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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm wondering if you can walk around the bigger rapids on the main stem of the salmon and gates of lodore. Im a confident rower but I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to my 5 year old who isn't a strong swimmer yet. any info would be great
 

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I ran the main salmon for the first time at medium-low flows last spring. I have a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old. You can walk most (all?) the big rapids with some effort - not sure if that's the case at higher flows or not.

Everybody has their own risk tolerance with kids. I wouldn't be comfortable with my kids on the Main yet. It's pretty continuous, and even the Class II rapids feel like big water class II - not little riffles but waves that can come into the bow of a 16' boat. In my mind, that puts it in a different class than, say, Deso, where things are pool-drop and you have nice recovery pools below the big rapids (we did a deso trip with the same kids last summer). Maybe my mindset would change if I were more familiar with the run, but I'd be nervous to take kids on the run that aren't comfortable swimming Class II whitewater and able to swim Class III whitewater without panicking. I don't think a swim in the "in-between stuff" would be life-threatening, but I could see it being scary enough to turn a kid away from whitewater. That said, we certainly saw other family trips with small-ish kids on the water, so to each their own.

Edited to add: we were also there in June, when the water was pretty cold. I could see an August trip taking some of the pressure off.
 

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Lodore: I have run lodore more then a lot. First thing to be aware of is flows. If the flow is 2K or higher things are very straight forward. Especially at 2800. Here are my thoughts on the main rapids:

Winnies: Friend of mine likes to say winnies is a rock not a rapid. That said it is scary if you mess it up. I have never considered walking. I don't see why it would be a problem walking this one as most run it and then pull over to go do a walk on river right in the heat of the summer. Nice cool canyon.

Disaster falls: Can walk it on river left. I suspect you CANNOT walk river right. At low flows (800-1200 cfs) this one is VERY technical (middle disaster) and hard to get down without parking. If you can stay left good to go. At higher flows, very straight forward and I would have no concerns as long as you are following someone who has been down and knows where to go (middle on the first drop and then left in middle and left in lower)

Triplet: EASY walk on river left. The scout is basically walking the entire rapid.

Hells half mile: Long not fun walk on river left. Again, very straight forward at the higher flows and sticky at low.

Split mountain: if the yampa is thumping this is actually where things are going to go upside down. Get over 10-15K and it is a wild but fast ride. The issue is getting pulled over to actually walk and then pulled over again to pick them up. It becomes pretty continuous especially for a desert river. All this said, you can shuttle a vehicle to the start of split mountain and takeout there. Or even just drop folks and run the boats through and to split mountain. At low flows (yampa kicking in couple of K or less) the hardest thing down there is SOB. Technical like lodore at low water.
 

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All this said, you can shuttle a vehicle to the start of split mountain and takeout there. Or even just drop folks and run the boats through and to split mountain.
I do not believe you can let people off the boats at split-mountain. I know you can not add or remove people at Echo and would assume that this is also true for split-mountain.
 

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There are good scouts, pull out spots and paths for walkers for everything you might be concerned about in Lodore. Wouldn’t count on being able to do so in Split min section if it’s your first run. I took my 3 kids (6, 7, & 10 at the time) down on my first run through Lodore /split a few years back. After scouting, we decided to them all with everybody in the raft. Bumped off a few rocks here & there but never got into anything that made us nervous. Followed recommended lines for low water in Dewitt guide book. Have fun & let me know if you’d be interested in having a few more kids along : )
 

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I do not believe you can let people off the boats at split-mountain. I know you can not add or remove people at Echo and would assume that this is also true for split-mountain.
Good point, I think you can get away with anything when you interject "safety concerns"
"Trip Size and Travel Together. Noncommercial river trips shall include no more than 25 persons (total includes the permit holder). Groups boating under one permit must launch, travel, camp, and take out together and remain within sight and sound of each other throughout the trip. Exceptions can only be made in rare situations and must be approved by the River Office."
In the end I think you could get an exception from the river office.
 

