Black Canyon Kayak Trip, Day Three – “Reading the River”

Weather-wise, our third day on the trip is the best yet!  There is not a cloud in the sky, and we have a nice 8 to 10 mph tail wind.  The remaining eight miles down the Black Canyon River Trail should be a joy ride!  And with the sun finally out, I will get to see some of that emerald green water BJ and Kathy have been telling me is “So beautiful, you won’t believe!”

I awake to the sound of tent poles and zippers, and know it is time to get up and start packing up.  Although I have a short commute back to Railway Pass Casino, John, BJ and Kathy are facing a five hour drive back to Phoenix, so although there is no mention of time, I know it looms more heavily for them than me.

As we carry our bags down to the river, I notice the water level is up quite a bit…higher than I have seen it on the shoreline.  As we carry our kayaks down to the water, John points to the dark “disturbance” on the surface which is a large, submerged rock which we have seen at various levels over the last few days.  It is now completely submerged and invisible save for the subtle ripples and dark coloration on the surface caused by water sheeting over it.  “See those eddy lines coming off the submerged rock?  You need to be careful when we head out.  Keep up your momentum, or the eddy will catch your stern and spin you off course.”

Packing up...note the dark patch of water in the center, a giant rock just beneath the surface.

Packing up…note the dark patch of water in the center, a giant rock just beneath the surface.

John outside some "hanging gardens."

John outside some “hanging gardens.”

I love the thunderous sound as the ducks take off across the surface toward the other side of the river.

I love the thunderous sound as the ducks take off across the surface toward the other side of the river.

This brings us to a discussion of “reading the river,” something I find fascinating after learning to read the surface during sailboat races, watching for oncoming “puffs” and wind direction.  John tells me this is why he prefers to be in the lead, as it is easier to read what lies ahead if the surface is not disturbed by other paddlers.  My paddling experience to date has mostly been on still water lakes, so I begin to consider how important it is to read these signs when moving downriver.  I acquire a new respect and appreciation for what it means to “guide” a river trip, and the importance of remaining focused on the levels and flow of the river, particularly one that is backed by a body of water as large as Lake Mead.  😉DSCN8216DSCN8214

Black Canyon Water Trail Chart

Black Canyon Water Trail Chart

Listening for river traffic is also paramount, as there are a lot of motor craft on the river today.   Just like in sailing, John reassures me that paddling into their wake at a 45 to 90 degree angle is a safe bet to avoid being overturned or swamped.

Loved this giant rock display!  Not only are the rocks heart shaped, but some of the holes are as well.

Loved this giant rock display! Not only are the rocks heart shaped, but some of the holes are as well.

There are also navigational signs along the river.  John has loaned me a laminated chart to keep inside my kayak so that I can follow along and be prepared for what is coming up ahead.   Today, we will be passing Emerald Cave, a small opening in the canyon walls where sun reflects through the clear water off the moss below to give off an emerald glow.

Inside the Emerald Cave looking out.

Inside the Emerald Cave looking out.

Oh, I so want to swim in this emerald green water!  If only for another 10 degrees!

Oh, I so want to swim in this emerald green water! If only for another 10 degrees!

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But in addition to the natural beauty of the river, there is also historic interest along the river trail.   We pass an old gauging station on the side of the canyon, built by the Civilian Conservation Corp back in 1934 to measure the effects of the Hoover Dam.    They measured the height, rate of flow, and water quality of the river.  We pass beneath a couple of old “baskets” used to cross over the river by cable, and follow along beneath a precarious catwalk that was used to commute from the Gauger’s house to the station.

Old "basket" used to commute across the river by the Gaugers.

Old “basket” used to commute across the river by the Gaugers.

Catwalk for precarious commute from Gauger's house to the station.

Catwalk for precarious commute from Gauger’s house to the station.

Ringbolts, used by

Ringbolts, used by “Arizona Fleet” steamboats from 1857 to 1900 to pull their boats up river in heavy rapids which existed prior to construction of Davis Dam downriver.

A sandy beach in a calm cove offers the perfect spot to stretch our legs and have a snack before continuing on down the final stretch.

Perfect spot for a lunch and bio break.  River etiquette says it's okay to pee in the river.  ;-)

Perfect spot for a lunch and bio break. River etiquette says it’s okay to pee in the river. ;-)

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John's handmade canoe, "Knot Again," and Kathy's handmade kayak, "Knot Too Shabby."

John’s handmade canoe, “Knot Again,” and Kathy’s handmade kayak, “Knot Too Shabby.”

All too soon, I see the Willow Beach Marina, and know my “moving sidewalk through the Disney Adventure” is about to end.   It is difficult saying goodbye to my river companions, as I get a lump in my throat in trying to express what this experience has meant to me.

Bye-bye.  So long. Farewell.  Will I see you...in September?

Bye-bye. So long. Farewell. Will I see you…in September?

Nice guys from Desert Adventures.

Nice guys from Desert Adventures.

