Team River Runner Colorado takes on the mighty Arkansas River!

Date: 24 May 14

River: Arkansas Stone Bridge to Salida

Level: 1600 cfs

Paddlers: Me, John, Herman, Rich, James, Hyrum, Chloe, Andrew, Traci, Tom, Mike, Seosaimh

CKS Paddlefest is a great Colorado kick-off to the summer paddling season, held in Buena Vista, CO.  This year it aimed to raise money and awareness for local youth in Chaffee County, Colorado.

Two of Team River Runner’s chapters, Colorado Springs and Denver decided to set up a Forward Operating Base (FOB) halfway between Buena Vista and Salida and take part in the festivities.


Livin' on the edge!  Actually we were allowed to camp there. We found the sign in the bush!

Livin’ on the edge! Actually we were allowed to camp there. We found the sign in the bush!

We set up a nice little camp on the side of the river. The weather forecast wasn’t looking great for the weekend, but we still managed to get a camp of 20 people! For the second year in a row, Air Force cadets from USAFA joined us to help as shuttle bunnies.  There’s no better feeling than not having to run shuttle!  It makes the logistics so much simpler and lets us focus on our time on the river.

Our river crew was a crew of 12.  We had a combination of experienced paddlers, paddlers from last year, and brand new river rats. Our rule for this trip was that each participant had to have a minimum of two sessions in the pool to make sure they understood the basics.

When we run the river, we take a variety of boats with us in order to accommodate all of our paddlers. Two paddlers this time around chose the sit-on-top kayaks, which looked so comfortable – like paddling a couch down the river.  I was jealous with my legs jammed into a short playboat!


Blowing up the sit-on-top.


First things first. Checking the outfitting. Don’t want to get uncomfortable on the river!

My stubby (but super fun!) little playboat!

My stubby (but super fun!) little playboat!

Our run down the river went great!  The weather was surprisingly nice, and our new paddlers were kicking butt! We discussed hand and paddle signals so we could communicate from afar on the river, and we practiced paddle strokes, ferrying, eddy catching and just plain fun rapid-riding!  Weeee!

One of the floating couches. Nice deal!

One of the floating couches. Nice deal!

Chloe rocks the second floating couch!

Chloe rocks the second floating couch!

Practicing our mad ferrying skillz...

Practicing our mad ferrying skillz…

Overall, the run between Stone Bridge and Salida is a class II run, but further down toward the town, there is a low head dam with a paddler chute along river left. The chute is a three pool drop, but at this level were without major consequence.  We had all the paddlers get out and look at the chute from the shore, and had some of our more experienced paddlers demonstrate the lines for us.


Scouting the chute from river left.


Checking out the run from upstream.

We set up communications at the top, middle and bottom of the run along with throw ropes and live bait in case we had to jump in and grab boats, people or gear.

We had a couple of swimmers at the chute, who were able to eddy out quickly and boats were gathered at the bottom.  Everyone had a blast going through the rapids!  Later when we arrived at the Salida play park, however we had a mini-yard sale.  We claim we did it for the benefit of the spectators on shore!  Our river rescue skills allowed us to make sure we didn’t lose any gear, and the cadets were waiting for us in town to load our boats and head back the FOB.

Here’s a little video of our day on the river.  Hopefully we have convinced a few more people to come out with us on the next river trip!