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Report
PADDLING WHITEWATER
Techniques, thrills, dangers
George Stockman & Internet Sources
Low grab-brace in
tongue of
Tumbleweed on
the Clark Fork near
Missoula
OUTDOORS IS BEST (BOW RIVER, BANF)
OUTDOORS (MADISON RIVER, MT)
MAJORS ISSUES / THEMES
Whitewater conditions
 Whitewater boat design
 Reading water
 Paddling techniques
 Learning trips
 Concluding points / advice

WHITEWATER CONDITIONS
Gradient: drop in ft per mile
 Flow Volume: cubic ft per second
 River type / conditions
 KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
 Good info on the Internet
 Search on: “usgs river flows”
 Search “American Whitewater Association” or
“American Canoe Association”

GRADIENT
12 FT/MILE (PINE IN MI, GRAND CANYON)
250 – 300 cfs is pleasant
GRADIENT
30 FT/MILE (MIDDLE FORK SALMON, ID, LEHIGH GORGE, PA)
GRADIENT
NANTAHALA RIVER, WESSER, NC
Nantahala Gorge: 36 ft/mile
avg
Cascades: 250 ft/mile
avg
GRADIENT
200 FT/MILE (SECTION OF UPPER
YOUGHIOHENY IN PA AND PRESQUE ISLE IN
UPPER MI)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4F6dDz
eo8E
 National Falls on Upper Youghioheny

BIG WATER VERSUS TECHNICAL WATER
BIG: challenging because it’s high volume;
might require a roll, but good room to
maneuver
 TECHNICAL: challenging because skilled river
reading and precise maneuvers are needed;
maybe low volume and lots of rocks

FLOW VOLUME (CUBIC FT / SEC)
Low: 200 – 600 cfs Pine River; Red Cedar in
Spring (Red Cedar 1700 on 24 Mar 14)
 Medium: 600 – 3000 cfs Youghioheny, Lehigh,
Middle Fork, Blackfoot early summer
 High: 3000 – 40,000 Snake, Yellowstone,
upper Missouri in June
 Very High: 200,000 + Fraser, Niagara, Indus,
Amazon, Mississippi

RIVER CONDITIONS +/- DANGER
Gradient x Volume is one good measure
 Continuous rapids or pool-drop?
 Water Temp: warm or snow melt?
 Occlusions: rocks, trees (strainers), fences
 Access: urban, road/RR, wilderness
 Weather changes
 Wind, Sun

BOULDER GARDEN: W. SPANISH C3
WHITEWATER CANOE
DESIGN
Length: shorter for turning 10ft –
17ft
 Depth: deeper for dryness 14” – 16”
 Rocker: 2” – 6” for turning and
punching/climbing waves
 Toughness: for hitting rocks/trees with
some water weight

Flair
HIGHLY ROCKERED CANOE
Airbags prevent boat from being destroyed and
allow it to be rolled back up when overturned.
DOWNSIDE OF WW CANOES
Shorter is slower
 Deeper more susceptible to wind
 Rockered means more work tracking and more
susceptible to wind
 Tougher means heavier

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A quality 16 ft “plastic” WW canoe with air bags
will weigh 70 lbs+ and cost $1500+ new
WHAT ABOUT THE PADDLE?
Longer for solo than doubles
 Maybe 54” in class 1-2; 60 or longer for 3-4
(I know an expert who uses 70”)
 WW paddles up to 2 lbs, but not used at a
steady pace
 Much shorter paddles for flat water: maybe 52”
solo and 50” doubles. Carbon fiber paddles
can weigh only 12oz – good for C2C!

POSSIBLE LITTLE WESSER VIDEO
See video of length 1:42 under noc-2
 Air bag outfitting
 Nice eddy out by Ed Sharp
 Possible 0:24 noc-4 video of Wesser with
inflatable
 Father-son canoeing 0:48 noc-3 video

PADDLING TECHNIQUES
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Solo or double (strokes are same; move boat diff.)
Draw and rudder strokes
High and low brace
Eddying out
Ferrying
Beware of long academic lists of fundamental
strokes!
But do check Internet information
WATER HAS MASS: CONTINUOUSLY PULL OR
PUSH WITH YOUR PADDLE TO SET DIRECTION
OR STABILIZE THE BOAT, EITHER SOLO OR
WITH PARTNER
Sweeping on right to move bow to left.
Ruddering on right to move bow right.
DRAW STOKE PULLS BOAT TO PADDLE
Or, this could be a high brace (to stabilize the boat).
CROSSING BOW & PULLING RIGHT
LOW BRACE IN COTTONWOOD
35 FT/MILE ARKANSAS R. SALIDA, CO
YOU, THE BOAT, YOUR PARTNER ARE ONE
ANIMAL MOVING TOGETHER
“cross-deck hanging” (never heard the term!): turning
left; fighting the wind; preparing for a drop -- whatever
GETTING INTO AN EDDY (TO REST OR
GROUP UP)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm3W0Owi5
yg
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQuR-3Iv6AA
 Grab slow water from the bow of canoe and let the
fast current turn you 180 in the “eddy”
 Beware Tom’s Eddy by the Red Cedar Golf Course!

