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Old 08-27-2011, 10:20 AM
37 posts, read 37,411 times
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Originally Posted by Dogmama50 View Post
Even mild sections of the Colorado can be extremely dangerous.
I guess I have trouble combining the word 'mild' with the words 'kill you,' 'die,' 'drown,' or 'extremely dangerous' in the same sentence. But that's just me.

So, the Colorado River is overall the most dangerous river in Colorado? The U.S.? I'm learning more each day.

I'm wondering if 'outfitters' are busy enough in season to have a need to hire people that aren't guides on rafts, i.e. answer phones and questions, book people, etc. or if the owner can handle it all if they aren't on the rivers. Another thought I've had is planning trips like a travel agent, hauling people up there from TX who don't know anything like me right now, and don't have time to research stuff like I'll be doing. The main focus could be on riding the rivers, perhaps every other day, (the best deals I'm able to find out about), and the other tourist spots people may want to see in between. Perhaps an outfitter would cut me a deal where my ticket is free in exchange for bringing them business, just like any other 'organizer gets in free' trip. Ya think? A lot of people are doing this kind of thing after forming groups on meetup.com.

Old 08-27-2011, 10:33 AM
3,806 posts, read 3,993,771 times
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It is sometimes not as simple as deciding to exit a kayak and floating. In rapids there can be site specific conditions where the river holds you, your kayak or anything down and it can be very difficult or even impossible to escape the kayak and even if you did to escape the pressure. Even expert athletes get caught, fight with all their strength to gain a slight change in position, and sometimes fail and die. Even if you not completely caught in a whirlpool, if you take a blow to the head (even with a helmet you could get hit in the face or neck or get whiplash) or the water busts your back or you get a deep bleeding gash anywhere on the body you probably aren't going to be able to make maximum efforts to recover or avoid further injury or avoid drowning. I read about folks reported drifted down and held to their deaths under a log every season. The river is constantly flowing down to hold them there. It can take hours for the response squad to pry the dead body out using many people and equipment to match and get the better of the wrestling match with the river. Seriously, read a lot more about the potential dangers of kayaking.

Mild can just mean that it is relatively easy to avoid these bad places and that they aren't as bad as tougher places, though they may still be present. And the river can change subtly at any time so what was mild or fairly easy to avoid for months or years could suddenly get harder to avoid and harder to escape if a rock or downed log shifts or something new moves in from above. You have to learn to carefully read and respect the river every foot, every day and not get too comfortable with the descriptions of guidebooks and think you are safe or "already know it".

If you stay on fairly mild waters at the right times and know the details of the section in great detail and stay alert and know what to avoid and what to try if you make a mistake, in groups with safety measures at the ready and well practiced in them, then you are starting out right but there is still risk. If you do anything more advanced you are engaged in an extreme sport and better be an expert and even then you are still a pretty big risk taker no matter who good you are or how thoroughly you are prepared.

Yes bigger outfitters may have office staff to answer phones, check people in & take money, store/ clean / maintain equipment, market the company, drive vans, do payroll, pay bills, maybe buy and prepare food, etc. If you are serious about kayaking long-term then getting an entry level, minimum wage with a good outfitter would be a pretty useful education. Some outfitters might give a one time price break to a big group trip organizer. As with other travel and recreation sectors, some might give a modest cut of the action to the right someone who could regularly bring them business but it would take a lot of salesmanship to get that arrangement and to deliver regularly on that promise.

Last edited by NW Crow; 08-27-2011 at 11:58 AM..
Old 08-27-2011, 11:27 AM
37 posts, read 37,411 times
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How about a river that's deep enough to float and navigate, but not deep enough to drown? i.e you can stand up in it. Here's a pic I just came across that made me think of such a thing. There are more visible rocks, but at least you know where they are, and still get to practice your paddling skills. What class does this look like, or is there even enough water to rank it?


Apparently this board is not allowing links. You have to copy and paste (?)
Old 08-27-2011, 11:39 AM
3,806 posts, read 3,993,771 times
Reputation: 2566
People can and do drown in water they could theoretically based just on waterdepth "stand up in"... if they could stand up or effectively move at all. And that would certainly include the specific water in your picture and anything like it. You don't seem to be willing to accept the power of whirlpools yet and their ability to hold a person or push them down deeper. I am not going to repeat myself on that any further. Until you understand this and understand all you can do to avoid and fight these situations and that realistically your odds to fight and win in some situations that you fall into may not be good (and can be very low to nil baring some miracle) you should not go on rated waters, in my opinion.

