While I was in Calgary this week working on a whitewater park/dam modification project on the Bow River, flows were dropping on my home river the Arkansas. Flows on the Arkansas are some of the most consistant in the State of Colorado becuase the state wide plumbing system moves a lot of water from the west side of the mountains to the east side of the mountains, via the Arkansas. Through an agreement with the major water users in the Arkansas River basin, flows are kept above 700cfs in the Upper Arkansas River through August 15th. Which means that we typically have close to 4 months of great boating levels, well beyond what mother nature normally supplies us on snow melt alone. However, like all good things that eventually end, August 15th is the unofficial end of summer around here.
For me extra water in the river is great, but what Wildwater training has taught me is that the season on the Upper Arkansas is year-round. There is always enough water to paddle the real question is: What is your tolerance for cold, bottom dragging, windy, off-season, kayaking? Over the last year and half I have become a little bit of an off season freak. I am sure folks in town wonder I am doing with a boat on top of my car in January or hitching a shuttle on a 40 degree day in November, but I have learned to love the "off season".
So when I put my boat in the water for my workout yesterday at 400cfs on the Salida gauge, it did not feel like the off season..it felt familiar. Once again I was springing across pools that have become like ponds without the extra volume to move them along and sneaking through boat width channels, just deep enough, that I memorized last winter. Low water training is not ideal in a lot of ways. Your paddling technique changes while you are worrying about hitting rocks when your blade plunges too deep and the damage that an off season of dragging across shoals in a composite boat is a hassle. But I love the solitude of it and the feeling that I am taking advantage of this resource while everyone else has punted on kayaking until spring.
So I will settle in to my off season routine...paddle down to the office from Big Bend, road bike back to the car; or drop my car off in the canyon and hitch back into work and paddle down to the car later in the day; or the always reliable start at my office and paddle upstream to the 291 bridge (no shuttle required and the added workout of fighting gravity!)
Overall I feel blessed to live along the Upper Arkansas River and training for downriver racing has given me a new definition of the paddling season. All that being said if anyone wants to paddle over the next 8 months you know where to find me...it gets kind of lonely out there...