Swimming in the Colorado...but not on purpose!

Trip Start Aug 18, 2008
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Trip End Oct 01, 2008


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Where I stayed
Up the Creek Campsite

Flag of United States  , Utah
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Like we said in our last entry, after rafting through Westwater Canyon, we drilled our guides for advice about canoeing a different section of the Colorado River: The Daily. This is a 'quiet' section of the river, with class I and II rapids, that is popular with family rafting trips. But while it's not too exciting on a raft, it's still pretty thrilling in a kayak or canoe so we decided to give it a shot. We asked around town and everyone gave us tips about how to run each of the different rapids. One woman mentioned that on the most difficult rapid, called White's Rapid, that we should get out and skip it, but everyone else told us a strategy to avoid the main hazard there so we figured we'd be fine. And we had practiced our rescues in California before we left, so we knew what to expect if things didn't exactly go to plan.

We got up early to be the first on the water and avoid the hordes of rafting trips. The water was glassy and the canyon was really beautiful as we paddled through about 2 miles of easy flatwater and took in the scenery around us. There were some strange mosquito-ish bugs (we're not sure what they were!) all over the place, but they didn't bother us and because of the bug swarms at this part of the river there were fish everywhere--we saw literally hundreds of them hovering on the surface of the water to gobble up all the bugs.

We made it through the first few rapids without any problems, including the tricky Rocky Rapid where there was a photographer from a company in town snapping photos so we even have pictures of us making our way through the rapids--we almost look like we know what we're doing!

But then we got to the dreaded White's Rapid. It has a large, nasty hole on the right side that everyone had warned us about. 'Stay left' they all said, or the current will pull you into the hole and you'll be swimming. Well, we stayed left. So far left, in fact, that we hit a rock, got stuck, and then the force of the current pulled us over and into the water. Fortunately, our plan for getting out of the boat worked fine and both Mike and I popped up above water within seconds. But here was where we made our big mistake--instead of staying with the boat (which I should have done), we decided that I should try to swim over to the shore on the right. But the current was too strong and I was swept downstream. Mike stayed with the boat and realized he was too heavy to catch up with me, so he swam it to shore, flipped it over, bailed out the water, and hopped in to paddle after me. I finally managed to grab hold of some rocks on the left shore and he came and picked me up, slogging through the thick, muddy river silt to get to me. We were covered in muddy Colorado River water (I found about a pint of silt in my underwear later!), but we managed to sort ourselves out and then paddled through the last two rapids without a problem.

Even though we were full of adrenaline from our little capsize, we still had a great time and felt really proud of how we'd paddled all the other rapids, scouting them out, following advice from other paddlers, and then finding the right line through the rapid. And we also got to practice our rescue on White's and learned a great lesson--if we tip over, both of us should stay with the boat!
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