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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Iam a bit tired of the topics dejure (no offense). I've been wondering as my ambition to progress as a boater , what goals I'd like to achieve. Let's say just for fun you where scheduling rivers across the US as building blocks towards being the best boater you could be. For the argument we will begin a ok class 3 boater lol. The goal in this case would be North fork payette lol.. Cataraft with oars. If you'd like by all means mention what you think about r1/2 or round boat. Of course it's b.s. but it's fun for me to imagine. For example my goals for next season are upper wind and merced or south fork American. Just curious if anyone has ever thought these same foolish things. Honestly just tired of the news.
 

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Interesting question. I guess it kind of depends on what your goals are. I'm not so worried about the difficulty of the runs I can make it down. I'm more focused on style, economy of movement, and the precision on my lines. That being said, knocking off a new and challenging run with clean lines is definitely one of the most rewarding and fun things about whitewater.

To me, the first and most important skill every boater needs to learn is reading water, which is being able to see and to understand the lines, hazards and moves required. This is a continuous learning process that never ends. When you start boating you're probably just following other boaters. As you progress, you start seeing more lines, more hazards, more possibilities, etc. With experience, you develop the ability to safely lead on new rivers and new rapids. You'd be surprised at the number of commercial river guides that suck at reading water. They've just memorized the same old lines very well and always followed, never led.

With this is the technical skill of being able to put the boat where you want it, with the least amount of effort possible. Its timing moves, intuitively sensing how the boat reacts to current, and planning next moves as you see the lines unfold before you (as you read the water). Paddle rafting, oar rafting, cat boating, running big gear boats, are all kind of distinct disciplines with different skills required.

The third component is developing the "river sense" that comes with experience. As you see more mishaps on the river, participate in rescues, see unexpected things happen, you start to develop judgement and wisdom. This helps temper your line choices, drives your interaction and leadership with your group, and keeps your self-assessment of your own skills in check.

On the North Fork of the Payette, up and coming boaters generally start on the lower five miles, then move up to the lower seven, then to the top five, then to the middle five. The progression can take years. Your first trip down the lower five feels like a huge milestone. The more you run it, you start to better understand what skills you're missing to progress. Eventually you get chundered hard and it feels like you had a false sense of confidence the whole time. The process restarts.

It's great to set goals and to identify milestones. Becoming a great boater is being able to understand where you have room to improve. New runs, whether its your next class II Run or your first class V run, help that process along better than just about anything.
 

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North Fork Payette. That one's easy. Start on the Main. Get comfy dropping into any rapid there. On to the SF Payette. Get comfy dropping into any rapid. Canyon stretch, get comfy dropping into any rapid. NF. Get comfy dropping into any rapid on Lower 5. Then Lower 7. Then Upper 5. Then Middle 5 walking Jake's. Then sit and stare at Jake's for hours many days. Then maybe Jake's. Then a top to bottom. Then start running it over 1,500 cfs on the lower and repeat for CFS increases.
 

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Long travel for a westerner but I’d throw the Gauley in as a good cat boat goal for an up and comer. Dang, I might just add this to my goals as I have transitioned to rafting over the hard boat, and adding a small cat to the fleet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Pine, I'd have to say your post is about as thought out and well said as I've read. Thanks! So all I gotta do is move to Idaho lol! Iam just dreaming and think I've aged out of the "gnar". I love the idea but the reality is obviously different. It's not in my nature to play a game or sport and not want to progress to being really good and even worse I allways wanna do what the best do lol. Keeping in the theme of the post, if each river magically gave you the next set of skills, what would other lists of rivers be? We have idaho dialed! I guess there could be debate as to what the "top" of the skill set may be as far as river? I as a newbie thought n.f. payette for a pinnacle? Maybe it's another? What do you pnw guys say? California? Southeast? Any of you lucky enough to travel nationwide to have that list? It's OK to dream sometimes!! For now let's not include the creature craft guys lol!
 

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Interesting question and great posts so far. I've daydreamed before on this topic. One thing I'll inject to keep it apples-to-apples is that to get "credit" for a having run a river the flow should be at least an average cfs. I say that because, for example, I've run the full Yampa through Dinosaur Nat'l Monument. That run includes a class IV rapid, Warm Springs. But we did it with IK's very late season, in August, at about 850 cfs. At that level Warm Springs was laughably easy, so I'd never puff up my chest and say that I'm now a class IV boater. Lots of rapids would probably drop a difficulty level or two at low flows.

But again, a thought provoking discussion.

