This magnificent river rises as a result of melting snow in the Rockies. It is a 1760 mile somnolent giant, providing irrigation water to over 2 million acres of land. It has never been navigable by large boats – small steam boats used to navigate its lower reaches when the river was high. But sadly, in recent years the flow of water has diminished so the river has had to reluctantly throw in the towel, writhe in death throes and give up its freedom, though not without its own attempts to stay alive. It has no proper weapons with which to fight back and only a natural catastrophe will restore it.
It is the 4th longest river in North America, with an outflow of what used to be 3.2 billion cubic meters of water of which 1 billion reached the Gulf of Mexico. Along the distance of its course, it passes through a dry and arid region where the sun sucks up its moisture and no rivers flow to replenish it. Still it survived, year in and year out.
Then in 1953 they built the Falcon Dam. No doubt the benefits to humanity for this build were enormous but no one foresaw the long reach of change to the rivers ecosystem. Very little of that 1 billion cubic meters of water reaches the Gulf of Mexico today.
It kicked out at obstructions in its path between 1850 and 1874 when the waters cleared away all man-made structures along its course. Great hurricanes swept the area during these years providing the river with extra energy in the form of much more water, to do so.
The Falcon Dam trapped the water, and the result was erosion elsewhere which causes silting and sand bar formation along its course. It is seldom more than 3′ deep, meandering sluggishly and muddily along. Nevertheless, it still offers world class whitewater kayaking and canoeing in the Lower Canyons area, between Mexico and Texas and when the river flow rises, between April and October, the rapids churn up to Class 4 plus.
Extreme caution needs to be exercised before a decision is made for anyone to navigate these rapids with their kayak or canoe. The trip can only be contemplated by those who have significant whitewater experience. Other areas of expertise are also vital to the survival of anyone going on the trip.
The whole experience requires that extensive preparation be undertaken. The kayak or canoe journey is around 130 miles and lasts from 7 – 10 days. It is in an area where there is no noise, remote and inaccessible – down a steep-sided canyon where a whisper sounds like a shout. For anyone stranded here, rescue is not close at hand. Self-sufficiency is absolutely vital to the success of the kayak or canoe adventure. Fresh water needs to be carried in the boat on the journey and water is heavy to carry. It is not surprising then that only around 1300 people try it every year. For those who go, the experience is said to be life-changing.
Strict guidelines are laid out by Parks Management. Overloaded boats will not be allowed to proceed. PFD’s passed by USCG, extra canoe oars and kayak paddles are essentials also.
Below are suggestions for whitewater kayaks or canoes
Sea Eagle has 380X Pro Package or it’s 420 Pro Package.
Dagger has ‘Mamba’ or ‘Nomad 8.5’.
Innova has the ‘Traveler’ or the ‘K2’ in kayaks and the ‘Vagabond’ as a canoe.
Jackson and Pyranha are also both whitewater watercraft makers.
Whatever you choose to buy, find out all the information you can about it first. Reviews are helpful in this respect.