Rafting Desolation Canyon - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-07-2006   #1
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2
Rafting Desolation Canyon

I'm rafting Deso in August with little children on a sixteen foot cat and I'm wondering what might be the lines for the class threes and if there's a way to walk the little ones around them. Any other info would also be appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 06-07-2006   #2
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 20
I ran Deso last year in July, also in a 16ft Cat and I don't think that you have anything to worry about. On the majority of the "IIIs" I could have (and did) let the oars go and floated through just fine. In August, at a lower level, you may have to make one move but there is really nothing to be overly concearned about... make sure to bring plenty of bug juice though, the mosquitos are pretty bad for the first two days...
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Old 06-07-2006   #3
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Hmm, did this a bunch of years ago in 6 nights(?) with 2 kids, wife and bro-in-law on a 17' cat with a sit on top and a kayak for whoever to dink around in the flatwater. Rest of the time we piled them on the tips.

We were a pigged out boat and not terribly experienced, but as the oarhead, I didn't think any of the rapids were scary or dangerous. Some bouncy wavetrains. Some rocks to avoid. Pretty obvious.

Tom Rampton's book has very detailed descriptions at different flows and I think maybe his website has GPS data.

Here are the notes scrawled in my guidebook.

Nice petroglyphs at mile 80, Rock House Bottom.
Steer Ridge Rapid, mile 56.5, big debris pile at the top, we eddied out RR and left kayaks to run down later (trail down RR to the beach below). The run is far RL and then you have to pull hard RR to an excellent camp just below the rapid.
Rock Creek at mile 54 has good water and a really nice hike to old farm ruin along the meadow.
Belknap Falls, mile 49, big hole on the right.
Mile 37.4 Nice camp.
Mile 37 Wire Fence Rapid, nice camp. You can scout hike down and scout Three Fords from here. Run Wire Fence to the left. Some say it's a good rapid to swim.
Three Fords, mile 36.6, run is right, can scout from eddy before drop. You will see the tongue. At 3000 cfs, it was exciting but easy to pull off any rocks.
Rattlesnake Rapid, mile 22.5. Nice camp RL below rapid. Cool hike across the river, upstream and into School Section Canyon. Other camp RR above the rapid in the tammies.

Have a blast.
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Old 06-08-2006   #4
Colorado Springs Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 254
Deso is a pretty ideal family run once you get past the swarms of bugs at the put-in. Plan on putting in a big mile day on your first day. The farther downstream you can get the happier the kids (and adults) will be.

Bear are frequently seen around Rock Creek with a couple of maulings to river runners. We had a bear wandering around our camp. Use common bear avoidance procedures.

There are a couple of places in the bigger rapids where you'd rather not be with kids. All are easy to avoid with scouting.

The airplane shuttle is beautiful. Draw straws for that one if you go that route.
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Old 06-08-2006   #5
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 43

deso is a great float for kids. we used to do it all the time with our boys, first in a 13 ft. otter and then with a 16' cat. we're going back this year but the oldest will be kayaking now.

everything can be walked around but i don't think you'll have to; it's all straight forward and pretty easy. you'll have to work pretty hard to get more than splashed. we always took a look at steer ridge and three fords. mostly to see where you can get the best ride or in low water for which rocks are going to be gone over. mostly the boys kept hollering for bigger water. great camping beaches, cat fishing for kids and wonderful warm water swimming.

not sure what kind of flows you'll have by then. in higher water it may be more of a concern but in august, heat, low flows and wind are the big complications. i don't think at low levels there's a class 3 on the run save for coal creek which is only that because you have to make a move (or two) to avoid rocks. after we ran it at 800 cfs my youngest said he thought we should name it "jesus christ," rapid because that's what i kept saying all the way through it.

touch base with the rangers in jensen about the bears. our last trip we saw three at a distance but had no troubles although we did move camp once just to avoid the same side of the river. camp, cook and store food as if in yellowstone.


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Old 06-08-2006   #6
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 7
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My group just rafted Deso from June 2-6. We had two families with a total of 6 girls between the ages of 5 and 14. The rapids were exciting for our group but not too difficult. My 5 year old daughter slept on the cooler pad for quite a few of the rapids.

For more detailed information, you should check out the utahrafters Yahoo group.

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Old 06-02-2008   #7
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 7
Desolation in August

Just completed a seven day trip through Desolation 5/18 thru 5/24. We had four IKs and no raft support. River flow doubled that week from around 10k to over 20k. Waves were big but rapids were very straight forward at these levels. As a first trip we had some concerns about finding the right lines and followed some other parties through the harder rapids: Three Fords, Wire Fence, Coal Creek. You'll have a few more rocks to dodge at lower levels, but should not have any real trouble. Descriptions and tips in the Rampton guide appeared to be accurate.

One thing everyone agreed on was the importance of going right after Steer Ridge Rapid to avoid the flipper hole in Surprise Rapid just below. This is easily accomplished. No worries. have fun.
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Old 06-02-2008   #8
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 257
Agree with most of the above. I've run Deso 12 times, and the only rapid I look at is Coal Creek. Long rocky entrance and a ledge pourover at the main drop that can be an issue at flows 1500-3000. It's not difficult, but worth a look to get your line. It'd be a very long afternoon to walk anyone around Coal Creek, and there's really no need.

Stay left at Wire Fence, hit the drop straight, not much to it.

Three Fords is usually the kickiest rapid - it's worth a look if you've never done it, and especially if the flow's below 1200 or so. Scout's the right, pull over at the beach after Wire Fence and walk down. You'll see the path.

Steer Ridge is long - scouting left will reveal the entrance and first 50 yards, but that's about it. Surprise Hole does come up near the bottom - it's easy to miss, but keep an eye out.

Enter center-left at Belknap. The hole at the upper right can be a bit sticky at lower summer flows.

Chandler always surprises me - good waves, fun ride. Easy but be sure the kids are holding on. Same with Swasey.

The rest of it is a splashy rock garden at Aug flows, almost all the rapids are fairly slow.

It's a great trip, pretty easy whitewater, nice camping and terrific scenery. Enjoy!
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Old 06-02-2008   #9
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 17
I did Deso last August in a 16' cat, 1 boat trip and the only trouble I had was I read a channel wrong (not enough water to get the cat through) and one rapid that I can't recall the name of. Even that wasn't bad I just ran it too far left and got stuck on a couple rocks. It's an easy read and run and the biggest worry in August will be popping on oar on shallow rocks. The bugs weren't even bad last August.
The scariest part was actually the amazing lightning/hail storm that blew in on us with very little warning. We threw a tarp over the boat and let the storm blow us upstream while we had cocktails. Nothing a little booze didn't make better. The hail bounces off the tarp and the lightning lights it up. Not a bad way to float, even if it was upstream at that point.
Have fun.
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Old 06-02-2008   #10
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 257
Yikes...I just realized I gave advice to someone who ran Deso two years ago.

emptysea44 - did you have trouble finding decent camping the high flows you just ran it at? I had a 5/29 launch that I traded in for a 9/22 date instead, partly out of concern that all the good camping would be 6' underwater....
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