Category Archives: Western USA

CKS Paddlefest and the Arkansas River basin

 

CKS Paddlefest was our first stop in Colorado and is an AMAZING family friendly festival in Buena Vista, Colorado, just west of Denver. It runs over Memorial Day Weekend and has kayaking, SUPing, mountain biking, running and climbing activities along with live music and great food. It is based out of an area called “South Main” which is a new community that is being developed right beside the Arkansas River.

At the moment there is a HUGE dirt parking lot at the south end of South Main and it filled up with well over 50 RV’s, campers, trucks and tents (photo above is from 4 days prior to the festival). It grew over the course of the week that we were there, and there were very few open spaces come festival weekend. The best part was the friendly sense of community – both kids and dogs ran free and there were no complaints or grumblings by anyone.

 

The Buena Vista Whitewater park runs over the length of 1km and has a number of different holes and waves, with something for everyone. There is a big hole at the top where the US Team trials were held, a nice SUP surf wave that most of the SUP events were based out of, the “competition hole” where the main rodeo was held and then a nice bouncy surf wave that was great fun to play on.

Hunter signed up to compete in freestyle in both K1 and C1 in the cadet class. Unfortunately there were no other cadet C1 paddlers and only 1 junior C1 paddlers so they created a C1 open category, which meant Hunter plus a junior plus 4 very senior men… like world champion senior!

I was really proud of him choosing the compete in the open category and he was inspired by what he saw these paddlers do. Needless to say, he finished 6th but it was a great learning experience.

Hunter made the finals and came 5th overall in the Cadet class for K1 and gained a lot of competition experience. He now has a great sense of what tricks he needs to learn and lots of good tips and tricks for learning them.

Because US Freestyle team trials were a few days after CKS Paddlefest, there were a lot of paddlers in town for the week prior to the festival and the week after. This meant that there was always someone to go and play at the hole with or take a run down the local river runs of the Arkansas River. It was fabulous for the parents that the kids could just grab a buddy and walk down the path to paddle.

We were also able to take advantage of the senior paddlers to learn from. Tad Dennis was very generous and gave Hunter tips and tricks for C1 rolling and Nick Troutman helped us with feedback on Hunter’s loop. The kayak community is so friendly and helpful!

We took advantage of being based in Buena Vista to also explore the southern sections of the Arkansas River like the Milk Run and Brown’s Canyon as well as the Salida Whitewater Park.

Salida is another great mountain town with a busy, active vibe. They have a great town presence right along the river and are the host of the FiBARK festival in mid June.

Our first two weeks in Colorado have been a whirlwind with something happening almost every day. We’ve also experienced every possible weather scenario and worn clothing to represent every season. We’ve barely scratched the surface for local adventures along the Arkansas water shed and look forward to coming back again next year to play some more!

Wenatchee River – Leavenworth, Washington

 

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The Wenatchee River is located in Washington state, between Leavenworth and Cashmere. Our friends from BC have been coming here for years so we thought it would be a great stop on our journey northwards. Lucky for us Chester decided to join us so we had a knowledgeable person to lead us down the river and around the area!

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The Wenatchee River is known for some of the best play boating in Washington State. Prime flows are between 8,000 – 12,000. We made the decision to come when the flows were sitting around 8,000 so were quite surprised to arrive on the 21st and have them well above 14,000!

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We paddled twice a day for 3 days and didn’t have the same flow for any run, which definitely made it more interesting. Unfortunately at flows this high most of the play features were washed out. The upside was that the wave trains were SUPER HUGE – around 10-12 feet, which certainly made cresting the wave exciting!

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Rodeo wave was one of two play features that was still in. It was pretty thrashy the first two days but once the levels dropped below 13,000 on day three it became fun and Tim had 3 play sessions in one day.

He described it as fast and bouncy and it was tough to get the smile off his face!

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The rest of our play time was spent at a wave called Turkey Shoot. Unfortunately it was a favourite of many and at times the eddy had up to 15+ people in it. We got lucky for a few of our sessions and were the only ones there for a period of time, which was fabulous!

The water was surging a fair bit as the water level was constantly changing. This meant you had some amazing rides and some not so amazing rides when the wave would just green out and disappear. Lots of fun to surf and spin, not really strong enough for much else.

