I have grown up in the Poudre canyon driving past the 1/4 mile rapid that comprises Lower Narrows. When I was a young chap driving up the canyon with my parents to go camping I would always stare in awe at the seemingly endless powerful whitewater. I thought it was the strongest force in the world (not too far off). My parents always told me that water was a powerful, beautiful force but rivers like that were not run...especially by kids like me. As a young child I of course knew that my parents were wrong, and that I could run a rapid like that some day.
As the years progressed I continued to be mesmerized by this section of river. When we would drive past it on the way to Cameron Pass in the winter I was often criticized by my friends (non-boaters) who did not understand why I needed to stop and look at a boulder field with no water in it, “there is no way your boat could even get down that section” they would say. Still as I spent my time skinning up and skiing down the pass the river was in the back of my mind.
This past summer a friend and I decided to go up and have a serious look at Lower Narrows. I had looked at the rapid countless times before…but never in a PFD with a boat on the car. We drove up the canyon and put on at Sportcars Corner. After running middle narrows we pulled into an eddy just above the bridge that marked the entrance of lower narrows. A few quiet minutes in the eddy and my friend and I looked at each other, nodded and pushed off the shore.
For those that do not know the rapid the first drop is the most intimidating and there is a huge wrap/flip potential at the bottom if we did not hit the slot correctly. As we moved toward the entrance we got suck on a rock just above the drop and had to spin off of it; sending us spinning into the entrance. We corrected the boat as we went over the first drop. After the initial drop it was a ¼ mile of full concentration. It was the most focused I have been in my entire life. Even our friends yelling and cheering on the shore were not noticed.
As we went into the last drop I remember thinking that we might actually make it. We hit the last hole and I let out a “yell” unlike I have ever done before. We were screaming and slapping the water with our paddles as we rounded the corner to continue to the take-out. All of the yelling, water slapping, and fist pumping did not seem to fully display the feelings that were rushing through our bodies. Unfortunately there was a group of fishermen right around the corner (out of view but defiantly not out of earshot). As we approached them we apologized and ensured them that no other boats would bother them the rest of the evening.
The feeling was indescribable, although many of you can relate I am sure. I had finally done it…the river allowed me to sneak down (right side up the entire time no less). Told you mom and dad
. All of the countless hours spent looking at and thinking about the rapid; and now I could connect an on river experience to my dreaming.
Now when I drive past that section I still (and will always) get a huge goofy grin over my face and the feeling again rushes through my veins. People often ask me what I am smiling about when we pass lower narrows. I simply respond to them “just thinking about the river.”
I have not run lower narrows again yet; but I feel like I do not need to. Running that section not only gave me the experience of a lifetime but it opened up a whole new world of rafting for me. No longer do I only look for flows running through class III/IV rivers; my search now includes looking for the next class V run to begin dreaming about.