While paddling the Grand Canyon broke up the Colorado off-season nicely, I was certainly craving some whitewater. Luckily sunny skies, and moderate temperatures allowed for two pre-season runs this weekend, and the snow blanketed canyons allowed for a fresh view of well-known runs.
Gus was pushing for some intermediate-level boating, and a recent report of the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas being ice-free was all we needed to pursue an afternoon paddle. The forecast looked bleak for the morning, but bluebird skies greeted us at Canon City, and 50-degree weather made for a balmy paddle in.
The walls of the Gorge were freshly coated with snow from the night before, and thin waterfalls of snowmelt cascaded down next to the riverbank. Flows were above average for this time of year, and the sharp rocks were amply padded. Soon after Sunshine, moving objects caught our attention, and excitement took over as we realized a group of mountain goats were staring back at us. The rapids of the Gorge provided a good warm-up for Gore canyon the next day, and the winter landscape provided a glimpse into a side of the Gorge that most of us don’t typically get to experience. Unfortunately this experience came at the price of a parking ticket at the put-in, but well worth the glimpse into off-season canyon life.
Sunday brought the invigorating whitewater of Gore Canyon, up near Kremmling, Colorado. Gore’s a 3 hour trek from Colorado Springs, followed by an hour-long bike shuttle, and a 4 mile flatwater paddle in. The reward? 40 minutes of the best whitewater around this time of year, and ample wildlife sightings. David and I inevitably comment on how the effort of a Gore daytrip isn’t worth it, but somehow we find ourselves coming back up.
Snowy roads lengthened the paddle-in, and the usual bald eagle pair was nowhere to be found, but four juvenile bald eagles soared above us near the end of the flatwater. A couple minutes later, and the first rapid appeared over the horizon. All the hard work of the day melted away as I took my first strokes, and pulled the bow of my boat over a small wave. I was in the moment, and there to stay as I paddled through the towering canyon walls.
One flip, and a couple rapids later we found ourselves floating in the flat-water above the takeout. It all went by too quickly, and I loved every minute of it. Rarely is Gore ice-free in March, let alone pumping with 700+ c.f.s of water. With just a little time before I head back to the East Coast it felt good to take advantage of healthy flows in Colorado while snow still dominated the landscape.