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My wife and I have been saving for a few years and have managed to take a year off work to travel before we have kids (we are both turning 30 this year). We are from the Southeast and will be living out of a Sprinter type camper van. We will have a Star Slice (similar to a shredder) that we can R2 for doing class 3 to easy 4 runs together. I will have a playboat for play parks and my wife has an IK for when we want to paddle seperately. I have Leland's River Gypsies Guide and will use it a lot on the trip, but I wanted to get any feedback or ideas from this forum to make our trip as fun a possible. I am not familiar with west coast snowpack and the best times to head to which areas. I would define us as mostly class 3 boaters with something like the middle Ocoee or Brown's Canyon being the difficulty that we are comfortable running.

We leave the 1st of April and plan to stay out west until December.

We plan to travel mostly in the following states:

Colorado
Idaho
Utah
Washington
Oregon
California
Montana


Which states would you visit at which time based on the anticipated water levels this year ( we do not need super high water to have a good time, we are just looking for fun, scenic trips on mostly class 3 waters)?

Also, anytips on how to work our way onto any multiday trips?

What are the best playparks to visit?

Paddling will not be the only aspect of the trip, we want to spend a lot of time in the national parks hiking and doing some photography as well.

So.....Buzzards what are some can't miss rivers/towns/playparks/locations for our big trip?

Any information is greatly appreciated.
 

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I would start south and work my way north. Follow the melt. Generally it will start in NM, AZ, and southern Utah/Colorado sometime in April. By May the west slope of Colorado is running and by mid June most of the Rocky Mountain region will be flowing.
 

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Think about where you could stay that would be neat when not on a river.

There are free and cheap Hot springs with inexpensive camping occasionally.
Natural ones too.

State Park CG's on the Ocean can be very nice in Oregon DURING THE SUMMER.

National Parks without rivers. Crater Lake NP in Oregon.
There are so many great NP's out here get a year pass for sure.
If you're taking a year off you absolutely have to visit at least a dozen NP's out here while commuting between rivers.

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Oregon isn't doing so well for water this winter. So far.

Avoiding permits and getting acceptable flows I would suggest a play day on the Deschutes near Maupin (3 ++) and some other other parts of the Deschutes (easier generally).
Especially the Grande Ronde (3 -) in NE before the end of July.
The North Umpqua (3 ++)East of Roseburg for one of those Cascade truly beautiful clear/greenish/turquoise streams. It plays out in segments.
 

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I am not familiar with west coast snowpack and the best times to head to which areas.
What West Coast snowpack??? Nothing to be familiar with.

But I digress. Salmon, ID would give you easy roadside class 3 with some roadside runs that you could camp and hitch your shuttle. Stanley, ID would be awesome for several days. And you are right between the Sawtooths and the White Clouds both of which beat the hell out of any National Park for hiking and backpacking.


Several stretches of whitewater right there. Pop over the hill to Lowman and get several more stretches in there. Go to Banks and there are several more in that area. Everything from Class 2 to 5 with lots in between.

There are a shit ton of hot springs all through Idaho too. Guidebooks to get you there. As a local I am reluctant to give Beta on the interwebz for locations of such springs. But look around and when you get here the FS will guide to many of them.

Idaho snowpacks are not great in the southern half which means it might be an early high water this year. Normally June is pretty cranking but I don't see the legs for that right now. Up out of Missoula you can get the Lochsa and many others. Usually peaking around Memorial Weekend but I am not as up on the snowpack up there. Closer to normal I would think. By the end of June I think the southern rivers will be not so burly and more friendly for someone in an IK or more class 3. Not that you can't find the goods.

Sounds like a great adventure - have a ball.
 

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You (or more likely your wife) might want to be careful about yoga pants in Montana...

I just got back from camping Rio Grande Del Norte canyon/ monument area (Northern New Mexico). This would be an excellent class II float through a deep gorge if the flows hold through spring. I don't have all the beta though, so be careful.

Also, not boating, but you should definitely go to Craters of the Moon national park in Idaho. Mind blowing.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
LOL on the yoga pants.

Thanks for the ideas so far. I am taking notes so please keep them coming.

Thanks,
Mike
 

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Rio Grand (Racecourse) -> Ark (browns, big horn, royal gorge, numbers) -> Poudre (various) -> North Platte (Northgate) -> Snake (alpine) -> Madison (beartrap) -> Clark Fork (alberton gorge) -> Lochsa -> more idaho or PNW.
 

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Just be sure to get the best book, Whitewater of the Southern Rockies!
Great suggestions for Idaho above, adding in Northern California around Mt. Shasta and out to Arcata will do you very well for boating a plenty.
Depending on time of year, the rivers of Northern Arizona might surprise you; Verde River, Oak Creek.
Using Washington State as a sure bet, you will really find your boats as blessings in the Cascades and in Southern Oregon as you look at the Smith River drainage and the Klamath River and its tribs.
 

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WWOSR is an excellent book and may be helpful, but for CL III-IV you are really looking for classics. Beta should be easy to come by and likely not worth the cost.
 

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Before the snowmelt in April I would knock out all the National Parks etc... in Arizona and Southern Utah (Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce, Zion etc..). Colorado in late May and June and then up to Idaho for July. The camping is great in Idaho with all the hotsprings etc...unlimited river runs also. Make sure to buy Delorme Gazateers for each state. Lots of free camping on BLM and NF land.
 

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Bring passports so when you get done with Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon in July you can continue into the Great White North where the water never runs out.
 

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Bring passports so when you get done with Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon in July you can continue into the Great White North where the Winter never runs out.
Banff.
Lots of critters in that beautiful place.

BTW.

Great White North is currently discounted about 20%.
 
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