Agree with ppine about the hazards of doing higher gradient streams and willows in high water. We got into some of that once on the St. Francis once in Mo, if I’m recalling correctly. One of us swam on that outing, though it was of no real consequence.
There is another peril I once encountered and which I haven’t heard mentioned often and a humorous story of a trip that was involved with it.
An old regular paddling bud of mine and I traditionally used to talk in mid winter and plan our first spring paddling trip months in advance. On one such call we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t remember to the half decade when some of our trips were - we could remember coming on an island covered with butterflies but not when or where that happened, for example. Everything just faded into one big happy memory of river trips but without much specificity or order to them. So we vowed to do something unique on each of our trips to sort of bookmark it in our memories.
So that year we decided to do the Black River in central Wisconsin for our first trip. As it happened there was a “fine dining” restaurant about two days paddle from a convenient put in, so we decided to do a really good meal at the conclusion of the trip in order to avoid our usual bar/grill ending. Built the trip around that idea. Well, when the date came around, the town where we planned to put in the river was flooding so badly that houses along the river had water up to their second story windows. Grounds for postponement. And we did.
About three weeks later the water was down and the weather good, so off we went. The river has a fairly wide sandy flood plain but high rolling hills on either bank and those hills, we learned, had their own higher water tables. Along the first days paddle there were seeps coming out of the hills and wide areas of sand along the river banks that were still under a couple inches of water. No biggie, though they made for excellent swimming holes in old flood channels and good mosquito hatching habitat as well. We found spots at every place we stopped where water was seeping up through the sand into these shallows. Quick sand, in other words. They’d be little spots, often if you stepped in them they’d be knee deep and easy to step back out of, but after finding a few of these there was a warning light that was flashing in the backs of our minds. We got a bit careful. The upside was there were places where there were wood piles two stories high with the wood practically sorted by size for our campfire. First night we camped by one of them, the second night we found a high island with a bit less abundant firewood but a larger “yard” to prepare for our fine dinner that afternoon when we finished.
The next morning we got up, broke down our tents and such and dug into the dry bags for our dress clothes - suit and tie required, you see. It was a unique situation for us. We shaved and everything. We then departed with visions of surf and turf, kabobs, baked potatoes dancing in our heads. Even after the coffee and instant oatmeal we were hungry.
After paddling maybe nine miles we rounded a bend and there atop a high hill with a steep undercut bank overlooking the river was our destination. It had a big picture window looking out on the river and we could see those happy diners seated at white table cloths watching our approach. Then it struck us; We were on stage. Duded up as we were and with an audience, synchronized solo canoe paddling was clearly called for. So I fell in about 18" behind and just to the left of my friend. I switched sides when he did, matched his course, paid attention to posture. When we hit the shore, much to my surprise, exkayaker that he was, he pulled in parallel to shore and blocked my line to beach. Being only 18" off his stern, it took some deft paddle work to slow and tuck in inches behind him and duplicating his landing. But I was on my game that day and pulled it off flawlessly. He grabbed his dress shoes and hopped out. I grabbed my dress shoes and – remember that bit about the quick sand? I didn’t. There was no more support there than if I’d stepped out in the middle of a lake. Next thing I knew my tie was flowing over the gunwale I was hanging on to.
Then we went to a bar and grill. I remember that trip well.