On the water we don't write or read as much as do. Still when we prepare our gear we need to plan properly. Where are we going? What will we need? What will enhance the experience? What will take away from it?
I find that often this thinking is best found out of the office and just after a trip on the water.
Sometimes, I get to a place like this and thoughts also mingle with how to stay.
You will find here a set of inquiries, inquiries into paddling and inquiries into a life that involves paddling. The world is indeed a wild place. One also that we are a part of.
In my 35+ years of paddling I only remember 4 really high water years and none of them have had the duration and the geographically wide character of 2011. Here in Colorado, as it seemed about to ebb last Friday, Monday displayed lower water on Clear Creek. We also have less water running through Left Hand Creek behind our house. But Sunday we still got to enjoy some wonderful flows on the Colorado below Hot Sulfur Springs and the Fraser River was still running -- at a time much later than I have ever seen.
The first I saw of the wonderful flows was in mid May in Wyoming -- showing itself in the North Platte and every drainage up to the Little Big Horn. There were normally "dry channels" carrying 10,000 cfs of water I was even told. On that swing up through northern Idaho and Washington, the Yellowstone was the exception to the high water then, but I understand, but the news now is that the Yellowstone has both water, and unfortunately, also a significant oil spill from a broken pipeline. (Why do we have a Oil Pipeline going through, not over, the Yellowstone River?)
This should be a point of diversion to this note, but I will leave it to its obvious stupidity. Andy, while we are at it, lets put that industry's tax breaks also "above ground".
Back to High Water.. As every curve has a rise and fall lets enjoy now the falling waters. We have had chances to run the lower St. Vrain River here in Colorado. This uncommon flow made me think, not just of how zealous we have been in "diverting" our beautiful streams, but also how important the Rivers and their valleys were to the Natives, the Mountain Men and Fur Traders - who positioned Ft. St Vrain right at the confluence of the St. Vrain and S. Platte rivers because it allowed navigation to and from the location in Bull Boat - leather covered rafts - long before our state became one.
We Navigate the same rivers still, when enough water still runs. We need to be careful of Barbed Wire fences and low head dams. We need to institute rules that mandate portage paths around dangerous diversions, and moreover, state clearly that simple portaging is not a criminal or civil trespass. The State of Colorado did make it "legal" to fly a plane over "private lands". It needs to get with reality and state the public interest "in her waters" that are defined in the Colorado Constitution, and have it not simply be a right of the public to "appropriate" those waters, but also to use them, and to protect them in their natural forms.
Lets enjoy this season while it is here. Like the Pelicans on the Platte, paddlers are natural if somewhat uncommon residents. Rivers are not just for diversion. They are for Pelicans and People, Herons and Trout.