DSCN3529The best part about the Turkey Shoot wave was that it was big enough to surf and spin in our big boats as well as play boats! I was pretty excited to back surf in my Zen…

The town of Leavenworth is in the Washington State side of the Okanagan Valley and is surrounded by orchards and vineyards. The area has a history in the gold rush and as a timber town until the 1960’s when they redesigned themselves to take advantage of their location and they developed the region around the concept of a Bavarian town. It is now a top tourist destination in the Pacific North West with numerous festivals to attract people year round. We were pretty impressed with the kayaking, biking and climbing opportunities but that seems to come well behind the Bavarian charm and christmas tree ornament shops for most of the visitors.

tumwater scopingWe took the time to check out Peshastin Creek and the Tumwater Canyon while we were here. Peshastin looks like a fun little run when the water is high enough – no room for eddies so just get in, stay centre and stay upright! Tumwater Canyon was a definite NO for all of us – road scouting showed some doable lines and some really munchy holes that did not look fun. We’ll stick to watching others run it via youtube…

It was definitely a fun visit and a place we would come back to. We stayed at the KOA in Leavenworth which had good amenities and was an easy place to put in for a long river cruise day.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park – a hidden gem

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Kelly’s Whitewater Park is located in Cascade, Idaho (about 2 hours north of Boise) and is absolutely a hidden gem for paddling families. Cascade is a quiet small town tucked into a river valley and surrounded by mountains. With a population of just under 1000 people the economy was historically driven by the Boise Cascade Sawmill, which closed in 2001. The Whitewater park was built in 2010 as one piece of a multi-faceted economic development program.

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The whitewater park is located on the North Fork of the Payette River, just below the Cascade dam. There are 3 main features and 2 smaller features which provide something for everyone to play, learn and grow on. There is a great rock island in the middle that makes for easy access to all of the features below the top BIG one.

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Our visit definitely counts as early season. The water actually “turned on” 4 days before we got here, jumping from winter constant flows of 200 cfs up to 1200 cfs. It seems that summer peak averages are around 1800 – 2000 cfs. Although there was still snow in the mountaints, our two days in late April had bright sunny skies and temperatures in the low 20’s Celcius (mid 70’s F), and to our surprise, the water wasn’t ice-cream headache cold.

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We wandered around our first morning and looked at all of the features. The boys decided that they were going to start at the top to check things out. Hunter was excited to try “the big hole”, which really reflects the growth we’ve seen in his paddling just over the last 3 weeks. He and Tim spent time talking through the green wave, the white burly hole and strategies for paddling both.

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Tim had some fun playing in the meat of the hole and Hunter played around with entering on the wave and jet ferrying across into the foam pile of the hole to get comfortable with things.

 

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After playing around at middle wave for a while (see below for more details) Hunter and Tim headed back up to the big hole where Hunter ended up with his first scary experience of being stuck in a hole and being worked. The good news is that he was upside right the entire time and did eventually find a way off the ride, after a scream to the eddy for help.

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After some deep breathing and eddy coaching from Dad on strategies to extricate oneself from a hole, he was right back out there putting his learning into practice. Definitely another progression step from last fall, both physical and mental, which is so neat to watch.

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Our favourite wave was middle wave – a medium sized wave that stretches across the entire main channel. It fit all three of us at once which resulted in hours and hours of bumper boat surfing and spinning over our two days! Nothing but non-stop giggles and banter…

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The best part about bumper boat surfing is that it develops a higher level of comfort on the wave and in the water in general. You learn to manage your boat while many forces are playing havoc with the environment around you – way beyond just the wave itself. On top of that it’s fun so doesn’t feel like learning and skill development!

In addition to the Whitewater park, the area has a 5 mile walking/biking trail, 18 hole frisbee golf course, beach volleyball court, bocce ball courts and tonnes of green grassy areas for kids to run around.

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Overall this was a fabulous stop and we are so happy that the spring run-off worked in our favour this year. A summer time visit here, with all it’s amenities and warm temps (water and air) would be so much fun. Lot’s of RV parks within 2km and we boon docked right in the gravel parking lot at the play park. Restaurants, grocery stores, and the movie theatre are all within walking distance. If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s before then you definitely have to put it on your road trip list!

 

Truckee Whitewater Park – Reno, Nevada

hunter peter tim reno launchThe Truckee Whitewater Park is located in downtown Reno, Nevada. We have been trying to paddle here for three years so were excited to hear last week that the water was flowing (compared to our last visit where only the ducks were playing…).

reno slalom course FordoAs the park is located downtown and has other amenities (tennis, basketball, walking etc.) we learned that we needed to get there well before lunch in order to get a parking spot, or two, or three to fit into!

hunter side surf warmupThere are two channels in the park. The channel closest to the parking area has a slalom course and makes for a great warmup lap – fun little surf features and a good set of gates to practice precision moves on.

hunter wave 5At the bottom of the confluence of the two channels is wave 5 – the largest wave of the five features. Can be sticky or flushy or great depending on the water levels…

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Wave 3 is also referred to as the competition wave – it is a slight hole but also has a green tongue section for front surfing. It was a great place to build confidence and experiment with old and new tricks.