PEELING OUT IS THE OPPOSITE
Going from slow water (eddy) out into a fast
current.
 Grab the faster water from the bow and pull the
boat downstream holding onto the mass of
water going downstream.
 Better lean downstream to keep from turning
over, since the fast current will grad the bottom
of your boat to accelerate it.

READING WATER TAKES SKILL:
SAME FOR CANOE, KAYAK, SUP
Waves – steady, diagonal, explosion
 Holes – hydraulic w. kicking back upstream
 Tongue – downstream water in a hole or
wave
 Eddy – still or even upstream water usually
at the shore or behind large rocks

GO WITH THE FLOW; OR FIGHT IT
Tumbleweed
Clark Fork, MT
Hole
Tongue is mass
of water going
downstream
Violent eddy: waves, holes, swirls
big drop
WAGER DAM 6 APR (MIKE SMITH)
WAGER DAM 6 APR (MIKE SMITH)
ZOAR GAP ON DEERFIELD IN MASS.
CLASS 3+ IN A CLASS 1 RUN
EXPERIENCED C2 MEN (COLES)
C2W IN THE MIDDLE ROUTE; C1 BEHIND
PILLOW
HOLE
TONGUE
ZOAR GAP: LEFT ROUTE (TO PILLOW)
CROSS BOW RUDDER STROKE
CHECK OUT THE MSU ADMIN RAPID
Video taken 22 March 2013
 Flow of 1650 cfs
 Cold weather
 SEE VIDEO UNDER iPhoto

SOME AWA PICS OF WW PADDLING
Storm Hole on Susquehana
 http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/P
hoto/detail/photoid/883370/
 Aerial view on Yampa
 http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/P
hoto/detail/photoid/883366/

LEARNING TRIPS: MUST HAVE WW
Can acquire many skills in 1-2 weeks
 A) Start out: start in MI on the Pine, Pere
Marquette, [Ausable, Manistee], Jordan,
Sturgeon]
 B) then WI: Wolf, Pestigo
 C) or PA-WV: Slippery Rock, Youghioheny,
Cheat Narrows then Canyon (class 3-5)
 D) or south: Nantahala, New, Ocoee,
Chattooga
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6WHLgY
CONCLUDING COMMENTS
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PPPPP
Challenging WW requires 3 cooperating boats
Cold water disables a body quickly
Do your own research
Rivers change; WW rivers change a lot
Water level (CFS) is critical: Lower Yough at 2000 is
safe fun; at 8000 it’s intimidating and dangerous
Scout difficult sections of a river (eddy out and look)
Make sure you have a leader before following:
beware of young buck kayakers
READ:
http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Wiki/sa
fety:start
ADVICE FOR CLASS 2 +
Use airbags to protect your boat
 Do not have loose ropes
 Have no entrapping rigging (big boots under low
seats, etc.)
 Do not have sharp objects in your boat
 Wear a helmet
 Beware of frowning holes, smiling ones are OK

SAMPLE QUALITY RESOURCES
https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/
River/state-summary/state/MI/
 http://www.americancanoe.org/
 Books with maps and launching and rapid
information can be well worth the price

PARTIAL GLOSSARY OF WONDERFUL US RIVERS
EAST
Allagash, Penobscot, Dead,
Kennebec, Saco, Mad,
Deerfield, Westfield West,
Esopus, Hudson Gorge,
Salmon, Black
Lehigh, Nescopeck, Delaware,
Youghioheny, Slippery Rock,
Castleman, Stony Creek,
Tohickon
Appomattox, Antietam,
Gunpowder, Rappahanock,
Shenandoah, Maury, Potomac,
James, New, Cheat, Castleman
WEST
Snake, Gros Ventre, Green,
Wind, Salmon, Lochsa,
Selway, Payette, Jefferson,
Madison, Galatin, Missouri,
Shoshone, Blackfoot,
Bighorn, Yellowstone, Clark
Fork, Flathead, Kootenai,
Colorado, Arkansas, Cache
La Poudre, Clearwater,
Skykomish, Snoqualme,
Bechler, Wenachie, Grand
Ronde, Hoh, Spokane,
NORTH CENTRAL
Ausable, Pere Marquette,
Jordan, Manistee, Pine,
Pestigo, Wolf, Menominee,
Oconto, Brule, Otter Tail, St
Louis, St. Francis, St. Croix,
Little Missouri, Missouri
SOUTH
Dan, French Broad, Green,
Nantahala, Nolichucky,
Ocoee, Pigeon, Chattooga,
Tellico, Obed, Emory,
Cumberland, Buffalo, Little
Missouri, Cassatot,
Guadalupe, Rio Grande, San
Juan, Animas,
PARTIAL GLOSSARY OF US RIVERS

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