Mid-Atlantic Vs. Colorado Boating - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-18-2014   #1
Somewhere in, Virginia
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 2
Mid-Atlantic Vs. Colorado Boating

Hey kayakers,

I'm considering a relocation to Denver, Colorado area from the Mid-Atlantic. What are people's thoughts on the trades on such things as access, quality, community, and style of boating between these two areas?

Additional questions: How often is it that there is a really short season in Co in a given year if there is little snow?

How far do people normally drive for the class 3 up to 4/5 classics? Seems like there is actually a lot within a 2-3 hours of Denver?

Do you find the rivers to be graded different out there? Part of the reason I ask is so I have some sort of gauge when checking things out on AW.

And if you feel like adding something... what do most boaters do in the off-season?

I already posted the same thing on boatertalk, which is a kayak forum focusing more on East-coasters, and of course most said they prefer the Mid-Atlantic, citing the year-round season, variety, and quality runs like the Gauley and Yough. They had great reasons, but I figured I would address the bias and let Colorado speak for itself.

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Old 03-18-2014   #2
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,753
I grew up in North Ga and learned to boat in that section from N Ga along the TN Carolina border then further up toward W VA etc.

Then moved here to OK Tulsa area and started heading west mainly to Salida - BV area and south into Taos area. Now spend a lot of time out west from AZ in the early spring, NM later on, then BV /Salida and if lucky trips up to MT.

There are differences and both East and West areas are awesome places to boat.

A decent boater from that Smokies area will do well in the Rockies but there was an acclimation period for me to the rockies.

Water in the Rockies is cold even in the spring to summer months and to me even the creeks current seems more powerful than what I grew up with in the Smokies.

Combine the really cold water, steep and fast currents of the Rockies and for me at least it takes a while to get accustomed. I really did not have much cold weather paddle gear till I moved West of the Mississippi as we were spoiled with the year around rain fall of the Southern Appalachians Mountains.

Being retired I can now drive to both areas depending on the season and that is truly the best of both worlds.

Hard to beat living anywhere along that TN - Carolina line for access to awesome boating. Great boating from Denver but shorter season. But and this is major - you got down hill and cross country ski to do out of Denver and Rocky Mountain Park is the Smokies on steroids. I do not think you will be disappointed living in Denver. Except that Denver after work and week end traffic to and from the good recreation areas can be nerve racking.
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Old 03-18-2014   #3
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 818
Gore and Bailey (dam releases) are the only reason that Denver is livable as a 4-5 kayaker. Without those runs, you are looking at a 2-3 month season. With them, its more like 6-7 months, just with a lot of repetition. Livable, but not Hood River.
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Old 03-18-2014   #4
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Denver,, exhaustion
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 579
waterton (3 to 3+) and the ark (2-4) are boatable now and will remain so until late December..... if you are ok with low flows early and late.

we will start boating the Poudre out of ft. co in about a month and normally stop septemberish.

the Big T normally flows in november.

then when it starts flowing you have clear creek (2-5), boulder creek (3-4+), Bailey, the St. Vrains, the Poudre is probably one of the most under rated rivers period... and many many more.

then when it starts to dry up Ian arranges for great flows and an awesome party and we have Bailey Fest.

we have gone years without missing a month of paddling. you may have to work for it.... and be willing to ELF but there are plenty of things and rivers to hit with good flows as well.

I will say that kayakers that i have boated with from back east seem to all say the same thing... that it is way more continuos here.
"We should restore the practice of dueling. It might improve manners around here" -Edward Abbey
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Old 03-19-2014   #5
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Golden, CO
Paddling Since: 1856
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 339
I am from PA so I have some perspective. Other than the snow melt months (may, June July) you will have no where near the paddling opportunities of the mid-atlantic region (W. VA, MD, PA etc.). We just don't get enough rain and scheduled recreational dam releases are almost non-existent.

