Class III in flatwater solo canoe

Back when I started here in the mid-2000’s I always loved the posts from folks looking for a solo canoe that could handle flatwater to class III whitewater. The list of boats was always the same - Wildfire/Yellowstone Solo, Argosy, Vagabond, Odyssey, Solo 13/14, Guide/Freedom Solo, maybe the Rendezvous. At some point in the post, TheBob (rest in peace) would always challenge someone to post pictures of a class III run in one of those boats. I never saw any.

Well, yesterday I decided to run the Scantic Spring Splash Downriver Race. I’ve never really liked racing, but if I registered for the race I could use the shuttle bus. The race has 3 class II+ rapids, and one which might approach class III. Thinking it would be a little faster I brought my Yellowstone Solo. Here are several shots of me running the class III rapid – Stokers.

As it turns out, the Yellowstone Solo was a lousy choice for this race. I did make it through the rapids, but I submarined every drop, and had to stop to empty the boat after every rapid. I came in last in my class - OC1 Recreational. Boats that beat me – XL13, Flashback and an Old Town tandem (don’t know the model).

But – finally met the challenge from TheBob - class III (easy) in a Yellowstone Solo.


The Yellowstone solo is a capable river canoe and has the maneuverability to navigate rapids that are not excessively technical, but it just doesn’t have the depth to make it a reasonable choice for whitewater.

Oh sure, you can run drop/pool whitewater rivers in it so long as you don’t mind dumping it after every rapid.

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A canoe is a canoe is a canoe.

I have to wonder if either Canadian voyagers or any North American Indian paddlers ever worried about such distinctions.

“Wait a minute, Jacque…Let’s go borrow a rough water bark from the Micmacs before we take on any Class Threes.”

“Good idea, Pepe. This one we made with that Huron has too flat a bottom!”

That Yellowstone would be a step-up to use for someone like me on Cl. III. Hell, I’m using a Dagger Reflection 16 that I pulled the seats out of and put a saddle in to run solo. But it’s okay, most of the local hillbillies paddling surf beside me, think I’m the one who has it made/ knows what he’s doing. (Mainly because they’re running the same chutes in Coleman’s/Pelicans. Ahem.)

Anyway, looks to me you did good. I don’t race, but I’d have slapped a number on, and pulled the exact same hijinks to get myself a shuttle. Besides, water in the tub, like a good swim from time to time, can be quite refreshing (whether March or July.:wink:)

if you get away with it then it is safe to say it worked well, If you end up swimming a lot, unpinning a boat, or just have a long day, then the whole boat selection process should be rethought a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning to regularly paddle whitewater in my Yellowstone Solo. I’m not a one-boat-does-it-all kind of paddler, and I do have a whitewater boat - Outrage. It’s just that TheBob’s challenge has always stuck with me, and this race seemed like a good time to do it. Here is a typical “which canoe for me post” from back in 2007 with Bob’s challenge.

If your objective is to point the bow downstream and make it through a rapid, the Yellowstone Solo (or similar boats) are fine. If you need to maneuver you are out of luck. I came down this rapid way too far to the right to make the shoot on the river left.

View from the bridge of the Staircase Rapid - Paul as safety boat

In my Outrage I would have spun the boat around, ferried to river left and lined up on the shoot - no problem, at least in theory. In the Yellowstone Solo I couldn’t get the boat around, ended up sideways in the current, and dumped. I did manage to get myself and the boat into the big eddy above the shoot, so I got to run rather than swim the big drop. This was also the last rapid above the finish line, and it would have been embarrassing to have to swim across :wink:

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Nah, “embarrassing” would’ve been to swim and slalom the entire course, then climb back into the boat just to cross the finish line!:canoe::crazy_face::v:

The rule for this race (don’t know if it is typical) is that you need to be touching your boat when you cross the finish line. You can be in it, or you can be holding on to it if you are swimming. If you come across separately you are disqualified.

Races have too many rules…

Nice thing about running a race is that there are lots of pictures of the carnage.

Pictures of the (easy) class III drop at Stokers

Video of the rapid above the finish line at Staircase

Winning OC1 boater goes through around 2:03. I take a dump around 3:29, and finally get back in my boat around 5:03 to run the drop. Some nice runs and lots of carnage.

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Nice shots. Love the moment-before-full-immersion close-ups.

Love the gunnel grabs.

@eckilson you looked pretty good coming thru in the video.

I love carnage vids! I think one can learn a lot by watching what not to do. :upside_down_face:


Not so sure about that. I try to finesse things when I should just put the paddle in the water and paddle forward.

