Not to be a downer, but that slowly acquired gear could disappear real fast if you go out and paddle right now without a combat roll. Wherever you go, the water's going to be very swift and even on the flatwater, moving very fast for someone that doesn't have skills developed yet for paddling or swimming. I've taken a novice out on flatwater at high water and the ripping fast water was still pretty scary for them.
Folks may disagree with me, but frankly, the mountain biking will be good for the next few weeks until the flows drop; right now things are going off bigger than most years. Then you'll have until October to practice on great beginner runs.
Welcome to the Buzz, get in contact with Colorado Whitewater and get into their novice program.
Be safe and have fun,
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