Rafting the Roaring Fork

All that snow had to go somewhere, and one of those somewheres is the Roaring Fork River. Talbot and Michael of Blazing Adventures took our merry crew on a great ride. Normally scheduled for 2 hours, we were done in an hour and a half because the river was so full and the water moving so fast. Although the river was swollen and brown with all the surrounding hillsides running off with the snowmelt from a record snow year, our guides had already run the river a number of times, without clients, to be sure the course was safe. At fist, I contemplated accepting the wetsuit they provide, but I’m glad I did. As one of our guides mentioned, “the water in the river today was snow yesterday” and there was plenty of splashing, especially since I ended up in the front of the boat. But I did manage to sit on the same side as our guide, which meant a slightly dryer ride than what Bob got on the opposite side, as you’ll see in the video. Click the title above, or the “full story” link below to see the video. Enjoy.

Arctic Rafting: Returned

After 15 days on the Kongakut river, we’ve returned to Anchorage via Kaktovik and Fairbanks. We nearly got stranded on Icy Reef on the shore of the Arctic Ocean as a big storm was moving in, but we managed to squeak out and make it home. Below are some photos and a satellite map of the area with the river route and some of our camps marked.

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Arctic Rafting

KONGAKUT RIVER HEADWATERS, AK - Helio pilot Ken puts the seat back into the plane. The seat has to come out to access the cargo space avaliable in the Helio Courier.Like || Tweet || More Photos || Purchase Photo

Walls of ice 8 feet tall surrounded us for a mile long section early on the river. This was, in part, what I came to the Arctic for. To experience the unique nuances of the circumpolar region: ice lined rivers, mountains carpeted in tundra, migrating caribou, foraging bears, wolves on the hunt, and yes, even to see if the mosquitoes were as bad as everyone predicted. The Arctic gets regular play in the news and although I knew I was already in favor of protecting this fragile landscape from any industrial intrusion, I wanted to see and experience it for myself.

The seven of us were on the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – 8.9 million acres established 50 years ago. In 1980 Jimmy Carter and other enthusiasts expanded it to today’s 19-million acres. The controversy between whether or not to allow oil extraction operations here is no secret. The pro drilling argue getting off foreign oil dependencies and an economic gain for the local economy. The con argue a disruption of fragile eco systems and that the surveyed estimate of how much oil could be recovered was but a mere drop in the bucket of US thirst for oil.

Final Touches: Kongakut River

Car TetrisThe trip is on. I departed PDX at 9.30pm in the dark and chased the sun down by flying north and arrived in Anchorage around midnight where, though it was overcast, it was still dusk out.

Nathaniel Wilder with Sune and Lindsay Tamm picked me up and we stayed up until 2.30am catching up on all the corners of the world we had been to since seeing each other last, fully aware that we had the next 18 days to do this on the river and that we should get some much needed sleep.

New Gear & Prep for Alaska

While I’ve spent some time on rivers, including a great 18-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I have yet to…

Rafting the Grand

How ironic that the pinnacle of whitewater rafting experiences is found over a mile deep into the earth.

As the Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon, numerous side canyons and rock falls have deposited piles and piles of rocks and boulders to create some of the most notorious whitewater in the northern hemisphere. Because the constraining canyon walls rise thousands of feet above the river, it has no way to go around these impedances. It has no option but to go over these obstacles in a churning, violent, frothy flow. And once we’re in the canyon, we have no option but to navigate our way through these unyielding currents in our little rafts. As one of the earliest river runners of the Colorado in 1869 described it, the water snagged a boat and “whirled it around quick enough to take the kinks out of a ram’s horn.”

River Geology

My Uncle Eddie has been rafting for many, many years. I remember when I was young, doing 15 miles down the Santiam River (san-tee-AM), a tributary of the Willamette River in Western Oregon with him and a bunch of our family. Well, since then, I’ve started joining him on more trips and have been helping him guide trips.