Running Rivers at High Water Part Two – On the Water

If you haven’t already, check out part one of this blog to figure out how to prepare!

So today’s the day. It rained all night, the rivers are really high, you and your friends have been boating this section river a bunch, you’re feeling fit, you know the river like the back of your hand, your friends are ready to go, you’re ready to go, you can go, you should go, it’s time! We know we’re prepared for the day, so lets talk about what we can do now on the river to mitigate some of our risks and set ourselves up for success the best we can.

The first thing we should think about is our order. Typically, I would like the most experienced person or the person who feels the most comfortable in the front, and try to sandwich the people who aren’t as comfortable or confident in the middle, with another stronger paddler in the back. If everyone is on the same level, I think our order doesn’t matter that much, as long as we know how many people are in our group, and we have good spacing.

The water moves so fast when rivers are high and it’s so easy for us to get spread out. It’s incredibly important that we have close spacing, that way if something happens we can be right there to immediately assist. This also matters because if someone swims, they can potentially swim for a very long time because there aren’t as many eddies, the eddies that do exist are incredibly turbulent, and the helical flow (boils) can be too powerful for us to swim over to get to shore. By having good spacing, we can hopefully mitigate some of this risk and be able to help our friends.

While we’re going down the river, we need to make sure we also have good communication. This means everyone is on the same page when it comes to whistle and hand signals. There are dozens of different systems that people use around the world so it’s a good conversation to have before we put on to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The last, and perhaps the most important thing is to make good decisions on the river. Even though we run some huge rivers and rapids, I would say that I actually make really conservative decisions when I’m on the water. If we can’t see what the rapid actually looks like, we need to find a way to scout it, and if it’s too dangerous or consequential, we need to portage. If the water is coming up too high, we need to find a way to either hike out, wait it out, or find a way to get off the river safely. Making good decisions can also apply to where we position ourselves after we’ve run a rapid. We can find a spot where we can be the most useful if something were to happen.

This is by no means an all inclusive list, there are so many other factors to think about before an during high water runs. Nor do these things only apply at high water! All of these skills apply to normal river running, but the problems can be exacerbated by high water. I hope that these blogs at least gives people an idea of how to think about running rivers at high water, and can help people make better decisions. Stay safe out there, and we’ll see you on the river!

Here’s a link to our high water run down Chamberlain Falls and some of the things we were thinking about that day.

Here’s a little video I made from our record high Chamberlain Falls Descent:

– Carson Lindsay

Comments on “Running Rivers at High Water Part Two – On the Water”

No comments, be the first to comment!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.