-Tom
 

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Pine, I'd have to say your post is about as thought out and well said as I've read. Thanks! So all I gotta do is move to Idaho lol! Iam just dreaming and think I've aged out of the "gnar". I love the idea but the reality is obviously different. It's not in my nature to play a game or sport and not want to progress to being really good and even worse I allways wanna do what the best do lol. Keeping in the theme of the post, if each river magically gave you the next set of skills, what would other lists of rivers be? We have idaho dialed! I guess there could be debate as to what the "top" of the skill set may be as far as river? I as a newbie thought n.f. payette for a pinnacle? Maybe it's another? What do you pnw guys say? California? Southeast? Any of you lucky enough to travel nationwide to have that list? It's OK to dream sometimes!! For now let's not include the creature craft guys lol!
Pine hit a lot of nails on the head.

Rather than asking what rivers to run in sequence to become a better boater, realistically the best river to learn on is the one in your back yard. And you happen to have a really good one in the Gallatin.
Rather than hopscotching all over the country trying to sequence rivers, hit the best one in your back yard at various flows and with various goals with a mind to be able to go hit any strange river in the country and do it with style and ease.

Get a drysuit and start running the Gallatin in March. Go at least twice a week. Start up at Greek/Moose and run down to the bridge and eddy out everywhere and try to surf every little micro rock. Figure out where you want to be and the least amount of strokes to get there.

Pine said:
Paddle rafting, oar rafting, cat boating, running big gear boats, are all kind of distinct disciplines with different skills required.
They are...and at the same time are all somewhat similar. The bigger boats move slower, but it's still a boat on the surface of moving water being propelled by human power. You're still reading water.
My dory is teaching me a LOT and making me a better oarsman--and only because all those rocks I used to boof over in a kayak or slide over in a raft will knock a gouge or hole in my chine. Same water, same mechanics, brand new level of difficulty. Like going from downhill to tele. Same hill, but all of a sudden it takes more (and new) skill to glide down.


The mere idea of NF Payette, Quake Lake, Swan/Wild Mile all terrify the fuck out of me, and I'm a pretty decent boater--or I usedtocould but am feeling my age. I'll surf some pretty spicy stuff on the Lochsa but the fact that it's full of deep pools makes me a lot less afraid of a dislocation or skull fracture in shallow bony water (which is the part that admittedly scares me).

Charlie, you can learn a lot by simply watching a foamy boater in a riffle.
 

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I never made it past the lower 7.

But.....

The Lochsa will get way ready for the Selway. If ya ever need to get ready for the Selway, just go run the Lochsa the week before and you'll have a good idea as what you are in for. If you're good on the Lochsa you'll most likely be good on the SFS too.

As far as moving to Idaho. First go to California, then move to Boise where you will blend in with the large CA population. After establishing your Idaho residency in Boise, you are free do move anywhere in Idaho. See, at this point when you are asked by locals where you are from, you say 'got run out of Boise, too many Californians... and you'll be slowly excepted with less than a year of being in Idaho. See ya on the river.
 

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😂

The Lochsa will get way ready for the Selway. If ya ever need to get ready for the Selway, just go run the Lochsa the week before and you'll have a good idea as what you are in for. If you're good on the Lochsa you'll most likely be good on the SFS too.
While I'm scared of the NF Payette, Swan, and Madison/Quake; the Selway and SFS are at the top of my list!!

I think it also has a lot to do with the character of river you are used to. A good boater can jump onto a similar but unknown river and do well. A GREAT boater can do creeky, staircase-y, big pool and drop, big water, waterfalls, etc with similar aplomb. (I ain't a great boater!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah man! Me and the dancing machine ran the gallatin quite a bit and I've been learning alot from him and several others that are kind enough to help. I've led a few times and I've also had a few "plan b's" and even a few "C" and several "well fuck that was bad". Baby steps. My goals this year where easy. Be on the water and "see" more. I feel like I accomplished the later but stupid life kept me from running my goal of 4 times a week. I did good to go once(sad). I did run two class 4 rapids a couple times and even though I had nerves I did good by my standard. I also ran two new to me rivers read and run and it felt good. I really like the steep drop obstacle style runs. I won't lie the continuous stuff gives me pause and nerves but alas that what we have. One reason I'd like to run the upper wind or the California stuff.My goals going forward are to be able to catch any eddy that exists and more importantly eddy hop the drops and make difficult ferries. I can only go down now. First goal was hit the line and be smooth and see . I feel like iam on track there. Next is pick the rapid apart and slow it down so it doesn't feel so frenetic. Next year I will run substantially more as I've allready cleared after work and weekend during runoff with the boss lol. I think she knows now that it is short lived. The river list is a game. For fun. Like mountaineers check off mountains. Not an actual thing. Iam pretty sure I won't run the n.f. payette! At least not the middle !! But we have a family reunion and hopefully a kid camp in California next year so why not?!! Iam just so tired of the bad news and more bad news thing. Iam planning my rise to stardom during the end days is all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Oh and iam un tested in an actual flip. I've swam a bunch kayaking (fuck kayaks) and in rescue course but never the real deal flip re flip. I have practiced in flat water but that's different. I have seen some swims and was there to help but only in real easy water.
 

