Tag Archives: whitewater kayaking

American Whitewater

South Fork of the Yuba American + Whitewater: What is there not to love?

I am proud to say that I have been a member of American Whitewater (AW) for almost 15 years. Even when I was in college, waiting tables and taking student loans, I found a way to mail my membership check. I don’t share this to convey that I am special. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t done more for AW.

Money and time are two things we all wish we had more of, right? But how often do you spend the two just trying to get closer to a wild, free flowing river? The point is you can afford to be a member. You can afford to support the only organization working exclusively to conserve and restore whitewater rivers. The world certainly isn’t making any more of them.

AW leverages your modest membership dues in combination with the collective sum to:

  • Protect Rivers
  • Restore Flows
  • Improve Public Access
  • Increase Safety Awareness
  • And Celebrate Life on Moving Water

Just look at what they have accomplished in California.

American Whitewater

Of course, I love AW’s choice of photos for California! It was actually quite a surprise when I picked up the mail today and looked through their 2009 Summer Appeal.

Meanwhile, AW has made many more strides in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Rockies Pacific Northwest, and the Midwest. None of these efforts are ever easy and often mired in bureaucracy, lobbying, and special interests, yet they keep going, deriving renewed motivation from sometimes small but significant steps forward for the benefit of us all.

So, please don’t let the river gods trounce you in giant nasty hole. Join Now! 

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Spring in Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite seasons. Snow still blankets the mountains of the Sierras, and the lower elevation rivers rise as the days grow longer and warmer. It is this time of year that I find myself having to make the difficult decision of skiing vs kayaking.

As I prepare for an upcoming California road trip, I can tell you that the gear I am planning on taking is getting a bit overwhelming. Just thinking about trying to fit it all into a little biodiesel powered VW TDI has me wondering if I need a semi-truck.

No matter what the weather dictates, I inevitably find myself catching up on whitewater community sites like boof.com and americanwhitewater.org, as well as looking through old kayaking photos to remind myself that I still know how to boat. Here is a little slideshow  of some kayaking” I have accumulated from years past. Can you tell which ones I took with an old 35mm camera and slide film and then scanned?

Sunday Discovery

Despite all of my comings and goings, one particular pastime I am quite fond of are the slow Sunday mornings where I sit about the house and catch up on magazines and my favorite bloggers. It is inevitably and ironically fueled by an excessive amount of coffee, and an equally heart-wrenching amount of high-cholesterol food – yummm yummm bacon.

It was just this past Sunday that I happened to be flipping through the Asheville School Alumni Magazine, “Achievement” when what should appear before my eyes? My own self…sort of.

It is a common misconception that I paint the web with my own form rather than those of others. I have an ego, but maybe not quite as large as one might expect. The picture is one that I took of a friend of mine, not me. But it is no matter; I was pleased to see it. I hold a special place in my heart for the Asheville School. Incidentally, here is a picture of me. Okay, ego resolved.

The blog post the caption below the picture refers to is here.

And a special thanks to what I do. Twelve Horses, your reach is far and wide! :~)

South Fork of the American

This is some footage from this past summer that I had sitting around, and being the type of person that does not like to waste anything, I decided to slap together a quick video. The main point to it is – the video is of a friend of mine, Brad Brewer, who I met in college at Clemson University, and subsequently taught me how to creek boat years ago.

Around 1995, there were not nearly as many whitewater kayakers as there are now, and there were even fewer people running steep creeks and big waterfalls. Brad was one of the few. He also knows a thing or two about playboating…

Cherry Creek Class V Downriver Race

5 swims and fun had by all. At least no one vomited from exhaustion like the guy who just beat me by a few seconds the last time I raced. While I didn’t get a chance to shoot video this time around, you can check out some Cherry Creek action from this video I put together a few weeks ago.

Thanks to Keith for all the logistics, effort, and money he applied to make it a great party, complete with live music by Kipchoge right on the banks of the Tuolumne River. Here is a little taste of the tunes that I shot from my beach chair as I relaxed under the stars. Not very professional, but basically I just wasn’t into filming and simply wanted to listen. Either way, it gives you a taste. Notice you hear the river directly behind them. We are an hour away from pavement down a steep and treacherous road.

Here are a few mug shots of some of the racers and general attendees.

