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Old 04-26-2014   #1
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
Flush Release on Rio Chama

Could not make it out there.

If any of you locals got to make the run today, please give us stay at homea a trip report.

I have a number of runs down the Chama but not at this level.

Interested to know how the good lower section rapids changed with the high flow.

Much appreciate the information.

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Old 04-26-2014   #2
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 1
Chama was awesome at 2000 CFS. I have run it many times prior, but never at this level. Made for a nice, easy float. Rapids were nice, not much changed, just all the rocks you dodge were under water. Launched Thursday afternoon with 256CFS (BONEY!!), literally watched the water rise Friday morning while we ate breakfast and drank coffee. Was a nice surprise treat, and boy did it boat is FULL of debris.

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Old 04-27-2014   #3
manelson's Avatar
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 20
Chama Report

If you want to avoid my description, go to "Summary:"
I did the day run twice this weekend, Fri & Sat.
On Fri there were five of us who waited around, took our time, watched the river, kept asking "Do you think it's rising?" After meeting around 2:00, we finally put in at 5:30 pm.

The release at the El Vado station started ~8:30 to 9:00 am. We put in at 5:30 (Swinging Bridge) & got to gauging station at 6:30 with 1600 cfs. So the takeaway is for a 1,300 cfs increase it takes 8 to 9 hours for a large release from El Vado to reach the Swing Bridge put in. A little less if you put in at the Monastery.

The Fri float was great! We had to avoid logs, detritus, and other misc debris but we got to boof off of floating logs. As one person put it, "It's like Shiatsu on the bottom of my boat."

The Sat run's were great as well! We ran it once to get a feel for the river then ran it again and played a lot more.

Everyone who did this is class III or better & the boats for the two days were 4 play boats, 1 river-play, 1 river-runner. (note: multiple runs for same boats are not counted twice)

For both days, 1600 & 2000 cfs:
The wave trains (Skull Bridge, Confluence, Gauging Station, and Screaming Left Turn) are bigger. The holes have become good "just punch through" waves.

Delay from El Vado gauge to put in is 8 to 9 hours.

The play holes and waves are washed out. We tried catching a lot of waves on one of the runs but the water is to fast.

All your favorite eddies are gone. The water is too high for upstream attainment. Hence, the play wave at the confluence (right after Skull Bridge where the two forks come back) is not viable.

The wave trains have gone from class II to class III (don't reference this if you're a lawyer).

In general, for a class 3 to 4 boater:
at 1600 -> play boats are fine
at 2000 -> river-play boats are recommended: the play-boat flipped a lot.
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Old 04-28-2014   #4
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 30
Sorry that you couldn't make it, Oakie, It was a fun level!

From a rafting perspective:

The negative? The rapids were mostly washed out

The positives? It was MOVING through the flat sections (no rowing required, except when the wind was blowing upstream, as it likes to do), and of course the scenery was as spectacular as ever

IMO, the rapids were a little disappointing at this level (i'm fairly certain most of our run was around 2000 cfs). Less navigation required, as there were far fewer hazards to avoid, and no big wave trains to make up for the lack of rock dodging and add to the fun factor. Most of the rocks were underwater and any holes were washed out. In fact, I had an oar malfunction mid-way through gaging station, but the lack of one oar didn't really seem to affect my run at all. No steering required. The far left channel at screaming left was also running, no near-rock experiences required. Skull was basically a non-event, a class II wave train at best. We hardly got wet (except when it rained).

Still, it was really fun to see the river at this level and i think that moving water through the flat sections more than made up for the slightly less exciting rapids.

Take my report with a grain of salt, though. I have only run the chama around 600 cfs in my 12ft bucket boat, on Saturday i ran my new-to-me 14 SB so the ride was bound to be slightly less exciting anyways. The kayakers in my group also mentioned that all the good play waves were washed out at this level. We spent a bit of time debating what level would be the most fun- somewhere between 600 and 2000, i guess?
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Old 04-28-2014   #5
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
Much appreciate the trip reports.

I have been blessed with a lot of runs down this little gem of a stream usually in mid may. Not sure it will be there this mid May.

All my runs from the top and usually around 6 to 7 hundred cfs.

Must have been really nice not to have to sweat out the flat water at the Monastary!

Thanks for the reports !!!!
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Old 04-29-2014   #6
deadlizard's Avatar
peoria, Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 125
Ran it at 4500 on May of 2009

It was running at 6K while we rigged. All rapids that I remember were completely washed out. Seems like it was running 7-8 mph which meant we were only on-water an hour or so per day.

Rio Chama River - May 11, 2009 - El Vado Ranch to Big Eddy

Originally Posted by Jdubbs5 View Post
Chama was awesome at 2000 CFS. I have run it many times prior, but never at this level. Made for a nice, easy float. Rapids were nice, not much changed, just all the rocks you dodge were under water. Launched Thursday afternoon with 256CFS (BONEY!!), literally watched the water rise Friday morning while we ate breakfast and drank coffee. Was a nice surprise treat, and boy did it boat is FULL of debris.
We launch on May 6th with IK's. How boney was boney? Did you have to drag a lot? Was it mostly OK or was it one long boulder field?
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Old 04-29-2014   #7
lmyers's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
I drove down with my buddy Jackson Saturday. We got there at 11 and after setting shuttle (thanks Bigscott1!), launched at 3 pm. Flow was 1300. It started raining about 3 miles in and the temperature started dropping. Head winds were stiff. We had a difficult time making it to Tiger Wall before it switched to was a little difficult setting up my tent in the sleet, but we got camp set up.

Clouds broke long enough for sunset, but then it snowed off and on until about 5 am.

The storm started to break in the morning, and we got some blue sky for the prettiest part of the canyon.

Then the snow moved back in again...

Then it cleared out again.

We were told flow would be dropped to 300 at noon Sunday, but even after a hike of Chavez Canyon we couldn't tell a difference in flow. Overall a great trip.


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