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Pincharlie, What a great post this is! Being new to having my own raft and rowing my own rig down a river I have had this exact thought with Montana rivers, but dream about catching others out of state as well. Last year for me was spent on the slow waters of the Mo just learning the basics of rowing and maneuvering the raft. This year I have been able to add a section of the Blackfoot from Russel's Gates to Roundup in some bony splashy water and the Middle Fork from Bear Creek to Paola Creek. I am still hoping to catch the MF from Moccasin to West Glacier before the water is too low and that will probably be the last float I get as our kids are close to starting College and H.S. sports.

My list for next year includes the Blackfoot from Roundup down to Jonsrud, the main section of the MF during higher flows and possibly trying the Alberton Gorge or Belt Creek though that may be a little further down the road.Not to mention wanting to try parts of the Yellowstone and Gallatin

Thanks again for making this post, though now my productivity today will be ruined as I youtube the rivers mentioned by others in the previous comments!
 

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Charlie, keep picking apart the Gallatin. Make Plan B and Plan C in your mind, but plan to nail your Plan A every time. (easy at 500-1,500cfs...harder at 3000-5000cfs!!...and I have had OH SHIT lines at 5,000!)

When I'm paddle guiding, my daughters tell me I have 3 speeds: "Forward Easy", "Dig in"/"Forward hard", and "Oh shit" (which means REALLY DIG IN BECAUSE IT'S NOT GOING ACCORDING TO DAD'S PLAN!)

Oh and iam un tested in an actual flip. I've swam a bunch kayaking (fuck kayaks) and in rescue course but never the real deal flip re flip. I have practiced in flat water but that's different. I have seen some swims and was there to help but only in real easy water.
Hey, kayaks are awesome!

Come run the Lochsa with me next summer. Mid-June is fun, splashy, flips possible, but nothing scary.
Run a few times in my round boat, start to see the lines, then try it in your cat. You can also break down some sections so you don't have to do it all at once...skip House wave to Pipeline if you're not quite feeling ready to run the meat...it's roadside and a little work but not impossible to drag a cat out and stop at any point.

Pincharlie, What a great post this is! Being new to having my own raft and rowing my own rig down a river I have had this exact thought with Montana rivers, but dream about catching others out of state as well. Last year for me was spent on the slow waters of the Mo just learning the basics of rowing and maneuvering the raft. This year I have been able to add a section of the Blackfoot from Russel's Gates to Roundup in some bony splashy water and the Middle Fork from Bear Creek to Paola Creek. I am still hoping to catch the MF from Moccasin to West Glacier before the water is too low and that will probably be the last float I get as our kids are close to starting College and H.S. sports.

My list for next year includes the Blackfoot from Roundup down to Jonsrud, the main section of the MF during higher flows and possibly trying the Alberton Gorge or Belt Creek though that may be a little further down the road.Not to mention wanting to try parts of the Yellowstone and Gallatin

Thanks again for making this post, though now my productivity today will be ruined as I youtube the rivers mentioned by others in the previous comments!
Where are you located, Wrestlingdad? Where are the kids going to school?

Run the MF from Moccasin to West right now. It's just getting lower. Crazy with people, but the water is fun and friendly.

I ran the Alberton Gorge on Sunday...hadn't been there in 10 years, such a fun river. It's also friendly at this level. Triple Bridges has some big waves--T up to them. Tumbleweed is the only boat flipper at this flow, just stay left when you see the photographer. If you had a good run on the MF, the Gorge will be a fun step up--even at an advanced beginner skill level.

Agree, great post!
 

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Pine and MT4Runner nailed it, don't worry about which river is the next step you can learn a ton and become a better boater on your home river. Catch every eddy possible, even if it means ferrying across the entire river which is a great skill to have, surf everything possible, find the tight spots to see if you can fit and how to make your boat fit i.e low side to see how your boat reacts. Do dumb stuff in non consequential areas to see how your boat reacts to the river to gain a better sense of the river and what it is doing. If you always follow and run the same line at the same flow you will not progress as much as reading the water and challenging yourself in a comfortable setting.
Good luck and have fun.
 

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Where are you located, Wrestlingdad? Where are the kids going to school?

