High Water Cat - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-07-2011   #1
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,008
High Water Cat


I've heard that this year, the Canyonlands NP may not be running its traditional "catch and release" operations based out of a camp at Ten Cent -- something they typically do if it gets above 50k cfs. If they didn't do that, evidently roving patrols would be used instead, with river personnel responding to calls as they arose -- presumably only the most serious cases.

I'm not going to be out there for the runoff, so it won't impact me. In fact, I'm way past the point where I'd boat Cat at high water anyway.

But I'm curious as to what folks think about the Park staging what is essentially a continuous rescue crew below the Big Drops, versus letting folks self-rescue during really high water.


Rich Phillips

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Old 05-07-2011   #2
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Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
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Hi Rich. I've often wondered about that program too. On the one hand, it is wilderness, so folks should be on their own. On the other hand, Cat at HW flips so many boats and the swim can be so long that one wonders what the fatality rate is/was/will be and, if NPS has statistics on that, they may be faced with a tough choice. Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, or not, depending how you look at it.

I'm with you tho, past my prime days of seeking out adreniline high water.

Maybe see you at WW this fall?
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Old 05-07-2011   #3
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Hi Buck,

I see a couple of other angles as well.

The Park will be responding from Moab or thereabouts. If they go via Hite, it's a long way just to get to the water, then a hefty upriver run, including some now-respectable rapids. Not very time-efficient in a genuine emergency. Yeah, choppers are an option, but there are problems with that as well.

And of course if they go via a Potash launch, then they are incurring some personal risk in running the rapids themselves. These are pretty big boats in the hands of experienced rangers, but there still is a risk to them at high water. Is this increased risk justifiable when having a fixed camp at Ten Cent would likely reduce the number of high water runs the Park staff would be making?

I'm sure others will chime in as well, and yup, I might swing through WW next August on the way to the Grand.

Hang in there.

Rich Phillips
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Old 05-07-2011   #4
Crested Butte, Colorado
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I've had the pleasure of being helped out by the park service below big drop 3. I took a long swim, but easy swim after flipping at big drop 2/3. It was nice to have them around, and they offered me a ride back up to my boat, which was still in the eddy above satans gut.
The swim below the big drops is pretty mellow and not likely to cause flush drownings, but I'll take the help any day. I hope they get to continue the program of hi water safety boaters. It would take all day for them to respond to a call at the big drops all the way from moab.
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Old 05-07-2011   #5
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Grand Junction, Colorado
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Hi Rich, CB. One last factor is getting notice out. In 88' my brother broke his left tib/fib at Cross Canyon. We tried radio, flare, signal marker, mirror, whistle, singing songs, etc., but in the end just getting a boat down to Hite to a phone was what worked. We got a chopper in just before dark, but it was all day just to get word of an accident out. In 04' I broke my right humerus in No. 3. My buddy Tim hiked out at Imperial and got high enough to get cell service. Again, got a chopper in but it took all day.

But, nonetheless, if one is not prepared to deal with disaster in the wilds, one should probably not go, or go with a guide, and so on.

Funny how we mellow with age. Seems universal.

Let me know if there is space on one of your Grand trips someday. (grin)

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Old 05-07-2011   #6
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i have always wondered why they did that at all. there just doesnt seem to be that many big water fatalities on the incident reports on the website. maybe thats why. i wonder what year they implemented that? do they do that anywhere else??

you sign up for a big water cat and you had better be ready to deal with all that comes with that. everyone knows its huge, unpredictable, remote and flips lots of great boaters regularly.

A guy died on a friends cat trip a couple years back at 55k. flipped in little niagra and flush drown somewhere above imperial eddy where the trip found him dead. the nps boats werent there til the next wk. who knows if he would have been saved or not. lots of flipped boats and lots of swimmers. cant catch em all.

my question is, why stop now. they just implemented the $20 a head fee along with the existing pemit fee. if they could afford it at $30 a trip for the last x years why not $50-$630? is it a money thing or what?

if they have to respond from moab everyday wont that cost more and be completely uneffective. if rangers are on call to respond from moab daily why not have them set up at ten cent and save everyone a lot of money hassle and actually still be able to help. I mean really, if there is a real issue at the drops all they are gonna do from moab is help with a body recovery, and at those flows they may not have to uprun very far to do that by the time they get word.

having rangers uprunning big shit below the drops or blasting down in a hurry certainly seems risky. maybe they want the thrill. maybe they are tired of spinning around in that damn eddy. who knows?
zach baird
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Old 05-08-2011   #7
Westminster, Colorado
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Last I heard was that they were gearing up to do another year - not cancel. ???
As for the philisophic question, I think it is too much like a water park with lifeguards to have (NPS) pre-positioned rescue in place.
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