5500 cfs- High Water on the Cal Salmon River

Posted January 28, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

OK- All you people who don’t want to drive a few extra hours to get up to the Cal Salmon must have no idea what you’re missing! Our trip out there last Tuesday had to have been one of my favorite runs ever. The water was huge, technical and clear blue. There were waterfalls around every corner, green moss on the rocks making up the narrow gorge walls, and mountains all around. Does it get any better??

We took two catarafts and a kayak. Smokey and Brad led in front, followed by Adam and I in the second cat and the kayak weaving in and out depending on how long he wanted to play in all those beautiful waves.

The first big rapid we got to was Bloomer Falls, which at 5500 was not one, but two practically river-wide reversals. There was a narrow line on the left, but even that had its uncertainties. Smoke and Adam made it look easy, but I definitely began to understand what we were in for that day.

Probably the most nerve-racking for me was a rapid called Cascade. Not because it’s necessarily the most difficult (although definitely up there) but rather because we looked at it for a while before running. And of course while you’re standing there staring at the thing your mind starts imagining all the many ways it could have some fun with you. The run was truly a slolom course- entering over a four or five foot drop, working left of a hole with no time to spare, then back to the right of another hole at the bottom of the rapid.
I felt really useful the whole time too, sitting up there in the front of the cat, blocking Adam’s view and other important things like that. I think I highsided way more than was necessary just to feel as though I was contributing somehow.

I’ve got to say- Adam and Smokey did an amazing job that day. Only moment of uncertainty came in Gaping Maw, where the hole really was river-wide. We stalled out in there for a few moments, and Smokey said afterwards that he couldn’t see the cat tubes at all, just Adam and I “dancing around on top.”

All in all a beautiful, amazing river. I wish I could have gone back the very next morning and run it all over again. Anyone who hasn’t gone should definitely get their butts up there!


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