Kayakers, rafters gear up for one of best seasons in recent history

With wintry weather still adding to record snow packs on mountains throughout the western United States and British Columbia, those who ride rivers anticipate an impending late-season thaw that promises to make this one of the most epic whitewater seasons in recent history. The accompanying video, showcasing amazing kayaking skills on Quebec‘s more low-lying waterways, provides a glimpse at what rivers out West will soon look like:


“These numbers are blowing my mind,” Joe Carberry, senior editor for Canoe & Kayak magazine, said in reference to June snow pack summaries for states such as California, Idaho, Washington and Colorado. “You’d be safe to say that most river basins in the inter-mountain and western United States are still averaging above 200% of average. That is incredible for this time of year. Some, including drainages in California and Idaho, were still averaging 400%.”

What this means is that the season, rather than starting in mid-May and waning by mid-July, is just beginning and, because mountain ranges throughout the West are so laden with dense snow packs, rivers will provide rollicking thrills for kayakers and rafters through August and even well into September in some places.

Carberry, when asked via email to list some of his top prospects, mentioned the Arkansas River in Colorado, “with the Pine Creek and Numbers sections set to create carnage galore.”

He touted the Class V section of the North Fork of the Payette River in Boise, Idaho, which set flow records last year “and could get even bigger this season.”

In California, Carberry predicted, “The rivers won’t be the only thing gushing. Chili Bar on the South Fork of the American will be overflowing with customers and raft guides ready to run the classic Chili Bar section down to Folsom Lake, while Class V kayakers get their scare on by charging the Golden Gate section.”

Another top spot in California will be the spectacular Forks of the Kern two-day stretch of mostly Class V rapids (the most difficult) in the Mt. Whitney drainage, which feeds the Kern River. That will peak July through August, according to Kern River Outfitters guide Luther Stephens.

Stephens, a well-traveled veteran, also touts the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River; Oregon’s Rogue and “last but certainly not least, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is flowing at high levels and is slated to have a great season as well. The Canyon is awesome. You have to do it, if you have not already.”

It sounds like a plan, to be sure.