After a summer of working six days a week managing the river operations of Stand Up Paddle Colorado, creating water-based education programs for middle school and high school students, and teaching and guiding river SUP tours I realized it was time for some extended paddling time for Trinity and I. Some of us at SUPCO had already discussed finishing the season with a Westwater trip. Why stop there? I began to research water levels, rapid classes, charted paths in my atlas, checked driving miles, river miles, it was starting to come together.
I adjusted the itinerary constantly as the dates approached. Planning the end of season Westwater trip, planning my own three week road trip, and wrapping up a grueling summer of work I love was beginning to wear on my ability to stay in the moment. My vacation was weeks away, yet I was already gone in my mind. A path began to become clear as I looked at the whitewater parks and river stretches I was interested in.
A well regarded whitewater run at any level, Westwater is an excellent mix of breathtaking scenery and quality whitewater. Gorgeous sandstone and schist provide a dramatic backdrop to one of the runs I adored for years as a rafter, and consider some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a SUP.
Cascade Whitewater Park
A breath of fresh air under the urban sprawl. The features are fairly well spread out, so we scouted them out, picked the one we liked the look of, and sessioned into the twilight. Enough fun that we returned the next morning to shred some more before heading further west.
The Grand Canyon Of The Snake
Already being familiar with this run’s reliability into the fall, it was an obvious candidate for inclusion in the trip. Even at fall water levels this canyon holds onto a big water feel, and can be run in just a few hours.
The Main Payette
I had hoped to run parts of the North Fork, the South Fork, and the Main Payette, but dropping water levels left us with only the third option. It was everything we hoped for. After the big water feel of Westwater and the Snake, some technical water was in order.
Kelly’s Whitewater Park
The infamous location of the Payette River Games. A well designed whitewater park, and even though it was super late in the season, we had a blast surfing and swimming for hours.
The Alberton Gorge
An absolutely epic run. Stunning scenery and challenging whitewater. The intro rapids were super fun and the inner gorge delivered some excellent technical drops.
Yellowstone National Park
We didn’t run any water in the park, but it was a perfect end to the trip. Watching the water steaming and bubbling out of the ground, and the Yellowstone river cascading over the Upper and Lower falls, served to connect us further to the resource that has changed our lives forever.
By Matt Buckley
February 28, 2016