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Peter Holcombe showing that old guys can still throw loops!

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Nathan O’Connor getting some AIR!

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Cameron O’Connor showing the younger boys how it’s done

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Abby Holcombe rocking her front surf

We were lucky to venture to Reno with our new friends the Holcombe’s (a full time travelling family) and then to meet the O’Connor clan as well.

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Hunter was able to borrow a small Rockstar from the O’Connor boys and LOVED it…which is great as we have a new to us Rockstar sitting in Calgary waiting to be picked up. With his new friends cheering him on he pushed his comfort zone and tried his first loop!

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Paddling with other kids has been great for Hunter – pushing his comfort zone while having fun and goofing around! He’s stoked for paddling this year, which is exciting for us…

California spring paddling rocks!

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We have been playing in Coloma, California on the South Fork of the American River for twelve days and have been so impressed with the area and people! We came up for California Canoe & Kayak’s opening day event and had so much fun that we stayed for another full week…

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We have a great camp site at Camp Lotus, which is located right on the river and a great take out point for the upper run, as well as put in site for the middle run and the barking dog play wave. There are 10 full RV sites with power and water and if you get site #7 across from the office you can get wifi at your site!

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California Canoe and Kayak’s opening day event is a fund raiser for American Whitewater and made up of a number of paddling workshops + BBQ/beer and a movie. Hunter and I did the Chili Bar River Running Clinic, with friend Bryon Dorr, and Tim did the play boating clinic. It was a great day for all of us – pushing boundaries and learning new things. Such a great day that we made it back for beer and dinner but ran out of steam and headed back to the campground before the big movie night…

DSCN3190The first week of our stay had above seasonal weather – big bluebird skies, green lush hillsides and temps in the 70’s-80’s (20-25c). The hills and riversides were covered with purple lupin and yellow poppies.

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Overall we paddled 9 days with 4 Chili Bar runs, 2 Coloma to Greenwood runs, 1 Gorge run and 2 play sessions at Barking Dog.

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The spring run off has lead to really wacky water levels. The river is dam controlled and they have “recreational releases” 6 days a week from 9am-12pm where there is guaranteed to be a minimum of 1200-1500 cfs. The levels didn’t get that low once during our stay. I have yet to figure out what causes the ups and downs of the releases – it has definitely made for some interesting river days and no run of the same section has been the same experience.

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Barking Dog play wave is only good from 900-2000 cfs so we kept careful watch of the gauge for those windows. We were shut out most days… To get there from Camp Lotus it is a quick left down the river – about 6 paddle strokes. Getting back when you are done is another story… At lower flows it seems that you can walk up an island that is river right of the play wave. At these higher flows the island is inaccessible so we walked up the river on the far right side until we reached the top of the island and then walked a little more to some rocks where we could get back in our boats and attain up to the campground. You need to be sure to leave some energy for this last slog…

We had some fun (kinda sorta) one day when we were paddling down the C2G section after a Chili Bar run and I looked down in the water next to me to find a snake! Yes… I screamed – no surprise there. The boys figured I had dropped the camera or something. After regrouping I realized I should at least take a picture to show them. The snake seemed to be following me in the current so as both the snake and I caught up with Tim and Hunter I pointed him out. It’s a given that Tim picked him up to check him out and Hunter was equally fascinated. We let him hang out on Tim’s boat for a while to warm up and then ferried him over to shore to some nice sunny grass.

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The Chili Bar run was our favourite out of the 3 river sections around Coloma. We paddled it 4 times at various levels, ranging from a low of 1800 to a high of 4200. While it was big water it wasn’t overly pushy and has a nice gradient so none of the rapids are super steep and creek like. There were a few play waves that were guaranteed to get Tim smiling and lots of inconsequential holes and rocks for Hunter to boof.

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Our last three days of paddling were with the Holcombe family and some great local folks. It was fun to have another family to paddle with and even better to do it on a river where Hunter and Abby were pretty well free to goof around and paddle their own lines without much concern for us parents. They are both becoming really strong paddlers and we are definitely looking forward to catching some more river time with them over the next few weeks.

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Coloma, and the South Fork of the American River, are an unexpected GEM and we definitely recommend a stop here for any paddlers. Our sense is that it is a zoo in the summer time so spring would probably be best – higher flows and less people.