First Threat, South Fork of the American

Cherry so Very

For the week of July 4th I found myself at the bottom of a river canyon with no cell phone reception, no Internet connection, and nothing to do but kayak and kick it with a dozen friends who were all there to do two things – paddle Cherry Creek and forget what we do on a daily basis.

Cherry Creek is such a perfect combination of hydrology, geology, and geography that if I were to stand up and give a presentation on what constitutes the ideal class V river it would be this place. If you are a confident class V boater then it presents few worries and plenty of excitement. Basically, everything goes but in a big way. To quote Lars Holbek and Chuck Stanley,

“This is where they come to strut their stuff or to get stuffed while strutting.”

The only stress I experienced over the course of the entire week was the unfortunate run-in with a rattlesnake. Several of us were in the midst of an extremely competitive bocce game when we first became aware of its presence. It crossed a dirt road that we were on and hunkered down in a hole presumably built by a mammalian species. I threw a warning rock across its bow and hoped that it was the last I would see of it; but alas, it was not.

Later on that evening it presented itself again. If it were not for the fact that we had a campground full of paddlers sleeping on the ground and dogs oblivious to the powers of poison, I would have left it alone. I don’t like killing things unnecessarily, but in this case it was a problem.

Kayak paddles can serve multiple functions, some of which do not involve actual paddling. A swift blow to the back of the head, a few saw-like motions, and it was not long before I had extinguished the life of this poor yet deadly reptile. I thought for sure I would pay for this action on the river the next day, but as luck would have it I was spared. Regardless, I am sorry rattlesnake. It is not your fault that you were engineered with an extremely effective defense mechanism. It just so happens that humans have a pretty good one too.

Now for the video. There are a few rapids not featured, but if you are new to Cherry Creek then this compilation should give you a pretty good idea. It’s a definite “Splash Party.”

South Fork of the American River

Until today, it had been quite a while since I made the journey down to Coloma to paddle the South Fork of the American. When I first moved to Lake Tahoe almost 10 years ago I used to go there all the time.

But gas prices kept rising and my motivation kept waning. Plus, the addition of the Reno Whitewater Park kept me fairly satisfied as long as it was above 800 cfs.

But this paddling season has been short lived due to poor precipitation this past winter. Many of us boaters are left feeling a little unsatisfied, and the only river that has any decent amount of water in it within a 2 hour drive of Reno is the South Fork.

The Gorge section is good fun, but if you are serious about playboating then the Chili Bar section is the way to go. The wave at Maya is a blast, and what is even better is the play hole at First Threat.

 First Threat has changed for the better. It used to be a bit disorganized and a little thrashy, but now it is much cleaner and offers a lot of opportunity for some powerful moves and tricks.

The other notable rapid that offers some fun is Troublemaker. If you want to make the rapid a lot more interesting try running the far left side. Be advised that if you do, you will definitely want to throw a strong boof stroke at the horizon line.

It was good to be back down there on the South Fork even if it was so hot and dry that it burst into flames.

South Silver

Yesterday, I found myself dropping-in to South Silver Creek with some friends from Reno, Nevada. Here is a little video I put together of what we found downstream.

South Silver from Robert Payne on Vimeo.

Video of Wild Plum, North Fork of the Yuba

Situated at the base of the Sierra Buttes and in close proximity to Sierra City, California, the Wild Plum section of the North Fork of the Yuba is a wonderfully consistent class IV run.

Roughly eleven miles in length, this section can actually be combined with Moss and Rosasco Canyons to make it even longer. However, I suspect that you will have your fill by the end of the day.

There are a plethora of fun rapids, all of which are very runnable, and if you are a solid boater your only primary concern should be several downed trees in the river. There are some significant holes, including the one at the bottom of the blown out dam, and obviously the run gets harder the higher the water level gets.

The way the North Fork of the Yuba drainage works, flows are actually highest in the afternoon. The Dreamflows’ gauge for Sierra City is off by 12 hours, and regardless, it is just an estimate. The day I ran it the flows were at the high end of their projection at around 650 cfs.

Hopefully this video provides a good depiction of the run. This time I went with a classic and often used song that I like nonetheless because it always reminds me to appreciate each day, especially on the river, that I have. One of these days I’ll get a camera with better stabilization. Until then, I’ll keep trying. Thanks to Kevin Drake for the photos. Where are we going next?