Run the MF from Moccasin to West right now. It's just getting lower. Crazy with people, but the water is fun and friendly.

I ran the Alberton Gorge on Sunday...hadn't been there in 10 years, such a fun river. It's also friendly at this level. Triple Bridges has some big waves--T up to them. Tumbleweed is the only boat flipper at this flow, just stay left when you see the photographer. If you had a good run on the MF, the Gorge will be a fun step up--even at an advanced beginner skill level.

Agree, great post!
[/QUOTE]

Hey MT4Runner

I am up on the Hi-line in Chinook...

My two oldest are in College, one playing football over in Jamestown, ND. The other is starting her Freshman season of Volleyball over at Dickinson State. Rest of the kiddos are in High School.

Thanks for the info on the other rivers, My sister in-law is having an adoption party for the girl they have adopted down in Missoula next weekend. Maybe I should drag the raft and try to get on the Gorge, or come home through Glacier and hit the MF.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Let me know via pm if you decide to take the boat to Missoula. I have friends up there bugging me to come run and well all go together. 2nd the town run on m.f. flathead right now! It's fun and isn't scary at all. There are a couple spots to mess up but easy to un mess up! If you can go run it !!! I'll run with you next year too if ya want and feel real good about all these rivers at reasonable flows lol!!!
Mt4runner, lochsa is a definite hells yes!!! I'll be in great shape and ready!!!! Lol! I'll stay in touch.
 

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Each region has its easy, moderate and hard (and very hard) rapids so its kind of hard to put an actual list together that will work for all.

If you are wanting to go from, for example, a proficient class III boater to doing class IV... start by taking the class IV lines through Class III rapids. Find the difficult lines and get comfortable with those. Its maybe more apt for the transition from Class IV to V. A lot of class IV takes some maneuvering to stay on the classic typical line that most people take. Usually that line is the least consequential and easiest or maybe the most fun. Once you get more comfortable with it and want to progress to harder stuff... go find the "creek line" or weave through some boulders. Hit that pourover you always avoided. Run stuff sideways and backwards and see how it goes. Be safe...but push your limits. When you get comfortable with the hard lines and want to actually move up into harder water.... I can't stress enough how much finding people who know the runs and skills required will make all the difference. The transistion will go a TON smoother.

Also... it should be acknowledged that a lot of fun and excitement can be had on easy rivers and its ok if you get to a point where you don't feel the need to push limits anymore. That is kind of where I'm at with Kayaking. I started kayaking a the age of 12 and eventually progressed to doing moderate Class V runs in my mid to late 20's. I got to the point where I got fairly comfortable on some of the standard class V runs around the state of Colorado like Gore Canyon and Bailey and a few others...but as I got older I also realized that I when imagined running anything harder...it didn't sound all that fun. This was driven home even harder after I had some boating buddies died while boating and having a couple of nasty swims that destroyed my confidence.

I actually stepped away from whitewater activities for a few years because of all that. The easy stuff wasn't that interesting to me but my confidence in myself for running the harder stuff wasn't there. When I came back...I transitioned to mostly rafting and multi-day trips and found a lot of satisfaction in just being on the river rather then needing to do the next hardest thing. I still run Class IV a lot and would like to try a bit more class V...but I'm not trying to push my limits like I did in my 20's. I've found a level of acceptance for doing easy rivers with a lot of flatwater in exchange for beauty and solitude and being with amazing people in amazing places.

Its fun to dream...but don't feel bad if you get to a point where taking the next step up in difficulty isn't for you.
 

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Pinche, all of the advice above is spot on. You don't need to go anywhere to get better, but since you asked, here is some info on CA rivers.

I started guiding one the Snake near Jackson but then went to CA to gain skills. I went straight to the Lower Kern and it was a challenge, but I survived by teaching my crews to paddle well and high side early to cover for my mistakes. The normal CA progression is South Fork American, Lower Kern, Tuolumne. Becoming competent on those will take years, but you will be really solid as a boater. There are, of course, a ton of other rivers of similar difficulty you can run also. Once you are good on the T, you can try the Class V Upper Kern, the Cal Salmon, Burnt Ranch Gorge, and then the Forks of the Kern. Eventually you can then do Giant Gap and then Cherry Creek.

I watched first year guides who were starting to do well on the S Fork American who then got their asses handed to them on the Lower Kern. Same for the move from Lower Kern to Tuolumne.

The pool drop nature of CA rivers definitely makes them a better place to push skills than the continuous rapids of the Rockies.

I will say that after becoming competent on Class IV in CA, runs like the Lochsa felt easy, although the cold water and continuous nature increased their danger factor.
 
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