You can "know where the rocks are and paddle" but you need to know that often the riverflow pulls you hard and directly to one rock or another unless you exert enough power in the exact right direction at the right time and the right place to avoid all of them. Then a tenth or a few tenths of a second later you face a similar but different exacting challenge and repeat it over and over until out of that rapid then again in the next one.

You can't post clickable links until you've been a member some period of time. Not sure how long, don't think it is too long.

Last edited by NW Crow; 08-27-2011 at 12:32 PM..
Old 08-27-2011, 12:26 PM
37 posts, read 37,411 times
Reputation: 17
Default whirlpools

When I think of a 'whirlpool,' I visualize the classic round, tornado like swirl, like what happens at the drain when you let water out of a bathtub, which I've never seen any of in pictures and videos of whitewater. Maybe they're not that obvious. If you're using it to describe forces that can't be easily seen in that way, then I need to broaden my definition of a whirlpool. I'd be surprised if there aren't instructional videos out there, actually taken on the water, to describe all the dangerous water currents. I know the goal is to be able to read them, I just don't know how to. Videos might be a fast way to learn, especially considering still pics in books don't really offer the full effect.

As for the original question, seeing the answer about the Arkansas River, then looking up more info on that, like where it is exactly, helped give me some direction. Ironically, I thought Pueblo would be a less expensive place to live, but not the best location convenience wise, and then I learn today that the Arkansas River runs right through the middle of it. (Not sure if anyone starts their journey near there.... I suspect most if not all are going to be further west). I could also commute from Colorado Springs if necessary, though I don't know how long it takes to drive to the most popular entry points. Looks like that one river could keep me busy for awhile, if there really are tons of segments to explore before you experience it all. I also like the post about the places set up to learn, so that helps too. Thanks for all responses. They've all helped direct me where to look next.
Old 08-27-2011, 12:37 PM
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Here is one more basic link you can read with some description of types of water encountered: Whitewater - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Whirlpools tend to be right near or past rocks and other obstructions. There are lots of books and vids that can give you more information to prepare than I can.

(The link reports that whitewater deaths, of all kinds, probably bounce around, but in 2006 they reportedly reached over 50.)

You are welcome for the feedback. Just trying to help you dig into it respectfully, not to discourage you.

You are doing the right thing to ask questions and build your knowledge base. Give it a few days and maybe experienced river people (on the Arkansas or elsewhere in the state) will drop by and give more information and advice and answer your further questions.

Pueblo has among the cheapest rents in the country for a city of its size. You might do well to look into living there or the more expensive but bigger job market of Colorado Springs or even the modest sized but doing pretty well economically Canon City. Canon City might be a decent compromise between close to the river and mountains yet doable for housing and a job. You can start out one place and change later as circumstances and preferences evolve.

I think you are right than the more scenic and challenging water on the Arkansas River would be the west but there probably is stuff to train and play on further to the east. Here is a guide book: Arkansas River Guide Book
Amazon.com: Arkansas River Guide (9780963479976): Thomas G. Rampton: Books

And this company hires and trains seasonally:

Last edited by NW Crow; 08-27-2011 at 01:01 PM..
Old 08-27-2011, 04:39 PM
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,876 posts, read 9,622,106 times
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Sax, please do a google map view of Buena Vista and Salida. These towns are the start-off points for many, many, many rafting outfitters. You can see that they are located in the Arkansas River Valley, nowhere near Pueblo. It probably would take an hour and a half to get there from Colorado Springs. Canyon City is certainly a better choice, but still pretty far on a two-lane highway.

You also really need to understand more about the power of water in a river. If the river is deep enough to navigate, then it IS going to be deep enough to drown in. The currents are very swift and you can get caught in an eddy. And the current is swift enough that it is very difficult to stand up. Rafting and kayaking can be really fun, but you need to have a healthy respect for the river.
Old 08-27-2011, 05:09 PM
37 posts, read 37,411 times
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I guess I've been in TX too long. If you have on a life vest here, like the type water skiers wear, you float. You don't drown. You could be unconscious, floating in the middle of the lake, perfectly upright. So the concept of water being stronger than the foam, or whatever is inside the life vest that causes you to float, is foreign to me without something other than water holding you under. (such as being stuck under a tree limb or rocks) But looking at a lot of the vests I see kayackers and rafters wearing is pics, they don't look the same as what water skiers here wear. They don't seem to have as much of the needed flotation material rising up and over your shoulders, I presume so as to not hamper upper body movement. I saw a photo of a guide today with River Runners, and another guy, whose vest looked like a small chest plate hardly larger than a dinner plate, with plain nylon straps over the shoulders and next to nothing under the arms. It certainly wasn't like anything I've seen on the lakes of TX. Here's the pic.


