These are a few photos from the last two years that I’ve added quotes too. We have recently been posting these and other similar photos on the WRO facebook page. If you are a facebooker, make sure to subscribe to our page to keep a little whitewater in your news feed!
I thought this quote from Emma Smith would be a good fit for many photos. I decided to include it on this particular photo because on the Alsek there are many moments when the river sweeps you gently along, but every once in a while there are rapids that seem to come out of nowhere.
The rapid in this photo is Lava North. After crossing Lowell Lake, a mellow float (if the wind isn’t blowing) through giant icebergs, you enter a very swift section with a few big rapids, including Lava North. Standing on the shore looking out over this massive rapid with holes hiding in the grey glacial water large enough to swallow a bus, Lava North is a rapid that will certainly get any boatman’s heart pumping.Also, check out a short video I made from our Alsek trip in 2012… The small amount of footage from Lava North certainly does not do it justice!
We usually scout this rapid from both sides of the river, often revealing very different observations. At first glance, you know river right is to be avoided at all costs, even large oar boats will not stand a chance on the right, but even after realizing this, the puzzle is still far from solved…
In 2012, I ran a line I had never run before. In years past I had been making a left cut after entering the rapid, trying to stay as close to the bank as possible. When scouting it last year the gravel bar looked as if it had shifted from years past, and I made my choice to run a line I never really liked the looks of before…a run left of center. The risk is extremely high in Lava North, so we often ask our guests to walk around this rapid. Keith was sharing a boat with John Griffith as a training trip on his first Alsek trip. John agreed he would walk around with the guests and Keith would run Lava North along with myself. Since there are melting icebergs in the lake not even four miles upstream, leaving this water a bone-chilling 34 degrees, we put on our dry suits to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Once you enter this rapid, suddenly you accelerate scary fast for being in a 16-foot raft! Once you’re in Lava North it’s extremely hard to keep your bearings. When you see the monster holes pass on the right and pass the large flip-potential haystack wave on your left, you’re feeling good, but it’s not over yet. It’s all about keeping your boat straight as you enter into the very large crashing waves that make up the run out of this long rapid. It’s like riding an icy roller-coaster!
When the waves start to shrink, it’s time to pull as hard as I can for the left bank where we pick up our walking friends. Looking back up river watching Keith’s boat disappearing behind every wave, then bust through the top of the next was awesome. Once I got pulled over and tied up my boat I noticed my hands were shaking as the flood of adrenaline finished dispersing through my body. As Keith pulled over I could tell, he was feeling the rush of the experience as well. After some high fives, we shared similar stories as we waited for John and the guests to show up. After a short float down to camp, a cold celebratory beverage was in order!
Further south and with a much an earlier runoff, a place of equal adventure lays in the Idaho desert. The Jarbidge Bruneau River cuts through an ancient caldera volcano, giving us an incredible cross-section through this area eruptive geologic history. Driving to the river always surprises people, especially coming in for the 4-day Bruneau only at Indian Hot Springs, which requires a 4WD mission. You drive out across this flat grassland desert for miles and miles. As you start to near the canyon, you realize there is a slice of rock missing out of the middle of this flat desert landscape. This canyon was formed from the river eating away at the rock over the last 19 million years! In the bottom of this slice lays the exciting class IV whitewater of the Jarbidge Bruneau River. Breathtaking canyon scenery and the whitewater to match it!
Bill Rinehimer came out for a Main Salmon trip with a bunch of friends a few years back. The whole group was very into the inflatable kayaks. I took the opportunity to take lots of photos of these guys. This shot of Bill in Five Mile is one of my favorites from the week. This quote is from Barry Lopez, the renown author of books such as Arctic Dreams, and I thought is was fitting for the kayak shot of Bill getting up close and personal with the Main Salmon.
I hope you enjoyed these photos, quotes, and stories. Make sure to subscribe to the WRO facebook page for more whitewater in your news feed!
~ Seth Tonsmeire