Scenic Overlook from Hwy 93, just up from Willow Beach

Scenic Overlook from Hwy 93, just up from Willow Beach

The Desert Adventures team arrives ahead of schedule to shuttle me and my rented kayak back to our pick-up point at the Hoover Dam Lodge.   It is early with plenty of daylight still left, so I decide to circle back around and walk across the dam to have a look.  Now having come full circle, the flow of water coming from the dam below has much more significance.  It is fun being amongst dozens of tourists looking down over the dam, snapping selfies and oohing and aahing over the magnitude of the structure, all the while knowing few would have the good fortune to look up at it from that vantage point below, in the middle of the mighty Colorado!DSCN8291

Follow the road on the right side to the bottom for our put-in point.

Follow the road on the right side to the bottom for our put-in point.

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Thanks to all who followed along for the tales from my three day adventure!  And a special thanks to John and BJ for inviting me along and introducing me to such a phenomenal, memorable experience. And to Kathy, for her ongoing series of “River Tips #1 thru 96.”  😉

I will leave you with the contrasting quote from one of my favorite author’s, Edward Abby:

“The love of wilderness is an expression of loyalty…the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need.” 

Photo courtesy of John Schroeder

Photo courtesy of John Schroeder

27 thoughts on “Black Canyon Kayak Trip, Day Three – “Reading the River”

    • Thanks, Maria! I fell behind on my blog reading while on the river, followed by another overnight hike with no internet. So I am looking forward to reading and relishing your recent “How do I love thee?” post!

  1. It is so much fun to see this stretch of river through someone who is seeing it for the first time! Let’s go back next year and see what we missed.

    • Yes, indeed, Lisa. I was just thinking that on this rare rainy morning in the desert ….retirement has exceeded my every hope!

    • John did ask if I thought you guys would enjoy a trip like this, but I said “Only if Jim can hike along the shore.” LOL!

      Did you see the pit toilets in the first post? They were just within walking distance. They weren’t too bad, as pit toilets go…as long as a breeze was blowing. LOL! But for longer trips like John and BJ’s Green River trip, they actually rent a toilet which John affectionately refers to as “The Groover,” (because the seat leaves grooves on your rear, right John?) He will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe it is an ammo box with a toilet seat that has some blue liquid like you see in the airplane bowl. I may be mistaken, but I believe he built his canoe to specs to hold the Groover. 😉

      • The term “groover” originally came from the grooves that 50 cal. ammo cans would leave in the back of your thighs when you used them as a toilet. Ammo cans (usually with a toilet seat adaption) are still the most prevalent method on Grand Canyon trips. The “groover” on our Green River trips is much nicer. There’s one about 2/3s of the way down the Day Seven post from last year’s Green River trip at http://justfinding.blogspot.com/2014/10/day-seven-green-river.html

        And yes, the canoe was built specifically to haul the groover on Green River trips, but she seduced me and now I rarely paddle anything else.

  2. I hate to see your adventure end! I really enjoyed your trip down this beautiful river. It was neat seeing the area from a different perspective. How crazy was that Gaugers life having to walk along that walkway and THEN take that basket across the river!! How neat to explore the cave. The water on the river is beautiful when the sun shines on it. What a trip:) Thanks for sharing!

    I forgot to mention before how much I liked your photo out the door of you tent into the rocky mountains:)

  3. Thanks, Pam! I hated to see it end too! I love that you guys hiked much of the same trail from a different direction. And be honest, the Intrepid Hiker would love a hike on that catwalk, wouldn’t you? 😉

  4. Wow, what a phenomenal adventure!!! Your beautifully written narrative compliments your gorgeous photography so well. Hope to take a similar trip when I retire, so glad yours has exceeded your expectations. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    • Thanks, Janna, I loved writing about it, and am grateful others enjoyed the read. I know it was long, but there was much more variety than I ever anticipated!

  5. Water in the desert! You caught it. My first trip, I brought a variety of melons for the Thanksgiving feast. They were rolling around in my kayak, heavy, dumb — but made a colorful, yummy, satisfying dessert.

    • Rand, this comment made me laugh out loud! I got quite a visual of mellons in the bottom of the kayak. You need to check out John’s blog for his Thanksgiving “Trash Can Turkey” for his river feast. 😉

  6. Such a great journey to float down any part of the mighty Colorado. That water does look inviting but I know how cold the river is, especially when you have to pee. Gorgeous photos to compliment your story.

    • Thank you, Gaelyn. I really did think about jumping in at the “beach” where we were camped as there was a nice calm cove, but then I heard “Fifty-five degrees” and thought better of it. haha!

  7. Yet another wondrous adventure. Perhaps time to start taking notes and planning your next book. FYI, my kayak is that same neon green. Your photos are fabulous.

    • Love your green kayak, Amiga, and hope we get to see more of it in the blog this next summer than we did last summer!

  8. Wow! What a fantastic trip. I loved reading every part of it. And all the fantastic pictures! You’re such a great writer and chronicler of your adventures.

    Hope to see you again soon.
    Safe travels,
    Jeanne

    • Hi, Jeanne! Thanks for the nice comment. Great to hear from you. I have been meaning to write and tell you my lovely scarf you made me went with me to New York. It was very warm!

  9. I felt like I was there with you and I too hated to see it end! This has been added to our list as a “must-do”. Lovely photos Suzanne and great posts! Can’t wait to see what you are up to next. :)

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