I do a lot of sea kayaking and a few large lake float trips every year. My kayak is a 17 footer with a rudder. Set up for multi day expeditions (spent a month paddling around the Puget Sound and Straits of Juan de Fuca this year) and beach camping. I’m interested in doing some multiday inland river trips. Especially interested in Hells Canyon and possibly a Colorado River trip.
I have virtually no experience with whitewater rivers except for a guided rafting trip several years ago.
I’d like some opinions on taking a large kayak through rapids up to Class IV. I’ve been receiving conflicting opinions on this. One outfitter I talked to likened it to a “suicide mission” on the Colorado. Whereas another outfitter for the same river said while it wouldn’t turn as easily as a smaller boat it wouldn’t be much harder that a large raft provided the rudder survives. On the Snake River I was told by a jet boat outfit that they rarely see large kayaks but those they have seen on the water have faired pretty well.
Has anyone here regulalry run large sea kayaks heavily loaded with a weeks worth of food, gear, and supplies on whitewater? Other than a helmet what other specialized gear should I look at?
Dumb question that eludes me at this point. How do you get your car from the put in to the take out? Is there a service for this or do you hire a tow truck? Most ocean and large lake trips I’m able to paddle back to my car, unless I time the tides wrong then it’s just a matter of waiting a bit for the next window. Common sense tells me that paddling against the flow of a rapid is virtually impossible.
All advice appreciated. Great site. Looking forward to checking out the articles on here.
Long boats in big water
Well, it is possible to take long boats into big water.
But these are wildwater boats, not sea kayaks.
Are you for real?
Do you really want to paddle class IV or do you want to go on a long river trip and don’t know where to go that might match your experience?
How about doing the Columbia River from the Canadian Border down?
The Missouri River in Montana is another possibility.
Maybe the Saskatchewan River (don’t start to far upstream though):
Funny thing about rivers, they tend to go one direction. If you want to do a round trip, the Columbia River is a good possibility, except for the Hanford Reach it is not free flowing and doable in both directions if you don’t mind portaging dams (not usually allowed to do the locks in paddle craft).
Good luck, have fun, be safe.
No solo white water paddlers
White water paddling is rarely done solo. It is usually done by clubs. It is dangerous enough that you are very likely to get into trouble that will require help from others every time you go out. Real class 3 white water is easily run by experts but not so easily run by all others.
If you want river experience I suggest you start by paddling up rivers with current and then paddle back down them. After you are good at turn fast and catching eddies then you should start running some white water.
Again I think paddling any white water solo is really really dangerous and cannot be recommended.
you’ll need a bunch!
class III and IV in a loaded sea boat is a real challenge. even empty.
Ain’t tried it but…
We are sea kayakers with a decent amount of training and time in some conditions under our belts. This last summer we started WW, class 2 with an occasional pass thru or over a class 3 feature that we didn’t plan to hit in highly friendly WW boats (Inazones). I found that the simple speed of response needed in WW is a whole different animal. I am not honestly convinced that a class 2 river run is technically harder in straight skills than an equivalent tidal race, but the quickness and anticipation that is needed on the river is simply much faster. You usually have a lot less real estate in which to solve the problem and the eddies you are aiming at are smaller and easier to miss. I found that I had to spend about 15 minutes each time just getting my reactions up the aggressiveness needed, habits which would have been fine in many tidal races.
Now - a long boat would be less responsive and more about letting it run down the middle. Until you found a feature that spun you or otherwise destabilized - then it would be about having a very awkward amount of boat being run into or getting caught up on rocks. That bad.
Even without trying class 3 or above yet, or a long boat in other than tidal races, I think it’d be highly dangerous to try class 4 as an intro to WW or with a long boat. The rudder also gives pause. From one sea kayaker to another, I’d suggest an alternative approach. First, find a group. Second, stay in class 2 where a swim is moderately risky rather than life-threatening, and/or go with a raft group that can handle bigger water. Even if with a group, consider renting an inflatable if in your own boat. These boats will allow you to accidentally run thru tougher features and still have a good chance of being upright at the end.
I am also a seakayaker, and have done a
small amount of WW paddling. I can also attest that it is a very different animal. I would highly recommend trying some WW paddling, in a WW boat, with friends. And then move up from there. Jumping directly from seakayaking to class III in a long boat solo is simply not very smart. It is the stuff of Darwin Awards.
I would take a sea kayak in any water that I would take a loaded expedition type canoe (think Old Town Tripper) in—for me class II±III- Wouldn’t take it in Class IV—not manuverable enough for me—to much chance of a vetical pin or rapping it around a rock.
