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.”
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”