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Old 02-11-2015   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 3
Newb oarsmen on Deso in July?

Hey gang,

What do y'all thing of having a completely new captain on a Deso trip in July?

Here's some background: If we get permit (knock knock), there's two of us with decent rafting experience, mostly day guiding. I want to add a third boat to spread the fun around. Potential captain has never guided a raft before. The group as a whole has considerable backcountry experience, so I'm not really worried about that part, mostly the rapids.

This plan seams reasonable to me. I just want to make sure I'm not being irresponsible. Thoughts?

dbertolad is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-2015   #2
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 149
Deso is a good place for newbs if you're willing to coach them, and scout the few trickier rapids that you might not normally scout. There are some rocks and stuff to get stuck on, but its all pretty straightforward.

I would highly recommend a day trip on the Moab Daily or Green River Daily or other class II run beforehand, though, to get familiar with the oars and make sure the boat is set up correctly for them. While it seems odd to me, there are some people who really just don't get the basic mechanics of rowing, and you'll want to make sure they're not one of those people and/or help them get the basics down before you commit to a long trip.

benR is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-2015   #3
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 102
Deso is pretty simple to read and run every rapid...he will be fine. Plenty of time to learn how to row in the first 30 miles before there are "rapids"

July will be rocky so I would have him run in the middle instead of last in case he wraps or gets pinned/stuck.
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Old 02-12-2015   #4
Montrose, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 128
Seconding what others say. Deso is the perfect trip to start a newb on. Many miles of practice before hitting any riffles. Teach them the basics. Make them practice getting the raft turned so they don't have to think about adjustments when it matters. Scout the bigger rapids like Hutch, 3 fords etc and make sure you talk to them while scouting. They will be ready to run the Grand Canyon by the time you are done.

If you can get them on a short day trip on easy stuff ahead of time do so, but otherwise go for it.
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Old 02-12-2015   #5
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,120
We had a rookie on the oars a few years ago. He did great. His passenger opted to walk Joe Hutch and watch from shore. He ran it just fine, and she wished she had stayed in the boat for the fun. Deso is a good "step up" trip for rookies, as long as they are level-headed and good listeners.
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
Australian Aboriginal Proverb
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Old 02-12-2015   #6
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 130
I'm planning to do Deso as a newbie too. Maybe "low intermediate", my only experience being Rogue, where I rowed about half the rapids but not Blossom, and the main Salmon (down to Riggins) on low September water. I'm thinking to do Deso in September too. I kind of have the impression it will be a slight step down, if anything, from the Salmon, but I really want to go there anyhow - I definitely prefer desert rivers.

I imagine Deso water is higher in July though. FWIW for your friend, on the Salmon the trickiest things for me were: learning to conserve my energy on the longer days, the key being to use little strokes that I could do continuously, rather than bigger strokes and then rests. And paying attention even in the flat water, because the water was low enough that rocks were everywhere, and I'd occasionally get hung and then have to burn a bunch of energy getting un-stuck. Of course we scouted more rapids than my two highly-experienced fellow boatmen would have done alone (IIRC, Black Creek, Bailey, Elkhorn Rock, Vinegar Creek, and Lake Creek) and I actually ran those the cleanest.
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Old 02-12-2015   #7
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Can be a great trip for beginners. 30-ish miles of flat water and easy riffles. I wouldn't advise read and run for several of the rapids for someone with absolutely no experience. I would recommend a scout of: Steer Ridge, Joe Hutch, Wire Fence/Three Fords (together), and maybe Coal. Learning to read water effectively and fluently comes with watching rapids a lot and the view from a raft is vastly different than that from shore.

Someone else mentioned it and its worth repeating: Desolation will challenge the endurance of a beginner so its worth having secondary oars people to swap out during the flat water. Its a long 88 river miles on a good day and can be down right epic with wind.

It seems people either love or hate Desolation Canyon. Its not so much a classic "whitewater" trip so much as a desert float trip with rapids. If people are stoked on wilderness camping, hiking and floating they tend to love it. If they are after technical rapids and are picturing Main Salmon type whitewater they tend to leave a little deflated. I love it and float it every year. It was the second river I floated and learned a lot.

I hope ya'll have a great trip.

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Old 02-12-2015   #8
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
Schutzie will take a bit narrower view. It's true that Deso is a great beginners river; the rapids aren't that technical and getting into trouble isn't generally a life or death situation. The worst you can expect will be getting unstuck, or having to patch a boat.
The other side though is that Deso is 88 miles with little or no current, hot, buggy at times and very windy. Sticking a newbie on the oars in that environment might lead to mutiny and dissension. You might discover that your new guy has decided a better course is to just ................ not.
Leaving you with an extra boat.

Not saying don't, I'm saying you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with your new guide and make sure they understand exactly what they have signed up for and most importantly, that there is no crying (or quitting) in rafting.
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Old 02-12-2015   #9
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 102
Get the nice map for your rookie not the crappy Belknap one. The problem of him getting sick of rowing is more likely than having issues with rapids.
RiverMaps Green River in Desolation & Gray Canyons Guide Book at
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Old 02-13-2015   #10
Vail, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 46
Rapids won't be an issue in July, the mosquitoes and wind will be.

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