5 Reasons Pro Rafters Love High Water

Posted June 15, 2011 by Malina

We’ve been talking a LOT about high water of late–on the phone, over email, on this blog.  Every spring we’re excited when the Sierra snowpack starts to melt and fill our rivers to the brim.  This year, with the truly epic amount of snow, there’s plenty to talk about. 

Herewith, the top 5 reasons we at AO Rafting love high water:

1.) High water is rare and special. It’s more of everything we love about rafting: faster water, bigger drops, bigger wave trains, more hair-raising turns, and more powerful hydraulics.  In other words, it’s more FUN, pure and simple.

2.) Rivers change dramatically as flows get higher–some rapids basically “fill-in” in with water and basically disappear, while others spring up out of nowhere as water surges over newly submerged obstacles.  Other rapids get much more powerful and need to be approached differently.  For newer guides, high water  trips make familiar rivers seem like brand-new experiences, and for our veteran guides, it’s more like seeing an old friend because high flows come around so rarely.

3.) The process of getting to know rivers at higher flows is very hands on–we literally get out there and raft them!  We invest in more advanced training for our guides during high water years, and run a lot of in-house “fun trips” so our newer guides are can get familiar with flows they may not have had the chance to experience before, and senior staff can continue to perfect their skills.

4.) We put more boats on the water during high water periods.  This may mean an additional “guide boat” out in front (this is standard on all of our class V Cherry Creek trips), a kayker at the ahead of the pack, or a guide in a “cat,” which is one of those crazy pontoon-type boats you may have seen on occasion.  These options–combined with simply having fewer guests per raft–create a more intimate experience, and  give us more  pro “hands on deck” for running smooth high water rafting trips.

5.) We often switch from paddle-boats to oar-paddle combos during high water trips. Oars give our guides a greater measure of power and control when navigating the powerful hydraulics of high water season.  Plus, guides love to row, pure and simple, and when the water comes down they don’t get to anymore!  Even I, the self-professed least athletic person at AO rafting like to row, if that tells you anything! 

(Above: AO rafting guides Danny W andTessa S are having a blast!  That’s an oar-paddle combo, if you’re curious.  The bottom picture shows a “cat,” one of the ways we can use to adjust to changing high-water conditions)


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