It is a fun race - lots of carnage at the bigger drops, but they have plenty of safety boaters to help with the recoveries.

I prefer pictures to video, although both have their place. Even if you totally screw up a run you can usually get at least one picture that makes you look good. With video there is no hiding, but it is much better at showing you what you did wrong.

p.s. - someone just sent me a video of my Skokers run, not as dramatic as the pictures, but I made it through.

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Yeah, I prefer still shots as well–More Sports Illustrated-like, and like we had in them olden pnet days.:wink:

I’m also not a fan of GoPro/tiny little action cameras, too much small for my chilled fingers and senior eyes to fumble with. Phone’s a hassle in sunny glare/no view finder like a real camera, as well as having to keep checking waterproof pouch/ container. Found it’s nowadays easiest for me to let others snap away if interested whilst I just enjoy the ride. I know how bad I can look anyway.:scream: In addition, lost my old dependable Nikon to a concrete drop while getting out of a shuttle van awhile back. Need to start shopping for a replacement.
Got asked about running safety or participating in this FB listed event below, coming up this weekend. I declined, citing forecast is for 36 air degrees and that my newly adapted elder-paddler cut off air temp (even with a drysuit on) is now 4Oefen degrees–Nevermind the water temp.

Should make for some funny pictures from the banks though.

The number of boats being used for white water has been growing. I canoe /camp. I love white water, and, I love flat water. I especially love being far from an electric light. My selection, after many years, was to go larger, much larger. My take on running rapids is that I want the boat to float high and light, respond quickly to wave trains, holes, tongues. And because I am traveling, I carry tent, sleeping gear, repair and first aid , food, water,some Grand Marnier,etc. Its a lot of stuff if I am out for a month. A 20’ Clipper canoe McKenzie, with a full cover and skirts, and centerline ballast.
There are differences in Eastern vs Western Class II and Class III. My way of describing it is out west the Class III may be defined by its wave train size or hole in mid stream. In the east the Class III may well be defined by the size or height of the rock you had to go over or around. Extreme low water out west may be 1,700cfs, and high water on an eastern river may be 1,700cfs. There are exceptions to all generalizations. Paddling through Dinosaur National Monument can be either. A low water of 1,250cfs I have likened to running a lawn sprinkler of a rock garden. The same river running at 12,000cfs, can be rip snorting fun. I like a big boat that is floating high and relatively lightly loaded for Class III, IV, and V rapids. I will be on the Green in Utah this summer, and maybe Cat.

It’s all about where you are and what you do. I looked up the Green River in American Whitewater, and it looks amazing. I would love to get out on a remote western river like that sometime. Around here (northeast), our rivers are smaller and a lot less remote. If you are looking for a tripping river for anything more than a weekend you need to go up to ME, or maybe the Adirondacks in NY. The St. John in ME is probably the classic tripping river around here that involves running class III rapids, but even then you are paddling rapids on 2 days of a 6 day trip. I had hoped to get up to the St. John this spring, but it isn’t going to happen.

I take lots of pictures, and on occasion someone will grab my camera, but usually there aren’t many of me. It is nice to go to an event where someone else is taking the pictures/video, and I’m in them.

Looks like there will be some good carnage in the Anything That Floats Regatta - you should find a raft and get in it :wink:

I love video!!! Watching video of others and my own paddling/surfing really helps me develop my paddling skills, especially since I am mostly self coached and mostly a solo paddler. Good video gives an honest view of the good, the so-so, and the bad of how one is with technique. How you present the captured footage is different, of course, through the (selective) editing process.

I started sporadically trying to capture pictures and video over ten years ago with the digital cameras. But, these were unwieldy on the water, with wet and cold hands. I lost a couple of camera to Neptune in the process. GroPro, with the various mounts, made it so much easier to video capture on the water. Paired with a good remote control is even better!!! I can control camera mode and capture with the remote while wearing mitts. Game changer! Both with getting video and in being able to diagnose and tweak my paddling technique from video review.


The Green and the Colorado have a tremendous variety of flats or rapids. Most people only do the rapids, a few only do the flats, and most are out for their 6 day or 10 window. And, one of those for me is this summer. In early July there are 5 of us doing the mostly flatwater stretch from Green River , Utah (the city), down to the Confluence of the Colorado. It is about 120 miles, two or three Class I all the rest flat, red rock desert, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Wanna go?

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Raft? Don’t think so…Too hard to cartop. If I go, I have another craft in mind for a carnage parade statement…

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