Push Pole for Rafting - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-12-2015  
Yukon, Alabama
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 92
Push Pole for Rafting


Planning long Yukon River trip in 18 foot Sotar raft w/oars and small kicker. Concerned about running up on silt/sand bars. Have 3 Sawyer composite 11' 5" long oars including handles and blades. Considering taking a 4th (Carlisle) oar to be primarily used as a push pole and emergency spare/spare rowing oar. No experience using a push pole on large raft (didn't want to trash expensive blades).

For the push pole, I am envisioning either modifying/reinforcing a spare commercial blade for pushing - or to perhaps add an extension to the shaft with a more appropriate end for pushing (which would also give me some flexibility on length). For anyone experienced using push poles, I would appreciate your thoughts on the idea of using a spare/spare oar as a pusher and what would be an appropriate length.

P.S. - This raft with its inflatable floor floats high and will not be over-loaded. Not expecting to be poling a great deal, but like the idea of perhaps/maybe being able to work off a silt/sand bar without having to leave the raft. Many thanks.

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Old 01-13-2015  
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 491
How about making a detachable foot for the spare oar? Using the standard 12" Carlisle oar extension plus a push pole duck bill foot you easily make a piece that could swap with the standard oar blade.


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Old 01-13-2015  
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 358
Always seemed a good idea to me to carry 2 spares (required in the Grand), especially for remote trips. Watched someone break ALL their oars on the Dolores back in the late 70's, those were the days when used hose clamps and splints to get to camp, then glassed back together overnight... (wood oars, pre-Carlisle and Cataract and even Sawyer composites, although Smokers were just becoming popular).
You won't need any special tip/blade/end unless you stick to a cobble bar (rocky bottom) and manage to put the tip between rocks. I've had to pole raft and flotilla of rafts off sand bars on the Green and Colorado, usually find it's the spin-o-rama move that works best. A 10 or 11 foot oar is way more than necessary, canoe paddle usually works best (someone else's best of all, obviously...) - but in the end, you may find "someone" has to go overboard and lift/push/pull/curse. The colder the water and air temp, the more difficult to recruit "someone." If you're alone, just get it over with...
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Old 01-13-2015  
Yukon, Alabama
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 92
Many thanks folks.
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Old 01-13-2015  
East of the Pine beatle, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,385
I've owned a couple of flats skiffs and poled all over Florida and the Bahamas- a couple of things I can think of for you to consider:

My poles were 18 and 20' long, poling a 17 and 18' skiff respectively. To really pole a boat I think that height is somewhat important, in that you "walk" your hands up the pole to provide drive and the angle drops as you move along. An oar is going to be heavy as hell, have no spring, and be quite short for the task. You'll be shoving (once) more than actually poling your raft. The other big thing to consider is directional stability- you're going to spin like hell without any sort of keel to track the boat. Push and spin is no fun.....

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Old 01-13-2015  
wildh2onriver's Avatar
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,307
Push Pole for Rafting

Read the river, wear knee high boots. Drainers and feeders are what you're looking for. You'll want to identify the feeders, the channels that will allow you passage. Look for cut banks and domars. Lyman's book on the Alsek/tat is spot on regarding how to avoid this.

Never rafted the Yukon, that said, I've been on several trips in ak. Never once did I get stuck. Not Yet anyway.

Just an opinion. Fwiw.

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Old 01-14-2015  
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Newman Lake, Washington
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 155
I paddled the Mackenzie River many moons ago when I was 16 in a huge wooden canoe with two other people. I don't know if the Yukon is the same, but some of the mudflats were hundreds of yards from the bank and they were too shallow for our canoe. It always seemed like the wind would push you into the mud flats and it could really come up quick.

We also had a kicker motor and it saved our butts a couple times when the wind came up. It failed to start one time and the wind blew us into the flats, where we were almost completely swamped by the wind blown whitecaps before we could get the motor started.

The highlight of the trip was seeing the Arctic Ocean and seeing polar bear cub footprints in the wet sand that were almost the size of dinner plates. Momma bear's prints were huge and there was no tree to climb for a hundred miles. I still get goose bumps thinking of that.

Have fun!
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