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I have run the Main Salmon once so I'm sure that there are many people here with more expertise than me. We ran it at 10K cfs, with kids as young as 6 years old. Just from my recollection and the major rapids that we scouted, I would NOT want to have kids walk around the rapids. Some of them like Black Creek have tons of steep and slippery boulders even to get to the place to scout it and may not have any safe trail that leads around to the bottom of the rapid. Elkhorn is super long to have little kids walk and I dont know if there is a good trail. Big Mallard, Chittam and Vinegar? Maybe there is something, but may not be clean trails. In the end we ran all the rapids with little kids and were fine, but i'm sure there are high water levels you just shouldn't take them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
There are good scouts, pull out spots and paths for walkers for everything you might be concerned about in Lodore. Wouldn’t count on being able to do so in Split min section if it’s your first run. I took my 3 kids (6, 7, & 10 at the time) down on my first run through Lodore /split a few years back. After scouting, we decided to them all with everybody in the raft. Bumped off a few rocks here & there but never got into anything that made us nervous. Followed recommended lines for low water in Dewitt guide book. Have fun & let me know if you’d be interested in having a few more kids along : )
Thanks for the beta. we will see if the permit gods award us and make our final decisions if the kid comes or not at that point. the dates we are a aiming for will be low water.
 

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Maybe my mindset would change if I were more familiar with the run, but I'd be nervous to take kids on the run that aren't comfortable swimming Class II whitewater and able to swim Class III whitewater without panicking. I don't think a swim in the "in-between stuff" would be life-threatening, but I could see it being scary enough to turn a kid away from whitewater. That said, we certainly saw other family trips with small-ish kids on the water, so to each their own.

Edited to add: we were also there in June, when the water was pretty cold. I could see an August trip taking some of the pressure off.
I would agree.
The Main is a reasonably safe river, but the chance of scaring a kid enough to turn them away from whitewater would not be worth it.
IMHO something like Labyrinth would be better for small kids. Hold off on bigger whitewater until they're old enough to enjoy it.
*Speaking as a parent whose kids were scared away from kayaking whitewater in III- at ages 9 and 7, even though both had rolls. Neither ever kayaked again. Oldest got on the Lochsa at 12 and loved it. Younger daughter never touched the Lochsa or really any whitewater again until age 17.

Also saw a couple with ~1yo and 4yo kids on the Lower in late late June (was unseasonably low water in 2021) and other than Snow Hole, the Lower is a lot more kid-friendly water at moderate flows. Don't take ANY non-swimmers at high flows. I can see where Slide and Snow Hole and Demons Drop and Wright Way could be scary when it's chooching.
 

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I don't know you, your kids or your boating skillz, but I don't think I'd take little kids on The Main unless you were familiar with it.
CAN you walk the rapids? I think most, you could. But the hikes on many would be more trying than the rapids.

I did my first river trip on The Deschutes (similar difficulty as The Main) at age 6, but my Dad had been rowing it for 10 years by that point. I loved it, and IK'd most of it the next summer.
 

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I really think the Main Salmon is very family friendly. There are some really big rapids, but if you scout, they are short, straightforward lines with few consequences. Vinegar at low water is probably the worst. We did the Middle and Main the prior year for comparison and the Middle was infinitely more complex, challenging, with long and difficult swims. We took a ducky and it was honestly a mistake on the Middle for our family. But on the Main, you just tow it through the big rapids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you to everyone who commented. I think we will wait another year to bring my son on these rivers. If we pull a permit for these rivers we will leave the kid with my parents and just focus on getting him on a couple more overnight trips on say deso and maybe the lower deschutes which I have ran many times and im very comfortable with. As of now he loves being on the boat and camping we have had him out a couple overnight trips already but as MT4Runner said it might be harder to keep him insterested if he gets scared
 

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Allways gonna be that way with kids. You know a famous New school kayaker recently said his dad used to chuck him into the rapids when he was little on the lower salmon every summer....my kid can barely swim so I get really stressed. It's made me a little better cause iam like no way iam missing this line but someday it'll happen! Other thing is she's now at the pool mandatory twice a week playing Marco polo (hard when your old) lol. Sucks that you gotta forever worry about your kids!!!!!!!!!
 

