Sunday, March 27, 2011

Canoeing in March.... a Little Cold!

Desolation Canyon!

Paddling Desolation Canyon on the Green River is generally floating down warm water in the desert sun.... that is what it was like when I paddled last fall in September, this time it was much different.

Working for NOLS is a pretty fantastic gig! I get to travel to numerous wonderful places in Canada, the USA and potentially around the world. NOLS offers semesters in a number of locations in Canada, USA, Mexico, NZ, Australia, India, Norway, Tanzania, Chile and Brazil. NOLS runs a variety of 30 day courses, Semesters and Outdoor Educator courses in these locations.

The course I'm going to tell you a bit about is the first Outdoor Educator River Section of the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator Semester.

Our students had just finished there winter section and where ready for a new and warmer experience. After issuing them there gear and loading the boatings and dry bags into the truck we headed to the Ouray, Utah to put on the river.

Our first few days involved traveling on ice because the river hadn't fully thawed. On our second day on the river we decided to look for camp early due to the ice actively breaking up and moving down stream. It was an impressive sight to say the least. Fortunately the ice had fully broken up that day and we where able to continue moving down stream. After 4 days of nice weather, flat water, teaching strokes and basic maneuvers we entered Desolation Canyon.

Students paddling through the ice
Walker and Emily loving the ice

As you enter Deso the sandstone canyon walls grow higher and higher to just above 5000ft which is deeper then the Grand Canyon.

Sand Wash the put-in for most Desolation trips by public... this was day 5 for us.

Deso offers a great white water canoe progression. It starts with small riffles and rapids that gradually build throughout your travels. The action picks up as you get further downstream where long class 2-3 rapids become a common occurience.

As we moved down the canyon we got hammered with winds, rain, hail and snow. While getting this weather both instructors and students taught classes on Environmental Studies (Fauna and Flora, Geology, Oil and Gas and Cryptobiotic Soil), Leadership, Communication, First Nations of the Area, Hydrology, Risk Management, River Management and Rescue, and Canoeing Skills.

Scouting class by Emily at Little Rock House Rapid
Kristin paddling on day 6 and first day in Deso

The students were put in teams of 3 and designated to lead for 2 days each. An instructor would coach the designated leadership team and help them to come up with safe risk management and river travel plans.
Scouting Steer Ridge Rapid
Audi watching friends paddle a rapid
There is a tremendous amount of history in Deso! This is part of what is left at Rock Creek Ranch
A pair of boots at the Ranch

Students made decisions on running, portaging, lining rapids, choosing campsite locations, meeting times, class times and making sure all our gear was organized and tied down as well as managing themselves. It is easy to say all these things and not as easy to do. I'm sure if you ask all the students they would agree managing 13 people and themselves is a tough task. Everyone had many learnings and did extremely well.

Top: Matt and others lining Threefords Rapid
Bottom: Audi and Kristin running Range Creek Rapid

On March 25th we made it to our take out. During the trip we had 5 boats flip and people swim, 4 fully swamped boats and still make it to shore and ran, lined and portage numerous rapids. We traveled down river in true canoe tripping fashion!

Thanks to Janie and Emily, my co-instructors, and our students Eric, Miller, Matt, Walker, Beebs, Kristin, Audi, Will, Kevin, PJ and TC it was a great course!

The top of Swasey Rapid just above the takeout


  1. Amazing trip report Max -- sounds like the students had some pretty awesome instructors (no surprise there ;)....

    Seeing the ice break would have been a spectacular sight - - hope to see some of those pics on here or FB soon :D

    Where'ya travelling to next?


  2. Can't beleive there is ice!! Good read and keep on keeping on max

  3. You are a great ambassador for NOLS Max. Keep up the good work.