Colorado River Kayak trip 2/14

5:06 p.m. on March 2, 2014 (EST)
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Last weekend (2/21/14-2/23/14) I did a solo kayak trip on a lazy portion of the Colorado river below Hoover Dam.  I had to hire a guide to get me into the water and to shuttle me back upriver a couple days later.  The guide cost me $30 and I also had to get a $17 park permit to put my kayak on the river.  $47 was worth it in my opinion.  It was a really fun trip.  It was a total of 12 miles on the river.  4 miles into the trip I stopped and camped a couple nights at Arizona Hot Springs.  After camping out 2 nights I paddled the final 8 miles to Willow Beach in Arizona where I met the guide and they shuttled me back to my vehicle.  For the first couple miles there are many hot springs flowing into the river.  There are also lots of trailheads and slot canyons to get out at along the way and explore.  

Temps: Hi 80-deg day,  Low 45-deg night

Primary Gear: 9.5' Dimension Kayak, Dakine Daypack,  Kelty Crestone 1 tent, Sierra Designs bag, Thermarest sleeping pad, Snow-Peak mug and Primus stove, misc dry bags, freezdried meals, Sawyer mini filter, Misc. Camera gear.  

below: I put in right below Hoover Dam.  The only way to get to this point is to hire a guide or work for the Government so not everyone gets to see this view.  


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below: Lots of beautiful scenes along the way.


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below: AZ hot springs Campground on the Colorado River.  Only way to get here is to hike in 2.5 miles down a slot canyon/wash or kayak to it.


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Once you get to AZ hot springs it is about a half mile walk up a slot canyon to get to the hot springs.  The hot springs are right above this ladder (below):


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below: camp


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below: misc pics taken along the way


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Overall, it was a really fun trip.  I met lots of nice people and had a blast.  I highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in doing it.

1:57 a.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Nice kayak Jason...I cannot get my head around how dry everything is...it would be like kayaking on the moon to me:-)

9:03 a.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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beatiful photos Jason....very cool trip!

10:28 a.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks Joseph.  :-) Yes the desert is similar to the moon when you are used to green mountains, trees and lots of rivers and streams.  When I first moved to the desert from western Montana it took me a long time to get excited about doing anything here in the desert but it grows on you and really does have its own kind of beauty.  One of the best benefits is being able to do stuff outdoors pretty much all year.  

Thanks Patman!!  I appreciate that.

1:55 p.m. on March 3, 2014 (EST)
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Nice trip report. I have hiked all over the Grand Canyon but have yet to do a river trip. I have thought of it as an alternative way to go into the outdoors.

If you have'nt already you should read "River, source to Sea" by Colin Fletcher. He soloed the Green and Colorado Rivers on a 3 month trip in 1996. He started at the Green River Lakes in Wyoming and paddled all the way to the last 100 miles before the Sea of Baja. he actually hiked to the melting snow on the head of the Green River, then started the trip down the rivers. He then had to hike the last 100 miles down the old Colorado Rivers channel. That area is dry most of the year except during the Monsoon season, after being taken up by irrigation.

Your trip reminded me of his trip down the lower Colorado when he had a Boulder Dam employee take him down to the base area of the dam to start.

Does your kayak have a fin on the bottom for better stabilization, as I have heard some use?

10:52 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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Jason,

I paddled the Colo R last Feb in canoes from Blythe to Yuma about 78 miles. It was cold with heavy frost every night. It was too cold for bass fishermen and we saw few people. Lots of wildlife.

I would like to canoe Black Canyon. I don't like the permit system and parking problems at the put-in by the dam. I would like to put-in at Willow Beach and then paddle upstream using eddy hopping to get to the hot springs. Do you think that is feasible with the flow you had in Feb?

 

Gary,

I read Fletcher's book for the second time this winter. It is a great one.

Rudders are mostly used on sea kayaks for heavy winds and confused seas. They can be flipped up out of the way when not needed. I built a sea kayak from a Pygmy kit of African mahogany and epoxy. It was 17'9" and did not need a rudder to track straight.

10:56 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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GaryPalmer said:

Does your kayak have a fin on the bottom for better stabilization, as I have heard some use?

Thanks Gary! I will have to check out that book.  My kayak is an all purpose type of kayak and doesn't have a fin or skeg.  It tracks pretty decent for a 9.5' kayak though.  

11:18 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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ppine said:

Jason,

I paddled the Colo R last Feb in canoes from Blythe to Yuma about 78 miles. It was cold with heavy frost every night. It was too cold for bass fishermen and we saw few people. Lots of wildlife.

I would like to canoe Black Canyon. I don't like the permit system and parking problems at the put-in by the dam. I would like to put-in at Willow Beach and then paddle upstream using eddy hopping to get to the hot springs. Do you think that is feasible with the flow you had in Feb? 

hi ppine, I think you could paddle upstream from willow beach 8 miles up river to at least AZ hot springs.  I met a guy who had a 12' recreational kayak that did just that while I was there.  I think it took him around 3 hours to go the 8 miles.  I am not sure about paddling upstream from AZ hot springs to the dam though.  The water seems quite a bit more turbulent on that 4 mile stretch of river.  

Between AZ hot springs and Willow Beach I saw some others paddling upstream as I was going down as well so it is a fairly common thing to do I think.  If you did the guide and permit operation like I did it would cost you $47.  They get you and your gear in the water below the dam and then they pick you up at Willow Beach and shuttle you back.  Just FYI. ;-)

I don't think civilians can put in anywhere by the dam anymore, not without a guide anyway.  I met another guy that hiked 2 miles down a trail a ways below the dam with his inflatable kayak and then headed down to AZ hot springs.   He then hiked his inflatable kayak 2.5 miles out of the springs.  He avoided the guide and permit fees by doing that.  

Good luck ppine!

I am going to have to check out that stretch of the Colorado you mentioned.  Sounds like a nice stretch of river to do a multi-day trip.  

11:43 a.m. on March 6, 2014 (EST)
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Jason,

Thanks for the first hand advice. The 40 miles above Yuma is very pleasant. The 40 miles below Blythe has been rip-rapped at the angle of repose with small boulders by the Bur of Rec. It is hard to get off the river for long stretches.

Next in Nevada,  I am going to try Willow Beach to Lake Havasu.

This summer we are paddling the Willamette R in Oregon for 80 miles.

10:57 a.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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In "River" by Fletcher he says that the last 100 miles of the Colorado River in Mexico is dry most of the year except during the Monsoon season. Used up by irrigation the river dries up shortly after entering Mexico. That must look very odd to see that section.

Have you heard of Packrafts? Its a lightweight raft boat that packs down to a sleeping bag stuff sack the lightest raft is 4.13 lb costs $780-920.

http://www.alpackaraft.com/ 

11:50 a.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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I have seen those packrafts Gary.  They are pretty cool.  My little brother has something similar that he packs in and out of the alpine lakes in Glacier.

4:38 p.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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I used to get the big rear farm tractor tire inner tubes to use on the lakes around the Tetons. 

4:56 p.m. on March 19, 2014 (EDT)
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That's not a bad idea Gary.  I may use that one.

September 2, 2014
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