Late season Middle Fork - Mountain Buzz

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Old 02-09-2015   #1
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 794
Late season Middle Fork

I've read some of the threads on this in the past but would appreciate any new info. I have a post-lottery permit on Sept 6, which is ? 3 days after the end of the lottery. I would prefer to float the entire river, from Boundary Ck down, maybe if necessary flying some heavy stuff into Indian Ck.

I know there's a polished late season MF crew here - could you share your tips on what makes it work best? Small cats, such as my Sotar 12, or spread the weight with a larger one such as my Hyside 16? I've heard some say the big scows still do ok then, can't imagine that after seeing them on the Main.

Are there certain techniques that work best and is there usually a clearly defined channel or often a big, wide fan of shallow rocks? What to take to help get off rocks - is it generally just getting out and pushing or more of a ropes rescue deal - and what's the estimated level of danger? Do things ease up after Indian Ck?

Anyway, stuff like that. Anything you can offer as advice is appreciated. Might have some openings too.

I'm also considering adding a Main trip and continuing on down for a two weeker!


- Jon

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Old 02-09-2015   #2
slickhorn's Avatar
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 512
I've gone in Sept at 1.7' and loved it. low water means big beaches, and low water is beautiful water.

I ran a 12.5' sotar legend. It had all the group gear and cooler for a party of 7, everyone else paddled.

was really no trouble at all. I wouldn't consider missing the upper canyon, just be strategic. We skipped beer weight, and we filtered water rather than carry it all. That allowed us to have steaks and whiskey.
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Old 02-09-2015   #3
Dipshit with the most.
carvedog's Avatar
Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,819
slickhorn speaks truth.

I bring a large boat because.....that is what I have. There is a combo of wide fans of shallow rocks type places to get stuck and picket fences of large rocks.

If you "have" to bring lots of stuff bring a larger boat. Think pounds per square inch of tube on the water. If you can bring the little boat by trimming and doing a resupply if necessary you will likely be happy you are not pushing the highside through some of those slots. Just do it. However you do it.
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Old 02-09-2015   #4
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Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 512
one tip I remember from my low water trips: extra oar blades. Easy to go through a few in the shallow upper bits, especially when you are tired, out of patience, and start flailing and lever'ing with oars.

I never had to do anything more than hop out.

Run the tubes/floor a little soft to slide over things.

balanced, trim loads are key.

ask vets in your area what a good training run is. Here in Seattle, the Green Gorge will train you for the mfs ideally. go at 1100 to simulate 1.7'. Go at 4000 to simultate 6'. Bet there's something similar near you to dial in those short, shallow strokes.
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Old 02-09-2015   #5
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 88
Low water MFS

Have an Aug. 30th launch and launched several years ago on Sept. 1st. Small boats are nice, but an overloaded small boat is hard to maneuver and just as likely, or moreso, to get stuck than a similarly loaded bigger boat. Buddy took a 14 footer (7 foot width) and there were no problems with getting stuck in slots. You need to remember that a bigger boat with a similar load will ride higher in the water and thus, slide over more stuff that a smaller boat with a similar load will get stuck on. Keep your gear off the floor and run a soft floor. As for the tubes, different strokes for different folks. The one thing that I learned after the first day was this: don't try to run away from the small shit only to broadside a bigger rock. Point it and use inertia to plow over the small stuff. It is better to get out and push the boat straight over the small stuff than be broadsided on the bigger rock and have to start using vector pulls, or a pin kit, to get off.
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Old 02-09-2015   #6
pocatello, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 471
I have nothing to add to the old threads.

don't fly in
Go light
expect to get stuck
expect it to be some work
Expect it to be worth it
Don't panic when early river miles are hard to make

I've run small cats and big rafts and all in between. I prefer a medium cat or small raft. Whatever you own will work fine.

Soft tubes. Big smile. Dry flies

My only low water regrets:
brinigng a rower who was not prepared for techincal water
bringing a large group that necessitated heavier boats
choosing to avoid low water for a few years due to horror stories
Not having time for more trips
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Old 02-09-2015   #7
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Northern Utah, Utah
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 677
Take your cat down some low water Ark and Poudre runs and you'll have no problem with the low water MFS run. In fact, the Rustic sections of the Poudre remind me a lot of the first two days of the MFS at lower flows.
Most of my trips down the MFS have been low water. I've heard rafts float higher than cats but I've always used a cat and prefer them with no floor - makes it easy to slip off the seat into the shallows and lift/push using the front foot bar and then hop back up onto the seat once it's moving. It's also nice to be able to straddle some rocks here and there. All of the hangups I experienced were on smaller rocks and in the wide shallows where at times there is no good defined line. One trip we helped pull a commercial raft from Bozeman, MT off an ugly pin in Tappan Falls - we ended up cutting out part of the lace in floor and deflating some tubes, frame ended up bent - make sure you scout that one. Line is straight forward but at low flows there is (was? it's been a few years) a rock on river right that can snag you good. you.

I wouldn't skip the top 30 miles, especially that time of year - it's a fantastic run and you'll have it all to yourself. I doubt they run that late in the season, but watching a big sweep boat (raft) navigate the upper part in low water is a sight to see - lots of respect for the guys that run those.
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Old 02-10-2015   #8
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 88
Scows and Sweeps

Yep, they still run late season. One pushed off the morning of our last trip (Sept 1st) @ 1.84 ft. Figured if that thing could get down so could we. lots of inertia heading downriver in a 20+ foot scow.
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Old 02-10-2015   #9
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Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
I have done September trips for the past 5-6 years. We always fly in to Indian Creek. Two reasons....we are lazy and don't want to work that hard on the top, and we do 8 day trips with two layovers. So basically we are slackers who like to relax a lot.

It is easier after Indian Creek, but definitely not a piece of cake. Low water MF takes all of your attention on the oars pretty much all of the time. Not a leisurely float. If you're not paying attention you can get stuck just about anywhere. You usually can push your way off of a "get stuck" episode, but you definitely can get stuck in bad places that need a rope.

Run your tubes a little soft to "slime" over the rocks. I got stuck significantly more in my cat than in my raft. Boat design or user error? Who knows?

We bring the same amount of shit on the MF in September that we bring on any trip, but we are not big drinkers, so we don't have a ton of beer.

Shallows, rock gardens, chutes....the MF has it all in the fall. I've never broken an oar or blade, but bent a carlisle blade a little bit once. Friends have dinged blades a few times. Spares are good to have. The phrase "watch your downstream oar" was probably talking about the MF at low water.

We have always lucked out on weather. Never got snowed on. A little rain. Last year was sunny and mild to slightly cool. Lucked out and had the windy day on a layover. Great camps. Great fishing. Great scenery. Hot springs. FUN!!!!!

We launch from IC on Sept. 5th. Since we are slow farts, maybe you'll catch up to us. Green Maravia rafts & cats and one bright red, super cool Sotar raft.
"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 02-20-2015   #10
Hood River, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 86
This thread is full of great advice. If you have solid boaters and long days on the water are fine then launching from Boundary Creek will definitely be worth it. Here's a blog post I wrote with more advice about low water Middle Fork Trips.

Pro-Tip: Low Water Advice for the Middle Fork | Whitewater Guidebook
Zachary Collier
Northwest Rafting Company
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