Northgate Canyon Beta??? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 04-16-2007   #1
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 274
Northgate Canyon Beta???

Who has run Northgate Canyon?? How is it for a novice to intermediate oarsman? Are the significant rapids straight forward??

Any beta on Windy Hole, Cowpie, Narrow Falls, Tootsie Roll and Stovepipe is greatly appreciated....

Thinking about a trip in late may...

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Old 04-16-2007   #2
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 105
If you're a novice, don't do it.

It's a remote wilderness run with cold, fast water. At higher flows, it can (and does) flip rafts. Through the crux stretch, it's pretty continuous and it can be hard to see very far ahead. If you flip, then what? How many passengers will you have? How will they react to a swim?

Let's say that you're rowing a fairly heavily loaded boat, the flow is 2000 cfs or thereabouts, and you're water-reading skills aren't all that great yet. You could easily find yourself sideways in a hole big enough to flip you. Or up against a wall with a lateral that could roll you over.

I hate to be negative, but I think that there are better places to learn, with fewer consequences. And I wouldn't want to be the one to sandbag you.

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Old 04-16-2007   #3
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 20
Measuring the level of difficulty is always going to be subjective and pretty dependent on that person's experience. That said, personally, I don't think it would be all that hard for someone who knows how to read water and has worked the oars a few times before to do. If it is your first time, I would recommend that you go with other boaters that have run it before because, as Alan mentioned in the previous response, it is away from the road and not the easiest place to get help on the fly if you need it.

As far as the level is concerned, I would say at least 1200+ for a 14ft boat, anything less would probably be too boney. I've gone down it as low as 900 in a 12ft boat and that really wasn't a whole lot of fun...

In reference to your question about the specific rapids, here's what I remember from last year. Most of the rapids are concentrated towards the end of the run (if you're just doing the day run) On that section (Which I think starts with Cowpie) you weave around a few rocks for a few hundred meters and then you come to a more tightly constricted section (which I think is Narrow Falls, I could be wrong about these names) where the river turns to the right. At lower water, there is a rock in the center of the run, if you do it over 1000 though, it won't be a problem. On this one I remember starting out in the center and moving towards the right. The last one that I remember (Stovepipe I believe) is a straightforward shot down the center, with the take out about 200 meters further down on river left.
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Old 04-16-2007   #4
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
I used to guide on that stretch. Not for beginners. You should be well versed on read-and-run III+/IV.

Narrow Falls is the mean one. You can scout on river-right. If you flip and have swimmers they will wash into the wall that has an undercut. Had seasoned guide lose control going in at 2500. He got the brunt of the pain, and was aware of the undercut, and swam away hard.

I'd say you should be able to navigate Bridges (on Poudre) at 3.5 - 4 comfortably before attempting.

We used to do private training runs in paddle boats starting above Pineview to get us ready for Northgate.

If you do go keep the following in mind:

It is cold water, and most of the run is in a canyon so don't count on the sun to warm you up.

If you get into real trouble there is a guest ranch called the A Bar A. I never had a need to get a hold of them, but they are the closest help. Check Google Maps/Earth for info.

The take-out is river-left behind a small island after the best wave train on the run. It can be tricky to catch if you aren't aware.

Save some energy for the 1/4 mile hike up a steep hill at the take-out.

You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 04-16-2007   #5
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Geologist, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 615
That sounds like a pretty good run. I thought it was more like a class III run. I am going to be in the area in the beginning of June and will consider it if the water is high.
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Old 04-16-2007   #6
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 274
Thanks for the beta and I appreciate the caution. Let me explain further.

It will be a mixed trip with several oarsmen. One of who is a novice on class III water but has experience on II and a fair amount of water reading experience. Other members on the trip have intermediate to advanced skills on IV.

Would it be a reasonable run at moderate flows 1000 cfs for a new class III oarsman to get broken in?
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Old 04-16-2007   #7
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
Jonny water --

It is a great run, if you get it right, last two weeks in May first two weeks in June is the season. Anytime in there you could expect to see it around 3,000. I would consider Narrow Falls IV at anything about 1,500 but that is just me.

rsmiller --

I would not let a class II oarsman down the meat of the canyon. There are several must make moves for an raft.

If you plan on a fleet of oarboats, my suggestion would be, sac one boat, switch off oaring between solid oarsman (in the meat) and newbee on the easier stuff.

I wouldn't send a raft of any kind down Northgate any lower than 1,000cfs. It will be extremely boney and difficult to navigate from 1,000 to 1,300. Things start to get better at 1,500.

If you want to get the guy some good experience and let the others have a great run you'll be looking for a flow of 1,800 - 2,000. The more water you get, the more the IV boaters will love it and the less the new guy will be able to do.
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 04-16-2007   #8
Gnarnia, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 659
rockinrio - are you saying that you should be able to row Bridges at 3.5-4 before trying Northgate? Or are you talking about guiding paddle rafts down Bridges at that level as the test for Northgate?
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Old 04-17-2007   #9
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231

I'd say as long as you can pilot a raft down Bridges with either a paddle crew or rig you'd have the skills.

We always trained to be able to guide the boat full of lily-dippers, so I'd say if you can guide a paddle boat with just your guide stick you'd have no trouble knowing what to do with the oars.

The big thing is the move(s) through Killer Bridge are similar to the moves through Narrow Falls (I think Narrow Falls is well... narrower, and pushier comparatively). You have a river center obstacle that you need to move past from river right to river left. The difference would be if you're not lined up at Killer Bridge you'll get wrapped, on Narrows you'll get flipped and pushed into the undercut wall.

I've seen oar rigs on Bridges (admittedly not many).

It is just my opinion, I'm not trying to write a guide book or anything
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 04-17-2007   #10
gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 394
wow, I dont think I have ever seen a group of rafters take -anything- this seriously .. let alone rafting .. now I kinda want to go run it.
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