I noticed the guy sitting front right has on what looks like must be a waterproof down style jacket, with no visible vest even on the outside, unlike the guy sitting front left who has his over the same type jacket. Others further back don't seem to need warmth at all. Now I'm wondering if the water is ALWAYS going to be very cold. If it is, I'll need some sort of warmer outfit. I don't like very cold water, and may be in for a rude awakening, even before I get there. That's the advantage of these discussion boards, right? I was hoping there would be weeks when it's really hot, and the water feels great with just a T-shirt, as is the case on TX lakes when it's 95 degrees plus. Over 100, and water isn't cold AT ALL.

I realize the point you're making is irrespective of flotation devices. I'm just pointing out things I've noticed. If currents are such that the water ALONE can hold you under without an obvious tornado shaped whirlpool, regardless of the vest you're wearing, then yeah, that's news to me. And frankly, I don't know why anyone would risk that, since you don't know when you're going to fall out of a raft, or bail out of a kayak and land right in the middle of it. I wonder how many out-of-state vacationers have been told this? Shhh. Don't ruin the state's travel industry, right?

I've only been rafting once, north of Taos, and one woman fell out of their raft, and we were in front and pulled over for a rescue. It was exciting to say the least. As best as I can remember, they used plain life vests just like water skiers wear. I'll never forget what she looked like, probably in her 40's, heavy set, and totally at the mercy of the current. It took several people just to pull her back into the raft, once they caught up with her and parked to the side.

I'll look into those two towns specifically. Thanks for the tips. If I were working for an outfitter, then yeah, I want to be as close to work as I can get. Pueblo and Co. Springs wouldn't work then. This info is helping a lot. I also checked prices on a KOA campground in Pueblo, and did you know it costs twice as much to have a small camper trailer, pulled by a pickup, than to just have a camper over the bed of your pickup? $52 vs. $26.

Last edited by sax6272; 08-27-2011 at 06:02 PM..
Old 08-27-2011, 06:25 PM
Location: Bend, OR
3,296 posts, read 8,424,116 times
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Sax, there is definitely a difference between a river (especially one with any whitewater) and a lake. Flotation devices are also different and have different ratings depending on the class of rapids you will be on. My suggestion to you is to find a whitewater rafting/canoe/kayak shop near you (there are some in Texas Texas White Water Rivers and Paddling Spots) and talk to experienced folks. See if they offer classes or find out where you can take them. Get involved in the community first and learn your limitations. You are very naive about the power of rivers (and I honestly don't mean that in a condescending way). So many people lose their lives because they don't understand this. Don't be a statistic! Whitewater is fun and can be very safe, if you know what you are doing and know what to do if/when you fall out into the river.
Old 08-27-2011, 07:32 PM
9,830 posts, read 19,531,434 times
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Originally Posted by sax6272 View Post
Just out of curiosity, why are you calling it a mild section if you almost got killed trying to keep your kayak (or body, whichever the case it was) afloat? Were you turned upside down or trapped somehow and not able to escape the kayak? Was something so powerful that your life vest didn't keep you afloat? I'm categorizing 'staying afloat' and being washed downriver as too different things. If I can't hang on, I at least want my head above water so I can breath. I don't know what causes people to drown, unless it's some sort of freak accident like getting wedged between rocks, upside down, and knocked unconscious where you can't escape your kayak. If plan A is to flip yourself right side up when upside down and the water is so fierce you can't, that's one thing. But if plan B is to bail out of the kayak, what prevents that from happening once upside down?
I've been popped out of kayaks and rafts many times like a pop tart flying out of a toaster when you get some sideways rotation and hit a rock.

I was out of the boat, life vest on, but was trying to keep myself upright with my feet tucked up in a sitting position so I could keep my head above water. Even in a easy section you are still against a constant flow of thousands of gallons of water that does not stop.

I used to think like you, which I theorize is "it can't be that bad". But it is. You don't understand the force of it until you are in it, even in a mild section. People die on easy sections all the time. It doesn't take a "freak accident".

I remember my great grandfather warning me when I was 8 years old, walking along a torrent of a small stream filled with snow melt, that if I stepped in it, the force of the water was strong enough to knock me off my feet. He was right.
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