Get a life: Rolling on the river

Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP

After a lot of spring snow and rain, summer has come to Colorado! I always look forward to the warm weather, as it means I can finally return to the water in my kayak. A couple of weekends ago, I headed up to Fort Collins, kayak in tow, and wound my way into the Poudre Canyon. For those unfamiliar with that part of Colorado, the Cache La Poudre River ("Poudre" for short) has its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park and flows down the long and beautiful canyon that bears its name. The river continues through Fort Collins and flows out toward the eastern plains of Colorado. Our rivers here are fed by snow melt, and thanks to some heavy, late-season snows, the rivers are flowing. The rising rivers are eagerly anticipated by people involved in agriculture who need the water for irrigation, as well as the rafters, kayakers, and fishermen.

Now that the Poudre is flowing again, I get the infamous "Rock Report" emailed to me each day. "The Rock" is just that: a big, flat, vertical rock that sticks up out of the river on river left just above a place called Pineview Falls. There are fluorescent orange stripes beginning at .5 feet and continuing every 6 inches up to about 6 feet. The river begins to become runable in a kayak at about 1 foot, is really fun between 2 and 4 feet, and gets crazy when it gets above 4.5 feet. The Rock Report was saying 3.9 feet on Sunday morning and they said it had peaked around 4.1 feet on Saturday. This prompted my road trip to Fort Collins.

That Sunday was my "opening day" of kayak season 2013. I don't get to go boating as often with my group of friends in Fort Collins since I now live a couple of hours away from the river, and it's a real treat to get together with them. The freshly melted water is crazy cold this time of year, and when you roll in your kayak, whether for practice or because the river spanks you down, there is an immediate sense of an "ice cream headache" as the water hits your face and takes your breath away.

It was a beautiful day on the river, with lots of excitement, some challenging rapids, lots of laughter, and the requisite razzing that the river seems to bring out. One guy swam a couple of times when he flipped and was unable to roll back up after several tries. Hey, it happens to the best of us! Fortunately, on opening day, I hit every one of my practice rolls successfully. When I got in some squirrely water, surfing a large wave, I completed my first "combat roll" of the season and continued on downriver inside the luxury of my boat. That is a good omen and I'm hoping for a long (injury-free!) season full of many more fun kayaking moments with my buds.


Comments (1) -

Brad Phillips
Brad PhillipsUnited States
6/29/2013 4:42:37 AM #

Hey Mike, you ever pull over the kayak and do some fishing or is the kayak so much fun that you can't seem to bring yourself to do anything but kayay?

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