Well, FrankNC, most of my WW paddling
over the past ten years has been solo, and the results speak for themselves. Very few swims, no pins, no solo-related injuries. I’ve had more trouble hiking alone than running class 2-3 alone.
The original poster could, with some preliminary experience, take his sea kayak down the San Juan from Bluff to Clay Hills Crossing. None of the occasional rapids in that run is technical enough to require moves that his boat can’t make.
However, Slickrock Canyon on the Dolores, while still having no rapids above class 2, does require tight maneuvers in certain places, and as a sometime kayaker, I would be reluctant to solo Slickrock Canyon without a couple of boats along in case I had problems.
As for the shuttle issue, when I reached the take out on the Dolores, I met a couple who raft or canoe rivers all over Colorado, and he simply hitchhikes shuttle at the end of the trip while she reads a book and guards the gear.
Great info here.
I’ve been researching the Missouri river. That looks like it might be a great way to get into inland tripping.
Before I get into any whitewater Iwill definetely take a trip with a guide outfit. If I decide it’s something I’m interested in I will take some lessons.
Good little site here.
if your running the grand canyon last i knew there was a 17year waiting list for permits unless you go with a guided outfit.
Hell’s Canyon of the Snake ?
You might be able to run it in a seakayak. I survived this when I was a boyscout in a canoe with 0 skills … but I don’t think it is a good idea. The fact that you are posting here is evidence of not having experienced whitewater. A seakayak is not built to stand being pinned, I’ve seen seakayaks fold up in rock gardens in the ocean, and there you have a chance to escape because the currents are oscilating not a continuous flow.
For the Colorado river you could easily do Ruby and Horsethief Canyons (Class II maybe) but I agree with the outfitters that said suicide if you are planning on running majore rapids on the colorado. Fortunately you will never get the permits required so probably not an issue.
Bob Foote and Karen Knight for guided trips on the Colorado. I once asked Bob about taking a Pintail instead of a canoe and, if memory serves correctly, he’d done it or something like it. In fact he rated the various rapids by the number of rolls once can expect to do on the way through. Lava falls is a 3, 2 if you can hold your breath for a long time.
sea kayak through rapids up to Class IV
IMHO, it would be unnecessarily injurous to your self and boat.
Class IV is dangerous, and requires skill and experience. Most I know take a few years of running ww before taking on class IV - including formal training. And yes, they do it in boats designed for such conditions.
I’ve done tide races, surfing, etc in sea kayaks and class II-III in white water boats. I can see taking my Romany into class II ww, but would not choose to take a sea kayak into class III-IV ww.
It would be like driving a Hummer in
an English medievel town. Seriously, whitewater is a completely different sport than sea kayaking. Whitewater will help you as a sea kayaker, sea kayaking will help your whitewater paddling, but an order of magnitude less. It has been done before, running whitewater in sea kayaks, including the Colorado of the Grand Canyon, but there is a reason why whitewater boats look like they do and sea kayaks like they do.
First, take a lesson from Washington Kayak Club, Northwest Outdoor Center, Seattle Raft and Kayak and any other whitewater outfitter. A Google search will reward you with dozens of hits. Explore the differences and logic behind the development of each craft and their variations. Explore the nature of rivers and creeks, the speed of the water and the moves absolutely required to keep you alive and having fun. Reading water is rarely as fun as it is in a big drop.
Second, leave your old girlfriend at home when you get an invite to Hugh Hefner’s birthday party at the mansion. She is ill suited for the good times in that kinda place. She could easily pin and wrap on a rock, fold on your legs and drown you very fast. “Get the car honey, we are LEAVING.Oh my God, did you see that girl?” Get a a larger creek boat that you may get a weeks worth of provisions in. You’d be surprised how much stuff will go into a decent creek boat and they’ll handle a hundred times better loaded than even an unloaded sea kayak. That is a really important concept when you are trying to avoid a rock, hole or log. The idea of trying that in a sea boat sounds about as much fun as driving a 4x4 F250 long bed Ford into an underground condo parking lot.
Third, running hard whitewater solo, and yes grade 3 and 4 is defined as hard, is a really good way to die or maroon you in some remote canyon like Hells Canyon of the Snake river after you swam, lost your boat and in order to stay alive you get to the bank without boat. Trying to swim a loaded sea kayak with a cockpit (and probably hatches) full of water sounds quite dangerous. People do run whitewater solo, many of those that do I would define as experts. Almost all of the time they are in the proper boat for the job. Don’t be the guy in overalls and straw hat at the swanky pool party, bring the proper outfit, find instruction and organize a river shuttle with your paddling friends, as it is easy to do when you have a suitable group. Last, after a decent whitewater clinic, ask the instructor what some of the local internet groups are specific to local whitewater. Lots of folks will help you on your path to do whatever it is you want to do.