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Dying to hit some new runs this year, so I'm thinking Durango. Upper Animas seems really sweet, and a lot like the Gauley. A fair comparison?
How about a boat? 24 miles is a long time in a cramped playboat, but is it worth it for the play? I know a playboat would have been worth it if I land my CFS in big hole somewhere...
 

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Gauley vs Animus

I have paddled the Upper G many times and the Upper A once last season at high flows (4K). At higher flows the A is somewhat more difficult and more consequential. It is not that the rapids are significantly harder, but you have other factors working against you. The G is warm and freindly with lots of boaters and rafts, and the F-up factor is low. The A is a wilderness run, is extremely cold, and a swim there could turn into a real epic. We chased a boat down for 1/2 hour. The A is also 2 long days, and in the last section you are committed once you enter the box canyon (see CRC). Don't take a playboat! You will be uncomfortable, and if it is big, you will be wishing you boat was bigger.

The bottom line, be prepared for cold conditions, have an experienced team, and don't swim if you can avoid it.

Phil
 

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Yeah, the above post pretty much says it. On the U.Gaul most rapids end in a pool. On the Upper A most dont (at high flows anyway- which is when you wanna be there). If I remember correctly the 2 drops that are called class 5 (above Rockwood) have long sections of bouncy and fast class 4 following them immediately, with few recovery eddies. I chased some folks in a flipped raft last summer at peak flows and we chased this one lady for nearly 1/2 mile... We´d get her to a micro eddy near shore and then she´d just bounce back into the current. If she hadn´´t been the only one in the group with a drysuit on she probably would have died after so much cold water exposure, continued dunkings etc...scary. Also chased a boat for quite a while.
Also, at high to high-ish flows the run can be done in one long day or 2 comfortable, totally manageble fun days (ie: you can sleep in a bit, cook breakfast, wait for it to warm up a little). The area is extremely beautifull and well worth doing the trip in 2 days just to camp in such a cool spot.
If you know how to stay centered and not get squirted in bouncy and semi-pushy class 4 to 5 you could definitely get by in a playboat, but the water is cold enough that you wont wanna play much. Creekboat or a river runner would be the way to go for max fun in my opinion. Its just fun paddling a faster boat on that river and staying a little dryer, more comfy etc. Plus, you can surf those glassy waves that spuds cant catch . Definitely a must do though, so have fun!
 
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