Solo self support of the Arkansas River
So I've been saying for years that someday I will float the entire 100 miles of the normally boated length of the Ark.
I don't normally boat solo, but I needed some time to be alone and think, and the peak flows combined with the equinox seemed like as good an excuse as any. So I bailed on Work friday and headed to Canon City. I met my friend and Gorge local, Brian Ledoux for a run through the gorge at its peak, which I think was 4350. I've done the Gorge with him a few times and he knows it well, so I was a little surprised and just a bit nervous when he showed up with his creek boat. He said he thought it would change his roll count from 3-4, down to 0 or 1. I cockily said I didn't expect to roll in the play boat either.
Don't tempt the river gods: Me=3 rolls, Brian=0, Tom unfortunately cannot roll his dory, but that is another story.
After following the Dory all the way from boat-eater into town, we pick up the pieces and the fun of hitchhiking to Granite begins, behind schedule at 4:30. I sent my 4 fun home with Tom and loaded up the Super Hero.
This was the hardest leg of the trip. Hitchhiking with a loaded Super Hero was more challenging than I had anticipated. I didn't make it to Granite until after eight PM. I quickly suited up, floated a mile or two and made camp just before dark.
Saturday morning was relaxed, with a 9 am launch. While both looked runnable, I had already chosen the safer option of Carrying the loaded Jackson Sure Hero around both the dam and Pine Creek Rapid.
The three sisters were beefy. I got a huge stern squirt in the second one and felt fortunate to remain upright.
9:45 pass the #s put in with not a car in the lot. I try my first rolls in the loaded boat and am surprised by how manageable they are.
#1 looked big and I snuck most of it, not yet fully confident in the loaded super hero.
I felt lame for sneaking and started to run the meat from #2 on. #4 was probably the biggest single hit on the river.
#5 was all but completely washed out. Some holes in the runout necessitate my first combat roll, which provides unexpected relief.
10:30 Pass the RR bridge. First sign of boaters, thinking about boating. New stretch of river for me starting here.
I didn't see a single boat until my water stop at the BV ramp. 3 private oar rigs launch just ahead of me, but i pass them right after the Silver Bullet, which I had never run before. It is a dam that is a fast ramp to a big hit at the bottom.
I pass lots of commercials as I enter Browns just after noon, but most are having a lunch stop so the river is not choked with rubber.
I run zoom and take 25 minutes for lunch, thinking I will enjoy some carnage from the photo rocks. Very disappointing. One guide got ejected out of 20+ boats that came through.
I continue on through to Siedel’s, which I've only run once. Thinking the line is right of center, I plug into the hole and get a violent back-ender, but flush right out and roll up to big cheers from all the commercial peeps scouting or portaging.
Pretty uneventful from there down through Salida and beyond. With the notable exception of a big dam, which must be run to the far left. Plan on drowning if you miss this left hand chute.
Made Salida just before 4 pm and stopped for snacks and went into cks to refill water and seek beta for possible camps.
I pushed on ‘til 7:30 so I wouldn’t have too many miles to paddle before the Gorge Sunday.
Cottonwood was one of the biggest wave trains on the entire river. Several other big waves kept the boredom mostly at bay through the flats.
I camped in a small field just before Cotopaxi. 70 Mile Day; 10 hours of paddling, not counting a few short breaks. Personal record for me, by at least 25-30 miles.
Got back on the river at 8 am Sunday and stopped in at Arkansas River Tours, to use the dumpster and say hi to guide Skip, who had helped with one leg of my hitchhiking shuttle. Thanks again Skip.
A few big waves later, I passed pinnacle rock around 10 am, just ahead of the commercial launches.
Three Rocks was probably the scariest looking hole on the river. I snuck it far left, with no issues.
Spikebuck had me sneaking right around a nasty hole, again hugging the side for safety.
More great waves lead to the flat water above the gorge, my final challenge.
Just before floating past Parkdale, I saw my friend Brian flagging me down to run the gorge again. I happily left my overnight gear in his car and ran the gorge in an empty Super hero, with Brian in tow. I thought the boat performed well loaded; it was a dream to paddle empty. I can’t say enough good things about this boat. It was super comfy to spend a 10 hour day in and performed really well in all it encountered. I am not surprised to hear it has just become their best seller.
The Gorge was big but very manageable. It only took an hour to run.
This trip is not for everybody. I certainly won’t do it again any time soon, but it really felt like an accomplishment, and gave me a nice bit of solitude. Except for Browns and a few other random rafts, I had the whole Ark to myself.
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