much of it’s water is from a deep lake which has a deep aquifer. This is another one of those hard-working rivers that sees hundreds of people
during the summer months and come Labor Day… suffice it to say, we, the deer, and assorted birds were the only ones enjoying the water.
I was greeted by a heron who was clearly accustomed to people in his unflinching glace. Most people’s concept of Ohio is one immense cornfield with some silos thrown in. Yep, that’s pretty much it! That’s why the few areas on either side of the state that break with the monotony are so well used. The day after this paddle was unseasonably warm and sunny and I hiked the Little Miami Gorge (while Peter attended an insulator show) and it was filled with people! Young and old, college kids, you name it – it was actually quite shocking and frankly not very enjoyable, but hey, I get it – it’s all they’ve got! I digress….
The current is lazy overall, but in a few places there are some class I rapids like under the new highway bridge. The left-over signs warning of construction and danger fill me with a bit of foreboding especially since I can’t see around a right sweep just past the bridge. While scrutinizing it, I catch some movement in the rapids:
Which brings me to some thoughts I often have when I see deer from my kayak. They are incredibly majestic! I am always excited to see them and even though they can be a nuisance in suburbia and a devastator of habit in the wild, they still have a very special place in my heart.
One a similar note, while I’m also not a fan of highways, I can certainly appreciate the beauty of architecture and line:
As I slide easy through the rapids, more hype than substance now that the construction is complete. I paddle along appreciating the quiet misty river resting on this late fall day. It’s hundreds of canoes are neatly stacked on the river banks, the heron and deer reclaim their territory. I am again honored to be part of this watery world.
Mountains, cliffs, wildlife, relaxing fall paddle
Date Paddled: 11/1/16
Nearest City: Front Royal
Put-In: Rileyville – Island Ford Road (mile 16)
Take-Out: Bentonville boat launch (mile 28)
Duration: 5.5 hours
River Miles: 12
Shuttle: Downriver Canoe
Weather: 55 warming to 65, sunny, calm to light breeze
Difficulty: very few stretches of flatwater, quickwater/class I and one class II, many minor ledge drops
(Peter) There are few things in life that are certain, especially when it comes to being able to count on any given river to have enough water in it to paddle. So finding the Shenandoah to be paddle-able in this dry year was not only a delight, but it furthered our realization about how little we know about the hydrology (water flows and cycles) of rivers. Turns out, much like the Niobrara (in Nebraska), the Shenandoah is continually replenished by underground flows. In fact, we were told that in places a significant part of this river’s flow is actually underground in the Karst formations of Appalachia. So when other rivers in the region had barely enough water for a game of pooh-sticks, we found the Shenandoah waiting for us with adequate, if not generous, flow for this fine fall day.I contemplated a bike shuttle for this outing, and it would have been a tough one, with a serious climb up from the river, followed by ten miles on a windy (both pronunciations) highway with no shoulder. Fortunately, I found a ride from a local outfitter right at the take out in Bentonville who, though he had officially closed for the season only the day before, happily offered to shuttle me back to Diana at the put-in.Once on the water we found the Shenandoah to be a fairly quick-flowing river with easy rapids scattered here and there and one tricky (class II?) drop that provided only a moment of anxiety before we splashed successfully through.The river winds through some steep forested hills, but in places the terrain opens up enough for a few centuries-old valley-bottom farms, making for very picturesque scenery.