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Old 05-24-2005   #11
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
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At 14,500 cfs I chased a swimmer in a pfd from Marble to Skull- I saw him get sucked under by eddy lines about 10 times. It's a serious risk if a swimmer gets away from a raft / throw ropes. If you decide to go, be prepared to swim in cold water for an extended time. At 25,000, I would highly recommend leaving the dog at home unless he has gills. You can't throw a dog a rope from a moving raft and get him/her back in the boat.

Again- if you're not prepared for this kind of trip, go do Ruby / Horsethief. I've rafted Westwater 40+ times, up to about 14K, and I would not row at this level- too much risk to my gear & my passengers. I'd kayak it instead on a 1-day...

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Old 05-24-2005   #12
Caspian's Avatar
Englewood, Colorado
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cstork - There are lots and lots of squirlies at big water, as you know noted. I would agree that most are more likely to sub a kayak for a few seconds, not pose a real danger to someone in a boat. These are the one that I know secondhand can be deadly to a dog.

In the narrower places, though, I think there is danger for a swimmer to be under for more than 20 seconds. Just how long is anyone's guess. But like you said, five seconds will seem like an eternity to someone inexperienced in whitewater and esp. with whirlpools. Skull comes to mind because the right side eddyline is so violent and so powerful. I have been told by the rangers that the river immedately below Skull Rock has been plumbed to at least 200 feet deep. Sounds a little crazy, but I believe it - lots of water, soft rock. So take the current flow of 26K and push it though that narrow section -I bet the whirlpools go down a long long way.

I would tell any marginally experienced people in my group to hold on for the ride and that most whirlpools will spit you out after 10-20 seconds, though. And I'd tell them to hold onto that PFD if they go down. Jimi Snyder tells a story about getting on the eddyline behind the cheesegrater rock in Lava Falls. He said it ripped off his boat, PFD, and helmet. ugh!

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Old 05-24-2005   #13
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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It looks like there's some good advice in this thread...

I have to say that I've never boated WW above 10K, only swam it at that level and been given a preview of what it must be like at higher flows. There are stories of rafts being flipped on the eddy lines at big water. Last month at only about 8K I saw a competent kayaker buddy with a solid roll flipped and then swim on the Little D eddy line because the currents kept him from being able to roll back up.

When I swam WW at 10K I remember being held under, despite a Type V PFD (like the commercial rafters wear) for long periods, spun in vortices enough that centrifugal force pulled my arms out & watching the light get brighter and then dimmer as I came near the suface and then was pulled back under. There were other swimmers from the flip who puked water and were quite traumatized by the experience of being held under for such a long time. All had Type V PFDs which provide 25 lbs floatation.

My impression of WW at high flow is akin to an irregular, rock-lined culvert with a huge amount of water flushing violently through it very fast. The irregularities cause many whirlpools and vortices. I can easily imagine that one could get pulled under by a whirlpool, spit out at the bottom, and swept down to the next whirlpool and the process repeated without surfacing for air leading to flush drowning. Also remember that in the very fast moving water, rescuing a swimmer can temporarily divert an oarsman or kayaker's attention from hazards ahead and lead to cascading - more flips & swimmers from a blown rescue attempt.

Wetsuits & booties would have made a difference for folks as the cold water added to trauma but its hard to alleviate the feeling when you've been under a long time and think you're going to drown. The most traumatized were those least experienced with the power of moving water; fortunately most were in their 20s or early 30s and relatively fit.

Be safe, remember that you have a responsibility to inexperienced people you're bringing along, and don't feel embarrassed or ashamed about cancelling your high-water trip and crediting your permit fee to a later trip.

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 05-24-2005   #14
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Thanks Andy. Good advice.

But, if things are really that bad, how come there aren't more flush drownings on Westwater?

I'm planning on bringing my wife and kid on a Westwater trip on July 8, and the level may be 8000+. So, I'm concerned.
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Old 05-24-2005   #15
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Englewood, Colorado
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Originally Posted by cstork
But, if things are really that bad, how come there aren't more flush drownings on Westwater?
I would guess that it's b/c the high flow is relatively short-lived. A lot of folks probably stay away from it at peak flows, just like many other rivers.

At 8000, the eddylines aren't as bad as at the current levels. The catch is that many people feel the hole at Skull is at its worst at 8000. But Razor Rock is covered, so the line you're on is more open, which is nice, because that thar hole is big.

Cool that you're taking the family, and thinking about how they can enjoy the trip best.
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Old 05-24-2005   #16
Glenwood, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Is it really that bad?

I have a permit this weekend and we've got a few 14' rafts with experienced oarsmen and a couple of safety kayakers. I was feeling confident about the trip until I kept reading the messages on this post. Now people in my group are dropping out of the trip like flies. Has anyone out there actually rowed it at this level (approx 25,000)?
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Old 05-25-2005   #17
Join Date: May 2005
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I've done it about 20K and 30K. 30K is a gripping experience and enough to make me not want to do it again at that level. Once you get below Little D its an out-of-control train ride. The hydraulics are heavy and theres no eddies except very small ones - tough to catch. In the "Bowling Alley" below Funnel the hydraulics are heavy enough to stop your boat and pull the tubes under - its kind of nerve wracking. The wave coming off Shock Rock at Skull is enormous - you definitely want to stay left of it but theres a wave coming off the left side of skull about where Razor Rock is - you need to avoid it first. Wetsuits, dry suits, spray wear and high-float PFD's are all a must. But at least you won't have to worry about the flat water below Last Chance.
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Old 05-25-2005   #18
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Dillon, Colorado
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max flow this date

Did anybody else notice that the max flow for Westwater on 5/25 in the past 54 years was 64,200!
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Old 05-25-2005   #19
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 335
Our 1st permit for Westwater was in 96 or 97,my buddy Kevin and I show up with only the Dolores Slickrock ,gunny gorge low,the Blue,Deckers and Clear crk. thru I-SPGS. and maybe waterton on our resumes,he had rafted it as a kid and we had camped and cliff jumped out there so we thought we were good to go .We show up to ducky it at 37,000 cfs!The ranger said we could go ,but strongly recommended we didn't as we'd likely swim the whole thing if we flipped.He recommended we do the Hittle Bottom run about 10 miles below the takeout .This run is normally I-III- ,open canoeable,but after it picked up the Dolores it was ragin' over 40 k.It is by far the biggest water I've ever done,and some of the scariest,not technical but giant haystacks,1/4 to 1/2 mile long wave trains very powerful eddy lines /fences and boils all over the place, i was scared shitless the whole time praying not to swim,and i aint religious.A raft guide from Moab I met recently told me his co. runs this when westy's over 25 k and flushed out says it's safer and more fun at that level.Also the Utah guide book says Cloudburst rapid forms a big sur type wave at high flows,and this run has low water play spots a long season ,no permit.Consider it if Westy is too high.
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Old 05-26-2005   #20
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 42

Where is the section you're talking about? You say that it's 10 miles below Westwater... where is the take out? How long is it?

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