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Old 06-29-2011   #31
salt lake city, Utah
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 51
Originally Posted by justsammer View Post
Five of us ran the Black Boxes of the San Rafael Swell a couple days ago, on June 12 and 13th. The flow was between 1000 and 1100 cfs. I want to give people a heads up, so as that they're not mislead. I can't recommend this flow to anyone, unless you've done it before at this level, and know exactly what to expect.

We had a great experience, and it is a beautiful place and river. However, we we're glad to be out safely.

The principle problem is the rock fall rapid. Specifically the eddy to get out, and the seal launch. At this flow, the eddy is not an eddy. It's a micro spot of turbulent water, that is hard to attain, barely fits a boat, and is flowing strongly into a large undercut and sieve that are inches away. If you miss it, or screw up getting out, you will get sucked under the undercut/sieve or into the rapid and then into a sieve. It's all up to the first boater to manage this on his/her own. That person can't get help from anyone because there is no room, and no where else to stop or get out nearby. All other boaters will be maintaining their position far upstream as the first boater tries to get out. As the first boater, you precariously hold your position in this micro spot that's trying to suck you into an undercut/sieve inches away. You'll need to jump out of your boat and leap to grab some rocks on shore. However, the water around your boat is too deep to touch the bottom, so it really takes a leap or acrobatic move. If the first boater survives that (our buddy almost lost his life doing this), then he/she can safely grab all the other boaters as they come in one at a time and drag them onto the rocks. Next is the problem of the seal launch. A 2-3 foot seal launch will land you in some extremely boily, bouncy water that is just a foot or two away from the sucking corner of a violent hole at the base of the water fall. As your buddies hold your boat for you to climb into, water will be crashing disconcertingly against all of you. When you land the seal launch there is a strong chance that you could get sucked into the hole, and then worked violently until you are pushed through the rest of the rapid you didn't want to run, then into the undercut on river right. There is also a good chance the hole won't snag you as you paddle away, but then you have to paddle aggressively away from the undercut walls that are just feet behind you for about 50 yards. If you do consider running the rapid, late changes have made it more difficult, so at this flow it's easily a class 5+. This whole scene is very sketchy, and the over all feeling is that you want nothing to do with any of the options, however you don't have a choice once you get there. At lower flows, while still a bit sketchy, the eddy to get out and the seal launch look to be a lot less sketchy. Most of this advisement post is solely based on this scene.

Secondary to that, the second box includes a handful of rapids that are run blind, and at this level many of the lines necessitate going through sticky big holes. So, most people in your group will get chundered at some point in some big hole in the second box when flows are 1000cfs and over. I'm not saying that's bad, just letting you know.

Other than that... in the first box Weeping Wall becomes a difficult class 5-ish rapid, but you can walk it if you like.

All the beta, photos, and videos we came across are not of descents that are anywhere close to this level. So, heads up about that. The write up and photos in WWSR looks to be about 700-800cfs. So we couldn't help but wonder where the advisement and ratings for the higher flows in the WWSR book comes from. As references, in the photo of the Weeping Wall rapid in WWSR you see some rocks and a giant pour over. At this flow the rocks are completely submerged and the pour over is just a small wave. As well, in photos and videos you usually see a 10-15 foot seal launch at rock fall rapid, yet at this flow it is about 2-3 feet due to the higher water in the landing. One description that does seem more accurate is the one on eddyflower, including the warning of not going over 800 cfs. The consensus was that this is a solid class 5- run at this level, not including the portaged rapids. Again to summarize, I don't recommend you enter the black boxes at 1000+ cfs unless: you've done it at this level before, or your an experienced solid class 5 boater, and have a class 5 mindset, if you want to enter these committing boxes at 1000+ and expect to have the skills to manage them safely.
This by no intentions is a negative trip report, it's a wonderful place, it was an unregrettable experience, and we very fortunately had no injuries and no swims. However, just want to put out the information so that folks don't go in there and get hurt or killed due to lack of information. Go at flows 800cfs or lower.
- Sammer

Hmmm. What I am hearing a lot of from almost everyone on these posts is that the WWSR book does not accurately describe this run. I have never seen that book, I went with the River Runner's Guide to Utah by Gary Nichols. Anyway, yeah, that is a run NOT to be caught off guard in by a sandbagging book. Too bad about that book, but its good that you have put out this post. Cheers.

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Old 06-29-2011   #32
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 403
Penisee, if you read the book you would see it is right on the money. Strange to comment on a book you have never seen. The thing may be that the boaters think they have mad skills b/c they ran the Gore Rapid sneak so that pretty much makes them a class V boater, then when they get on real-deal juicy class IV+ in a remote environment they cry for their Boulder Sugar Mama's and call the authors Sandbaggers. Maybe, just maybe.

That's funny Cutch that we thought lower box at 1650 was just clean fun but LFH took us 4 hrs. That is so badass you had the force with you on Lefty. We had moments of the force in our group, but not the overall log chakra blessing from the dahli lama. So much fun in there from the 1st drop to the last. Maybe since its slides they don't seem to collect wood in bad spots. Stoked you made it out. Bummed we just missed you.

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Old 06-29-2011   #33
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 772
Good thing those sandbagging authors aren't around to chime in about it...

Did you bother to read any of the posts by Cutch? In case you missed it he is one of the sandbagging authors.
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Old 07-16-2011   #34
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 1
I have just done a Black Boxes trip on Wed. and Thur. the 13th and 14th of July. At the Rockfall Portage, at the major falls there was just one rock sticking out of the water. It was on the left side and I was able to put in in a cave and run a far left slot and then the rest of the rapid. Any body have an impression of this flow? I suppose I should post a photo when I get the chance..... Leaving on the Grand Canyon in the AM.......
My other question is, have the two logs across the canyon been in the exit to the upper box very long? I had to get on my back deck to slide under the highest spot!!
About the guage. My impression after paddling out of there is that the flats down there take in a HUGE amount of water and disipate it before the guage gets an accuate interpretation of what is in the canyons. My experience of coming out of the last canyon and having a high water mark of flood mud that was six feet high and that same mark was only about 6-8 inches a half mile above the bridge at I-70 where the guage is. I think those flats store a ton of water and the sediment has to play a big role in what is going past?.....
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Old 07-17-2011   #35
Boof like a Utard.
kennyv's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 118

I checked the gauge on the 13th and 14th and it was reading around 1000 on the 13th and over 1200 on the 14th. I did the run awhile ago at around 600 and we had no trouble getting under the logs at the end of the first box, which leads me to believe you did the run when it was pretty high. We didn't even have to stoop to get under those logs. Also, I just passed over the San Raf. on I-70 last week and there's still alot of backwater out of the banks, which might inflate the gauge as the level comes down. All of the headwaters streams are now on the way down (unfortunately). There seems to still be plenty of water in there for now. How were the bugs? I might try to get a second trip in there as it comes down.

thanks for the update,

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