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Discussion Starter #1
I am tenatively planning a Westwater trip kayaking along with a commercial raft trip (dad on the raft). I looked up historical flows on USGS and I think that 15,000 cfs is the avg over the last 13 years for that date. I know that the snow is looking pretty good now and we might see good flows this year. Main question is how is that section at those levels. AW says 10,000 cfs is suggested max. I am comfy on III-IV, but I have never run anything that big. Does the river get a lot harder at that level? Any thoughts appreciated.

Thanks!
 

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About 5 years ago I ran it with a friend at 16,000 and it was a massive but cool flush. The only play was in various whirlpools and eddy lines. But almost everything was flushed. It took us 4.5 hours to do the entire run, and we were playing the entire way. It was amazingly fast and flat.

Now to confuse you. I remember running it at 10,000ish once and it was very roudy. Still only class IV at most, but it was the biggest and pushiest that I have ever seen it. The play was alright, but you had to catch everything on the fly. It was great in a kayak, but I don't know how a raft would be.
 

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I've been down at just about every level, up to 20K. The suggested max is about right for kayakers, given the fact that the play mostly disappears after about 12K. It's not that rapids get harder, but the flow can be pretty strong. Actually, the lines through the rapids don't really change and most disappear all together as the flows get higher. It's kinda fun to cruise right down the middle of the current at 15 mph, but there isn't that much play unless you are all about the mystery moves on the saucy eddy lines.

A few years ago, we had a full group of rafters/ paddlers at about 14K, and a novice buddy on mine decided to paddle down past Little D because he was feeling good after the first day. He swam just past Marble Canyon, and the raft didn't get a throw rope to him immediately. I chased him all the way to the eddy just above Skull before I finally was able to get him to shore- there was a serious risk of him flush drowning by the time I got him out. There are not many eddies in the Canyon proper, and there are no beaches to get a boat onshore for a dump. The eddy lines are ferocious, he tried to swim through a couple and got sucked down and washed through into the next rapid. I flipped about six times trying to tow him to shore through the soup in a low-volume boat - not fun. By far the hardest rescue I have to attempt in 14 seasons of boating. We picked his kayak up about a 1/2 mile below Last Chance, which is probably where we would have wound up had I not gotten him out at Skull.

Make sure your roll in solid- if it isn't, take a bigger playboat and stay near the rafts and/ or good kayakers. Westwater is just more fun at lower levels, honestly. I would probably prefer to row my raft at levels above 10,000, because the play isn't that great. I just picked up a permit for the end of April and I'm hoping it stays below 10K. I think that it'll be close to 15,000 by the middle of May, but it might be lower b/c there are still reservoirs that are well below capacity that they will fill when the runoff starts.

A good alternative would be getting a commercial down the Gunni Gorge- unbelieveably beautiful, great fishing, fun kayaking / rafting rapids, and dam released so flows are pretty predictable.
 

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I have run it 20+ times and agree with everything said above. Flows in the teens have been dubbed the "terribel teens". None of the rapids are really that challenging, but the water is MOVING. the eddy lines are super swirly and very dynamic. The eddy lines move back and forth a long ways. I remember trying to peel on to a wave, only to have it turn into a swirly and pull me under. If you swim, there is a real possiblility of flush drowning. While none of the moves are difficult, it is not a place for inexperienced or out of shape folks.

In addition to wierd eddy fences and swirlies, in the higher teens and low twentys there are some wierd reflex waves that occur in the narrower spots. I've heard of these waves blindsiding rafts and flipping them.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the info!

The info is just what I was looking for. What time and or flow would you guys say would be the most fun to kayak for a combo of big waves and fun surfing?
 

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Westy is really good between about 3K and 5K which will be most of the season. It's still pretty friendly between 5K and 10K, & while I've never run it much higher than that, no one above's disagreed with what I've heard. You probably won't be able to get a commercial trip to wait for you to play on the good surf waves (Little D, Bowling Alley) though. At higher flows its like a rock-lined culvert with obstructions that cause incredible vortices and eddy lines mentioned above. When I swam it at 10K I was getting sucked under DEEP in the vortices, getting spun around and praying that the light would start getting brighter because that would mean I was coming to the surface. Pulled under like that despite a big Type V PFD that I had on that day.

--Andy
 

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Discussion Starter #7
did you swim from your boat?

When you say "when I swam it" that sounds kind of intentional. Did you actually swim it for the fun, or did you have a swim from your boat?
 

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We swam it becaust I didn't hit a wave quite head on and dumped a 17' raft with 8 other people on it. The four kayakers on the trip had a time rescuing the "Westwater Swim Team" that day. The words "grab onto the loop" never sounded so good as they did 100 yards above Skull.

The good thing about it all was that the folks who never spoke to me again after that trip weren't really people I wanted to talk to anyway... :D

--Andy
 

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Commercials?

Best snowpack since 96. I seriously doubt you'll get a commercial trip that week. Went thru around 24K and Skull was an evil lookin haystack from a
softboaters point of view. My buddy had a clean run but it surged and flipped him in a heart beat. We chased him down just above Sock and the turbulence had ripped all of his gear off except his life vest and top. Reeled his boat in after last chance and celebrated life with Wild Turkey shortly thereafter.
 

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At 14,400 cfs, the eddyline trailing downstream off the Rock of Shock (the spot where the river and the whirlpool meet at Skull) was one of the scariest things I have ever seen. WW at peak is definitely not a place I wanna swim.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks again for the great info...

Based on the info, I think I will try a trip later in the year at lower water. It sounds like it would be a more fun trip later in the year. The high water swims sound scary to. I initially wanted to take my dad with me, but after reading the swim stuff I would be scared to shit bringing him along in water like that.
 

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August

It's bathwater you can swim skull. I missed the ferry on skull bounced off razor flipped in the hole above skull and went in the room with my 71 yr father in law. Fortunately he is too ornery to ever die so we'll prob be waiting another 20yrs for that inheritance by which time I'll prob be dead.
 

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They don't call them the terrible teens for nothing. I have done it at about every level and I would say it is definetely bigger and much harder in the teens. Even in the 20,000 range it gets kind of washed out and is easier to guide. If you are doing it for the first time in the teens you better be ready. It is deep and powerful and I have seen people go down for a long time.
 

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Well, you can be in the Room of Doom safely below 4-5K, but somewhere above there it starts getting sticky, depending on your skill and energy level. In the teens there is an eddy fence surging 2-3 feet high between the Room and the main current, and you would not want to be in there. There have been occasions when rafts have had to be de-rigged and hauled over the cliff on river right to get them out of the Room. Not saying kayaks couldn't get out at higher levels, but it certainly would be an adventure to try....

And Caspian's comment about the violent eddy/seam on the left of the Rock of Shock in the mid-teens is right on. The water surges up on the Rock 3-5 feet high, with a good portion of the river going into the Room and a lot of the rest of the water driving straight down the sheer wall to the left of the Rock. I saw a loose oar sucked into it once, only to be seen 6-7 seconds later when it shot out of the water, about 100 feet downstream, like a sub-launched ballistic missile.

As a final note, swimming Skull and going into the Room after bouncing off Razor Rock means that it was 3k or below, which is when Razor starts to disappear. At that level you absoutely can go in and out of the Room at your leisure -- the only obstacle being the raft of floating debris that sometimes interferes with smooth paddling and rowing.

For what it's worth.

Richp
 
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