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Thread: Anyone on this forum witness Devil's Canyon?

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    Member mainer_in_ak's Avatar
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    Default Anyone on this forum witness Devil's Canyon?

    Has anyone on this forum ever witnessed someone running Devil's Canyon (upper Susitna)? I'm actually wondering if there was ever anyone crazy enough to have run that 11 mile hell hole in a decked canoe or kayak??? If so............let everyone here know your story.

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    yep. years (~30) ago i saw an 8mm film of what i believe was the first run of it. blackadder?

    anyhow, if you google around you might find it somewhere. its amazing thing to watch. as i recall they had a helicopter there as part of their "support" crew that they used to haul their butts out when needed.

    not sure how many other have run it. very very very few.

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    Member GreginAlaska's Avatar
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    Don Sheldon landed a float plane on it.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=NtX...sult#PPA117,M1
    “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” attributed to Thomas Jefferson

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    Walt Blackadar did indeed run it with several others, including Andy Embick, who wrote about it in his book, Fast & Cold. Several other groups have done it since, and Steve Mahay powered up it in a fast riverboat. I've seen the video of that. It's a medium-low quality video, but a helicopter was used, so it wasn't cheap.

    AK Army Scouts tried it with smaller river boats in the 50's, but they swamped both boats before getting very far. My uncle was one of the boat pilots for that one.

    Here's a brief description of it: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/co..._detail_id_46_

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    My uncle says that Don Sheldon's account was quite inflated, but others say the same about some of his other exploits. Still a pretty amazing pilot if even half of his book is true.

  6. #6

    Default Watch this u tube

    Watch this try, (Oil + water teaser devils canyon susitna river).
    Those 20 foot waves Embick spoke of are horrifying. This is insane absolutely incredible. A decked canoe, if your already dying.

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    Member GreginAlaska's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    My uncle says that Don Sheldon's account was quite inflated, but others say the same about some of his other exploits. Still a pretty amazing pilot if even half of his book is true.
    So in what way was it inflated?
    “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” attributed to Thomas Jefferson

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    Quote Originally Posted by gulkana99701 View Post
    yep. years (~30) ago i saw an 8mm film of what i believe was the first run of it. blackadder?

    anyhow, if you google around you might find it somewhere. its amazing thing to watch. as i recall they had a helicopter there as part of their "support" crew that they used to haul their butts out when needed.

    not sure how many other have run it. very very very few.
    I saw the same video...I think. It was showin at UAF in 1980 or so. It left an indelible impression on me. One kayaker went in a whirlpool. He was sucked down out of sight, kayak and all. The kayak popped up minus the occupant. The guy finally popped up downstream.

    Absolutely amazing video.
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    "So in what way was it inflated?"

    I'm just writing what my uncle said so don't shoot me, but...

    Sheldon did not rescue all of the party for one. When they got to the rapids, they unloaded gear and personnel on the bank. My uncle and one other guy drove their empty boats into the rapids as far as they could. Once they got in they knew they were going to flip, but wanted to try anyway. The other guy's boat flipped, and he swam back to where the others were, but Uncle Bill got his boat a bit further. When his boat swamped he held onto an empty barrel until he was out of the rapids, and then swam to the opposite shore. They thought he had drown, but he walked out from there, and flagged a Talkeetna boater down for a ride across the river and back to town.

    For another, Sheldon's account of backing down in the current through the rapids was quietly disputed by several of the guys he picked up. They claimed that it was pretty much a non-event, but they were grateful for the ride out, so they mostly just let Don brag about it. His account sounded better than their's anyway.

    Like I say, it's just the story I heard my uncle talk about. I'm not guarantying it's any more true than Don's version. But if you talk to some old timers around Talkeetna they will sometimes tell you a different version of several of Don's stories, and they will also tell some stories that Don did not want to get into anybody's book. I was a witness to one of those.

    Still, there is no disputing he was a remarkable bush pilot. But perhaps not as remarkable as his stories.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    "So in what way was it inflated?"

    I'm just writing what my uncle said so don't shoot me, but...

    Sheldon did not rescue all of the party for one. When they got to the rapids, they unloaded gear and personnel on the bank. My uncle and one other guy drove their empty boats into the rapids as far as they could. Once they got in they knew they were going to flip, but wanted to try anyway. The other guy's boat flipped, and he swam back to where the others were, but Uncle Bill got his boat a bit further. When his boat swamped he held onto an empty barrel until he was out of the rapids, and then swam to the opposite shore. They thought he had drown, but he walked out from there, and flagged a Talkeetna boater down for a ride across the river and back to town.

    For another, Sheldon's account of backing down in the current through the rapids was quietly disputed by several of the guys he picked up. They claimed that it was pretty much a non-event, but they were grateful for the ride out, so they mostly just let Don brag about it. His account sounded better than their's anyway.

    Like I say, it's just the story I heard my uncle talk about. I'm not guarantying it's any more true than Don's version. But if you talk to some old timers around Talkeetna they will sometimes tell you a different version of several of Don's stories, and they will also tell some stories that Don did not want to get into anybody's book. I was a witness to one of those.

    Still, there is no disputing he was a remarkable bush pilot. But perhaps not as remarkable as his stories.

    Like a buddy used to tell me, "never let the truth get in the way of a good story". I read the book but I also saw the movie of the kayakers. There is no way any float plane could have landed in the worst of the white water there. I always assumed he must have put down in a calmer area. It didn't bother me, Devils Canyon is a pretty big area I imagine. He could have landed in the lower part perhaps.
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  11. #11

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    I don't think Sheldon ever put a can of oil in his plane without a camera crew handy. Which is is why he is much better known than his equally talented contemporary,Cliff Hudson.

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    Quote Originally Posted by markoathout View Post
    Watch this try, (Oil + water teaser devils canyon susitna river).
    Those 20 foot waves Embick spoke of are horrifying. This is insane absolutely incredible. A decked canoe, if your already dying.
    Not finding that on u-tube?????

  13. #13

    Default Devils canyon

    Try ---- Oil +water teaser Susitna river,AK.
    And this is a pic. i took with Mahay. This is where the trip stopped, and my photo does the rapid no justice. From this point at the bottom of devils gorge and upstream it was said that "all hell breaks loose".
    When i was a teenager i remember reading the newspaper about the kayaker dying in Devils canyon and many times wondered what it must be like to see such a place.
    Look at the youtube, it will become clear this is a special place for the insane.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akgramps View Post
    Not finding that on u-tube?????

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TWj10KsQzg
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
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  15. #15

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    Don Sheldon's Father in-law thought that Don was maybe the second greatest pilot ever in Alaska. Bob was a good friend, and Bob knew a wee'bit about driving an aircraft. Bob never thought that he (Bob) was the greatest, or even great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopeak View Post
    Don Sheldon's Father in-law thought that Don was maybe the second greatest pilot ever in Alaska. Bob was a good friend, and Bob knew a wee'bit about driving an aircraft. Bob never thought that he (Bob) was the greatest, or even great.
    Well then, who did Reeve think was the greatest?

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    Well Bob, of course.

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    Anyone know of where a link of Mahay's run up the canyon is?

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