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Allways gonna be that way with kids. You know a famous New school kayaker recently said his dad used to chuck him into the rapids when he was little on the lower salmon every summer....my kid can barely swim so I get really stressed. It's made me a little better cause iam like no way iam missing this line but someday it'll happen! Other thing is she's now at the pool mandatory twice a week playing Marco polo (hard when your old) lol. Sucks that you gotta forever worry about your kids!!!!!!!!!
I know a famous new school kayaker whose dad made him run the Lochsa at age 8 or 9, crying the whole way.
For every example like this, I’ll bet there are three or five kids who never get on a river again. IMHO not worth it.
 

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From my time on the Main, once with a great kid maybe around 8 ish, at low mid to late summer flows it’s fine IF everything goes well. His dad was a solid boater in an 18 footer. Camp issues for kids, including yellow jackets also a consideration. Having scouted a few of the bigger rapids in the past, the walk is prob much worse than the run - rocks w essentially no trail, snakes, poison oak.

Lodore at post run-off flows is not that big of a deal, but things can go wrong, esp HHM. Would be a long, rocky swim. Disaster at summer flows is easy. Triplet too, unless you screw up the last move back to the left, then it’s a very big deal if you go into the Birth Canal. And not just for young kids. Winnie’s ? - boy you’d have to try pretty hard to screw up there but I’ve seen pics of major wraps.

I’d suggest starting with easier runs then stepping up to Deso then maybe moving up.
 

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As of now he loves being on the boat and camping we have had him out a couple overnight trips already but as MT4Runner said it might be harder to keep him insterested if he gets scared
I'll add this comment as well: at 5yo, he likely doesn't care what river he's running. He's stoked to go river camping with mom and dad, and play in the sand, and look for bugs and watch for wildlife and run some splashies. As adults, we're always looking to expand our perspective and new rivers and experiences are exciting. He more than likely just wants to be dry and happy and with the people he loves and eat some snacky-snacks and go to sleep under the stars after eating smores by the campfire.

and at that age you also need to balance windshield time with fun time. Long car trips are tedious and whatever is available with a short drive in the backyard is often better.

I think it's awesome that you're taking him overnighting, and wish I had done more of that when my girls were younger. Edit: We daytripped all the time, though, and they loved it..just wish we'd done some easy overnights along the way. They were on the Lochsa as teens, and my oldest ran the Main at 16 and the MFS at 18. "Dad, I thought they'd be bigger, like the Lochsa...but with camping." I created a monster!
 

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Just adding: single-night overnights are a great way to figure out systems with the kid (what drybag is the snack drybag again!?!) and get them used to the process and camping on the water etc.
 

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Just adding: single-night overnights are a great way to figure out systems with the kid (what drybag is the snack drybag again!?!) and get them used to the process and camping on the water etc.
Heck, single-night overnights are a great way to introduce non river-running friends to what we love doing...with less time/vacation commitment on their part, and less commitment on our part to confirm if they'll be an OK tripmate. And one could conceivably gasp bring both your own small child and neophyte friends on the same trip. :)
 

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I took a couple of small kids (two 6-year old nephews) along with some older kids down Lodore a few years back in early August (about 1800 to 2000cfs). This was my first trip down there, but I had a lot of other experience on the rest of the Colorado River system. We scouted triplet, disaster, and hell's half mile, and didn't have any issues other than scuffing a few rocks. There was a commercial group that wrapped a boat in hell's half mile just before we got there, so we had a long time to scout it while they got unstuck. In short, I hope you get a permit, and I wouldn't be concerned in dinosaur.
 
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