On the other hand, Colorado is usually dry and sunny which makes it a pleasant place to live. You don't have to deal with weeks of rainy weather or the high humidity in the summer. The skiing is excellent and you can't beat the scenery. Not a great place for a hard core year-round kayaker, though.
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Old 03-19-2014   #6
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 222
When i lived in the Yough river area i boated alot. When i moved to Colorado (summit county) i started mt biking alot.
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Old 03-19-2014   #7
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,753
"On the other hand, Colorado is usually dry and sunny which makes it a pleasant place to live. You don't have to deal with weeks of rainy weather or the high humidity in the summer."

FrankC makes a great point with the statement above.

I remember boating in the Smokies and it is great boating for sure.

The humidity thing in the Smokies tho is for real. Some times you can get to camp hang our your wet gear and it will still be damp next am when you suit up. I can also remember many nights in the tent when no rain outside but dripping water from inside the tent. The answer is to sleep under a tarp to avoid the dew but lots of air flow. I put up a tent or tarp on most camp trips in the Smokies just in case.

In the rockies, it is pretty common to hit the take out, hang gear in the sun and it will be dry while you wait for the shuttle. Rare to have damp mouldy gear in the morning. Not much time in the AM morning for what little dew you get on a tent to dry out. Sleeping under the stars in the Rockies is a pretty common thing. I rarely pitch my tent unless I see a storm coming in. Storms are usually big time wind, rain, lightning etc but for the most part don't last that long. Monsoon season in the BV area has almost on schedule short afternoon showers but ground dries out real quick and you continue on having fun.

Not a big deal but FrankC makes a good point!
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Old 03-19-2014   #8
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Mountains on the river!!!, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 703
Having lived and paddled in Colorado most my life, and now living in S. Jersey the past two years, I would gladly go back to CO. For more reasons that just paddling, but that said, having close rivers to paddle most the year is great. A 6 hour drive, will take you to the other side of the state and have countless I-V creeks and rivers to paddle. Unlike this area where a 3 hr drive will get me limited to no paddling.

There is always something to paddle, all year long if your willing. I've paddled at least one day a month for over 5 years straight. Shoshone always has water, gore - find Banks or Dent, they paddle it non-stop until its completely frozen over.

You wont find the warm rain water the east has though, get a dry suit, you'll need it, especially for class V.

And when things are running low in the fall, its a good time to go see family and head for an eastern release event. Or a far shorter drive to the Pac NW which is again, running most of the year. You'll want a drysuit up there as well, even with rain! Or, do some overnight trips in the desert and head for Utah, plenty to paddle there well into the winter months.
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Old 03-19-2014   #9
Evergreen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2011
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In my opinion, kayaking is better where you're at. However, almost everything else is better in CO...with the exceptions of green grass and the ocean.
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Old 03-19-2014   #10
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 124
I learned to boat in the PA, WV, MD area (had a couple days where I did one run in each state in one day). I moved to Denver in 2011 and haven't looked back but I have to say that the boating where I boated kinda wins over Denver. That being said, there are plenty of other reasons I won't move back (snowboarding being one reason) but the boating doesn't quite win.

In the Mid-Atlantic, I boated every single month of the year on decent flows. Either the Yough, the Cheat, or the Potomac, something always was running decently. And if you chased rain a bit, you could boat something out of the ordinary every month of the year.

In Denver, you have about 2 months of decent flow for everything in the spring when you are out of paddling shape but want to paddle everything. And then you have 6 months where you'll drive 2-4 hours for one of 5 options (Waterton/Foxton (if they release), Bailey (if they release), Poudre, Gore Canyon, or the Ark) and then you have 4 months where the only paddling is 4 hours away in Glenwood Springs and is a short class 2/3.

As for difficulty, I usually say they are similar in difficulty, but you can't stop in Colorado so your roll better be bomber. Back east, I'd take people on class 3 their second time in a kayak because it was pool drop and they'd run the rapid, swim and we'd get them back in their boat at the bottom of the rapid. No big deal. Out west, class 3 usually doesn't stop (especially for beginners who have trouble boat scouting and catching eddies on the fly) until you grab a tree root or branch.
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