RRFW Riverwire – 50th Anniversary of Kirschbaum Kayak Run - Mountain Buzz

Go Back   Mountain Buzz > Whitewater Boating > Whitewater Kayaking

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-29-2010   #1
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 920
RRFW Riverwire – 50th Anniversary of Kirschbaum Kayak Run

RRFW Riverwire – 50th Anniversary of Kirschbaum Kayak Run
June 29, 2010

Fifty years ago this June, Walter Kirschbaum piloted his homemade fiberglass kayak on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Kirschbaum was the first paddler to kayak the entire Canyon running all the river’s rapids.

Kirschbaum learned to kayak in his homeland of Germany, and raced his boats before he began to enjoy exploring remote rivers more than he enjoyed racing. In 1953, Kirschbaum won the Kayak Slalom World Championship.

Obtaining a permit to paddle Grand Canyon required, as Kirschbaum put it, “rather rugged methods”, including a thirty minute shouting match between Grand Canyon National Park Ranger Dan Davis and Kirschbaum’s attorney friend Ty Dines.

One of Davis’s requirements of Kirschbaum to get a permit was that he kayak Cataract Canyon. After successfully running Cataract Canyon, which Kirschbaum noted required “more skill in dodging rocks than any rapid in the Grand Canyon at 40,000 second feet” Kirschbaum received a permit from Davis to kayak the river.

Walter and his wife Ruth built the fourteen foot long by nineteen inch wide fiberglass kayak in their attic in Denver Colorado, lowering it out the attic window once it was done.

Accompanying Kirschbaum were Dines in his freight canoe with an 18 horsepower outboard, and Ted Hatch, running a motorized pontoon boat with six selected passengers.

In order to keep up with the motor boats, Kirschbaum would head out of camp before the others, and would wait for their company at major rapids.

While making a right to left run at Hance Rapid, all went well until Kirschbaum was rolled over in the rapid’s tailwaves. Sucked out of his kayak and stripped of his paddle by a powerful whirlpool, Kirschbaum swam through the “pleasantly warm” (pre-dam) river water to his kayak where he retrieved his spare paddle off the back of his boat.

With new paddle in hand, Kirschbaum rode his upside down kayak to a small beach where he bailed out his boat, then gave chase for his paddle. Once he caught up to his paddle, he pulled to shore and waited for the other two boats.

Dan Davis had asked Kirschbaum to portage Lava Falls, but Kirschbaum ran it left of the Ledge Hole, and found it an easier run then “many another rapid in the Grand”. What troubled him most was eating his way through most of his food by day three.

Kirschbaum went on to run other sections of the Colorado River, including the first kayak runs of Gore Canyon, Cross Mountain of the Yampa, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Kirschbaum’s boat had no foot or thigh braces, and no seat, as he believed that to use more than what he considered the minimum of equipment was a sacrilegious insult to the natural purity of the canyons he so loved.

While Walter Kirschbaum tragically died in New Mexico in 1972, River Runners for Wilderness is proud to honor his legacy of river running, noting kayakers still ply the Colorado River in Grand Canyon to this day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~
RIVERWIRE is a free service to the community of river lovers from River Runners for Wilderness. To join, send an e-mail address to [email protected] and we'll add it to the RRFW RIVERWIRE e-mail alerts list.

Join RRFW’s listserver to stay abreast of and participate in the latest river issues. It’s as easy as sending a blank e-mail to [email protected].

Check out RRFW’s Rafting Grand Canyon Wiki for free information on DIY Grand Canyon rafting info Rafting Grand Canyon

Check out new items and donate at RRFW Store! RRFW is a non-profit project of Living Rivers.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

Tom Martin is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old 06-30-2010   #2
Randaddy's Avatar
Eastern Slope, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,466
That made my morning cup of coffee much more interesting than reading about lost paddles and camping problems. Thanks Tom!
Randaddy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-30-2010   #3
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,107
Cool post Tom. Kirschbaum is certainly one of the original badasses. His namesake rapid on gore is one of my personal favorites. Can't imagine running that in some old fiberglass boat with next to no outfitting!
deepsouthpaddler is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Topic Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
RRFW Riverwire – RRFW Attorney Argues Case in 9th Circuit Court Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 2 06-18-2009 09:56 PM
RRFW Riverwire See You In Court! Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 0 05-29-2009 09:02 AM
RRFW Riverwire – Judge Issues Court Ruling in RRFW Case Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 0 11-30-2007 08:37 PM
RRFW Riverwire - RRFW REJECTS LAWSUIT INTERVENTION ATTEMPTS Tom Martin Whitewater Kayaking 8 08-09-2006 06:18 PM
Announcing AW's 50th Anniversary Gala Event awben Whitewater Kayaking 0 11-20-2003 05:01 PM

» Classified Ads
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:16 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.