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Discussion Starter #1
Hey All,

I'm running Westwater this weekend and it looks like the level will be somewhere in the ballpark of 35,000cfs. Anyone have feedback on what the rapids are like at this level? From what little footage I've found on youtube, it looks like I can expect almost everything to be washed out and we'll mostly have to worry about hydraulics along the eddy lines... Any insight from those that have run it at these levels before would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Not any traditional rapids, but at Skull you'll want to favor the left side of the river. The river rolls back heavily against the right wall. Other rapids are washed. Boils, whirlpools and undertows are strong irregular and everything is intermittent. I'd prefer a 14 ft or larger raft or cat. Big tubes are nice. Your boat will swirl and change directions suddenly and without warning. Instruct paddlers and riders to hang on at all times. Do NOT fall out of the boat into the river. Swimmers are difficult to recover. Bring highfloat jackets.
There are a few eddies where you can hang out for a brief pause, but can't remember any place to land between Surprise and Last Chance. Total trip time without any stops is approx. 3 hours.

Happy Boating!
 

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Ran it at that level and as mentioned it’s mostly washed out. Lots of whirlpools and sharp eddy lines that would make for interesting swimming. I pulled hard, stern first, down the center in skull. Up and over the huge riverwide wave. My 14’ sb pivoted down the back of the wave and my bow pillowed (6’ pillow) off the rock of shock and slid across the river stern first into the eddy on river left. Didn’t have to do much but pull hard to get over the big wave. The river did the rest.
 

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All the above is very accurate. Also be aware of debris - logs, trees, cows etc. - which bring a whole other dimension to the craziness. It is very fast, so be ready to constantly adjust to stay off walls. And you definitely do NOT want swimmers. It's extremely nerve wracking at these levels. Sending you good energy to have a safe trip!
 

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Westwater 35,000+

sfluckiger didn't mention what he would be running Westwater in...so as a kayaker... between all the boils, whirpools, eddy fences, debris & just plain squirely water I personally found it to not be that fun of a trip & most likely wont ever run it again at that kind of levels. Skull is still a heads up. It was an amazingly fast run though. Have a safe trip.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Update

sfluckiger didn't mention what he would be running Westwater in...so as a kayaker... between all the boils, whirpools, eddy fences, debris & just plain squirely water I personally found it to not be that fun of a trip & most likely wont ever run it again at that kind of levels. Skull is still a heads up. It was an amazingly fast run though. Have a safe trip.
I should have noted that we are a group of rafters. I've run Westwater before in a kayak at right around 20,000 cfs and I agree that the whirlpools, boils and eddy lines were terrifying! I personally will be running a 16' Maravia with 22 inch tubes so hopefully I'll feel at least somewhat secure...
 

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I ran it at closer to 40K. On of the whirlpools, in Big Hummer, yanked my boat so hard that one of my passengers fell in. Both were paddling to give me more power. I couldn't catch him but one of the other boats in the group down stream caught him before we reached Skull. I have what is claimed to be the loudest whistle in the world. It was sure loud that day and did it's job.

Unlike the other rapids, Skull does not wash out. At the top I set up for the regular right to left move but, surprise, there was a big hole right where the rocks jut in from the left and there was no eddy for an eddy turn. Watch out for that.
A week after my trip a person died. I don't remember what part of the river but somehow he came out of his PFD.

Stay sober and be careful and you'll have a great ride!
 

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Lots of weird water in the 30,000's, 40,000's and above, very powerful hydraulic's too. It's a nice experience at those levels, but stay in the boat. I seen a cow disappear into a whirlpool and never resurface as far as I know, strange. Check and double each other's life jackets for sure....smhoeher what year was that unfortunate drowning?
 

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High water in Skull

Highest I have run is 28,000. Everyone's comments are spot on. My recollection of Skull is that the sweet spot to crash thru the left lateral moves downstream almost to the V. If you stay in the wave train you will ride up on the pillow of the Rock of Shock and possibly flip there.


There is still a sweet spot in the left lateral. Find it, be patient, row like hell and hit it to get out of the wave train.


The reason people have had carnage there is not controlling their speed/position coming down the straightaway above Skull. If one boat rides the eddy line to slow down and the next stays in current, you will be bumper boating entering and in the rapid. Make sure your boats can hold their position and spacing above Skull. Practice if necessary. Space accordingly.


The shuttle will take longer than the run. Have fun, be safe !
 

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The water goes up and down just as much as it goes downstream.

At >40K, any swimmers WILL be pulled under for some amount of time. They will resurface SOMEWHERE if they have adequate flotation. Consider an extra pfd on everyone, I think more is better in this case. Whirlpools will suck the tubes of a 16' boat right down along with any unwary passengers. Then the resulting boils will shove the same boat all the way across the river.

You will notice a down ramp of water at Marble Canyon Rapid and then a levelling out below Last Chance with no other distinguishable or familiar features besides what more resembles boiling water than anything else at Skull. The pillow is more like 12 feet off that rock. If you go into room of doom you will be there for a couple weeks.

Practice? LOL. There is no practice for Westwater at high lows.
 

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Correction.

