Unplanned swim

Finally convinced my better half to go on a river jaunt, on the Colorado (TX) from Utley to Bastrop, a stretch I’ve done 3 times before - nice and easy. After half an hour we reach the first island/bend so I enthusiastically mansplain about avoiding the shallows and back eddy, following the flow to get a free ride…and duly lead us both into strainers. The flow was maybe 25% higher than last time - that’s one of my excuses anyway.
I flipped, and fortunately, these were just low hanging trees, so after my exit I popped up downstream. I could see her head and thought she’d just stopped somehow, about 30 yards upstream. Then I saw her boat heading my way. By a minor miracle I was able to grab it, while also holding on to mine. We were able to beach about 1/4 mile downstream and the rest of the day was uneventful. I got a few scratches from the tree, but otherwise we were both unharmed.

Some takeaways - my wet exit was awesome! I have practiced, but this was my first “real” one. Popped right out of there - grabbed skirt loop and pulled it off within maybe a second.
Having my paddle tethered to the kayak was very helpful (my parter did not, but she managed to keep hold of the paddle at least). Not having my hat and sunglasses (prescription, $200 :frowning: ) tethered to my head was not so helpful - bye, bye.
And we were both wearing our PFDs - no question (and both air and water were in the 80s)
Of course, main thing was the poor judgement, and maybe a little complacency from having done this stretch before. Taking a better look and picking a different line and would have avoided the whole mess.
My partner lost one shoe, which caused some looks as we walked to the restaurant in Bastrop :slight_smile: . Not sure I’ll be able to get her out on the river again…

You made a mistake if you lost your best paddling partner.


Thank you for sharing this story. Glad you were both okay.


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Maybe your partner will look at it as an adventure rather than an ordeal and join you on the water again. Hope so.

Bummer about the sunglasses but good on you for wearing PFDs.

It was a learning experience - we’ve all made misjudgments so just have fun and paddle on!

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We are all in between an “unplanned swim…” You can try your best to prepare through practice to minimize the consequences.

No harm. You did well and will do better the next time around.


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Thanks for the encouragement all! I just realized, I have a photo from upstream…looks innocuous enough! I think it was that darker, brownish tree hanging over (just right of center in the photo) that got me. Looking closely you can see the white where the water veers off left from the shallows of the island. I think we could have even gone around the right of the island and had a much quieter time!

And, why not, from Google Earth! (water level was higher on our trip)

Well as a fellow river paddler I’ve also had plenty of trees sneak up on me and attack me in various ways. In the canoe world when I pick the wrong line and the current is about to push me into a bad place then it’s time to backpaddle hard and immediately. I’d be curious to know the flow rate and how much current you had to deal with. It’s a lovely river.

The Utley gauge was at just under 600 cfs at the time, which is almost the low point in the release cycle from the Austin dams at this time of year (the high is around 1000 to 1200). I’ve been down at about 450 cfs, but that gets pretty shallow in places. So, in other words, it was about perfect!
There are lots of these bends/islands where there’s a little acceleration toward the bank, but they’re easy and fun. Looking closely at the Google Earth image (at lower flow) this one seems to have almost a “double push” with an indentation in the bank (just left of the “Colorado river” label) and seems pretty narrow.
I’ll admit, I didn’t back paddle, just tried to paddle to the right hard, which of course, didn’t work! Hmmm. Another lesson!