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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday - June 25/2015

5:52 PM, Posted by David Todd, No Comment

Of course we can run the Red Deer - we have done the Kicking Horse.

This has been heard so many times for a long time. 

The Red Deer River is rated a class #3 river while the Kicking Horse River that flows through Golden B.C. is rated as a class #4. First, we have to know what the class difference means. For a definition of this rating system please refer to the Scale of River Difficulty.

Most of the driving in Alberta happens between Calgary and Edmonton. People are exposed to the calm Class #1 Red Deer River drifting under the bridge outside the city of Red Deer. Somehow people think that that section of the river defines its entire length.

Over many years we found it was often worthwhile to get out and scout the rapid called the big Rock. Many people did. Once while checking out the Big Rock rapid we met other paddlers who were doing the same. We exchanged some comments about the complexity of the rapid and the care required to avoid a swim. They responded that they had paddled the Kicking Horse so weren’t concerned about this rapid.

This set off an alarm bell!

Once they departed back to their raft we looked at each other and one of us guides commented “I think we are going to see the dynamics of a flip”. 

We decided to walk nonchalantly back towards our raft. We watched them to see when they launched their raft and were committed to running the rapid. We quickly ran back to a good elevated spot that offered a wide view of the coming carnage.

This was going to be entertaining! You could examine the way the raft moved through the water and slowly turned over sideways and spilt its contents. They were a solo raft that hadn’t set up a safety nor were they prepared to. They all got a long swim. It must have been almost 1 km.

It is important to learn from others mistakes. We learned how not to run a rapid and the importance of safety. We relearned that just because you run one river you can’t assume you can run a different one. There are always those unexpected surprises. Just don’t get cocky around water.

Big Rock rapid is gone. The river has found a new path down the valley floor and the water doesn’t flow over the Big Rock anymore.

New rapids have been created with the resulting new challenges. A river trip is always fun and interesting

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throw Back Thursday – June 18/2015

5:36 PM, Posted by David Todd, No Comment

For most of the years that we have offered rafting trips on the Red Deer we have set up our lunch on a side road that is located at the S-Bends.  Thus named because of the turns of the river here.  It is also known as Shoo Fly. It is moderately easy to get into from the main road.

This is the original road that was put in to supply the Rangers station that has since been removed and re-erected at the Sundre Museum.

The old road is no longer maintained and it is a bit of an adventure to drive the bus in and out of. You have to drive through the ditch of the new road to get down to it. This means driving the bus diagonally through the ditch so that the lengthy bus doesn’t hit bottom. You then follow the overgrown path to an opening where we set up lunch for our guests.

In amongst the turns of the river there is a set of rapids. It is technical in that the large waves are trying to push you to the outside of the corner onto the abrupt rock wall face made of shale. As you travel downstream each large wave you hit slows you down a bit and threatens to hold you in the trough between the waves. If you go through too slowly you are at risk of getting stopped, held and turned sideways and flipped by the troughs – holes in river speak.

As the river flow rate varies the size of these holes changes and can pose more of a threat. The size of the holes can become larger and smaller as the river increases in volume.

The challenge of this rapid is that you want enough speed to power through the holes. But not too much that the raft is forced into the wall of rock on the corner.

While we have lunched here 1000’s of times we have heard the yells and screams of people enjoying the big rolling waves. Sometimes the yells would end abruptly and then yelling of a different sort would be heard.

Over the years we saw plenty of people that ended up swimming through this rapid. The guides would suddenly switch into river rescue mode and go running off to the river with their safety equipment at the ready. Upside down rafts and swimmers caused concern as well as provided several laughs  in our guests. It also created a rising level of excitement at the lunch site.

One year the river was at a very particular volume that caused large standing waves and deep holes that would stop the rafts. Raft after raft went through and flipped. It was hard for the guides to have lunch because of the continuous rescuing of all the swimmers of that rapid.

While our guests were having lunch, listening and watching the goings on they were getting quieter and quieter. They were eating slowly as if trying to delay the impending doom.

When the lunch was over we helped people get suited up and ready for their turn. We double checked everyone’s lifejacket to many peoples horror and led them off like lambs to the slaughter.

After watching all the rafts crash and burn going through this rapid the guides were ready and knew what to expect. They sure looked good taking on the waves being totally prepared for the conditions. The more experienced guides went first and ran the rapid getting an incredible ride and rush. They then set up safety positions down stream of the rapid.

With the successful running of the rapid there was a huge release of tension and admiration for the guides. It sure made the company look good.

There is nearly always a chicken route on the edge of rapids that you can run through. I don’t know how many of the guides took it.