Lots of weird water in the 30,000's, 40,000's and above, very powerful hydraulic's too. It's a nice experience at those levels, but stay in the boat. I seen a cow disappear into a whirlpool and never resurface as far as I know, strange. Check and double each other's life jackets for sure....smhoeher what year was that unfortunate drowning?
Check and double "check" each other's life jackets for sure. Not to double up on life Jack's. It's was brough to my attention, thank you.
 

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I worked for 10 years with Alvin as a long term volunteer. I was sitting in the river left eddy -- such as it was -- one day in the high 20's. Saw a floating oar come through Skull, nose dive into the toilet bowl whirlpool just below the Rock of Shock, disappear, and then shoot out of the water vertically like a ballistic missle launch about 25 yards downstream. No telling how forces like that would operate on a human body, PFD or not...

IIRC, that was the year that in somewhat lower water, we had a flip just below Staircase, and a woman went in. Her body was recovered somewhere below Big Hole.

Grim stuff. WW should not be taken lightly at these levels.

FWIW.

Rich Phillips
 

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thermal prep & tighten up

Big excitement at that flow. Experienced boaters only Swimming is very bad: struggle to stay with your boat: extremely hard to catch swimmers. Super tighten high float life jackets and wear either a drysuit or really good wet suit. If you're a swimmer struggle to stay center left in Skull. (The eddies by the Rock of Shock are terrible.) Throw a swimmer a throw cushion if possible.
 

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Highest I have run is 28,000. Everyone's comments are spot on. My recollection of Skull is that the sweet spot to crash thru the left lateral moves downstream almost to the V. If you stay in the wave train you will ride up on the pillow of the Rock of Shock and possibly flip there.


There is still a sweet spot in the left lateral. Find it, be patient, row like hell and hit it to get out of the wave train.


The reason people have had carnage there is not controlling their speed/position coming down the straightaway above Skull. If one boat rides the eddy line to slow down and the next stays in current, you will be bumper boating entering and in the rapid. Make sure your boats can hold their position and spacing above Skull. Practice if necessary. Space accordingly.


The shuttle will take longer than the run. Have fun, be safe !

Spot on. I ran it at 32k in a 16ft cat. Came into the scout with no place to land and no one to throw a rope to. Spun out into the main current, rode the pillow head on and flipped backwards. Boat came down on top of me and drove me down into the hole. I can tell you the hole at the base of ROS is really deep - as in equalizing my ears deep. Spent maybe 30 sec maytagging in the hole before it spit me up just left of the rock. Now the boat is 100yd downstream my GF riding the bottom. Luckily some other boaters got the boat to shore and I made it to shore and waited for my crew to show up. They got quite the show at the scout about how NOT to run skull at 32k
 

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Re. RayMo's question about the Westwater high water death a few years ago. If I remember right, it was 2011. It was the last time we've seen water at this level. I can say with very high authority is, that, while not an official trip, was a group of employees of the City of Grand Junction and some of the contractors that had worked on the Riverside Parkway.
I had been the TL on a Ladore trip with one of the boatmen, a now retired city employee, a few weeks earlier. He is a very skilled boater and all around good guy. I wouldn't hesitate ride with him as a passenger down Westwater at 40K.
A very sad and unfortunate situation.
 

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Thanks smhoeher.

I ran it at closer to 40K. On of the whirlpools, in Big Hummer, yanked my boat so hard that one of my passengers fell in. Both were paddling to give me more power. I couldn't catch him but one of the other boats in the group down stream caught him before we reached Skull. I have what is claimed to be the loudest whistle in the world. It was sure loud that day and did it's job.

Unlike the other rapids, Skull does not wash out. At the top I set up for the regular right to left move but, surprise, there was a big hole right where the rocks jut in from the left and there was no eddy for an eddy turn. Watch out for that.
A week after my trip a person died. I don't remember what part of the river but somehow he came out of his PFD.

Stay sober and be careful and you'll have a great ride!
When you mentioned the gentleman came out of his PFD, the incident I was familiar with was in the 90's. I loaned a couple of my rafts to friends and they floated with the gentleman that had his own raft and PFD, during a very high water West Water trip. My friend's were floating in a conga line, spread out a little bit so they did not run into each other. They eddie-out somewhere along the river to regroup and when their friends boat showed up he was not in it. His PFD was found hanging off an oar-pin with the brass hooks that failed by bending out. He was recovered 2 to 3 months later by the confluence of the Green and Colorado River in Utah. He was a very strong swimmer and fit person as I understand it. This was the type of PFD he use, much better shape from what I understand. Not a good situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Post Run Update:

The level on Saturday was right at 33,000 cfs or so. Everyone’s descriptions were pretty spot on including “Skull is still big at thos levels”. We had three rafts and ended up running with the Westwater Ranger Bob who graciously showed us the lines. We had one raft flup in Skull and the Oarsman was recovered without issue other than it took a while for his boat to get to a calm enough stretch for us to flip it back over. All gear was recovered. Ranger Bob was wearing a Gopro and said he would post the video on the Utah Boaters Forum which I assume is here but if it isn’t I would appreciate it if anyone could point me to the right spot, we’d love to see the video. Main takeaway for the group was that the river is still fun at these flows and we would definitely run it again. Thanks again to Ranger Bob, it was awesome of you to run with us.
 
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