green horn rafting q's
I went on a float trip with a buddy down the Kenai early this year and am hooked on floating. I bought a 16' sotar cat and I really enjoy the time on the water but looking to tackle higher water class. I have floated the Kenai 4 times now so it’s not like I have a ton of experience. I have seen the white water classes that can be taking and thinking it’s expensive but could be worth the money. I was told to take it easy rafting and get lots of experience class 1 or 2 before attempting class 3. What would be the progress to get into class 3? Anyone taking the classes and found them to be a must or invaluable? What’s a reasonable amount of time to be safe on class three with a good amount of time on the water? I love to hunt and would like to get into some class 3 to expand my hunting horizon. Any insight would be appreciated thanks!
Class I & II are pretty much no brainers on most rafts. Almost any beginner can handle them with little or no training. Class III requires some better skills, like no significant hesitation in making decisions and being able to execute them without thought of how to do it. Also, since most AK whitewater is in glacial rivers you need to be able to accurately read water features, and judge depth by looking at the wave and ripple types, without seeing through to the rocks below. Class III can have some significant waves, eddies and reversals that can easily flip a boat, but the best channel should be obvious and easy to get to.
If you feel up to it you might try the Kenai River section below Jim's Landing, as it heads into Skilak Lake. There are several spots in there that are not quite a full class III, but still interesting. You will need a way to negotiate the 7-8 miles of the lake to get to the first take out though.
Another option is the Campground Rapids section of Eagle River. It's a full on class III or III+, depending on water level. Before you commit to it you should drive out to the campground and hike up a 1/4 mile from the day use area and take a good look. It may not seem obvious to you just by looking, but the usual run is to start down the middle as you enter the left turn, and a little before the bottom you move all the way to the right and finish the run along the river right bank. There is a clearly marked take out just above it, so you can take another look just before running it.
Also on Eagle River is the class II+ to -III section below the Glenn Hwy. This goes through Ft Richardson so you will need a free permit from the guard shack for access. Each person in the boat needs his own permit, but they are good for 2 years. This is a very nice section of Eagle River that few local boaters take advantage of.
However, I think the best advice I can give is to paddle with people that are better than you and are willing to talk about what you should do, and what you are doing wrong. Knik Canoers & Kayakers ( http://kck.org ) has a free email list server that you can sign up for that frequently has local day trips announced. These are almost always organized by good boaters that would love to have you join them for a splash. KCK also has a raft class they teach in the spring, but it fills up pretty quick, so you need to get right on it when it's announced.
And to answer your question; there is no set amount of boating time for you to move up to class III or any other class. Some people take to this very quickly and others take forever to get the fundamentals down pat.
I have coached people down Sixmile Creek (Class V) with very little rowing time. Probably not much more than you. As often as not they crashed and burned a couple times before getting it, but with the right precautions a boat flip can be very educational.
thanks for the post! the kck is awesome reference but looks like im a little late for their classes as it looks like its defintlly may time frame. ill keep doing easy stuff this year and look into bigger things next year. I'm anxious to learn and have the gear just need the know how now. thanks for the reply.
I just started myself last year, I went on the 6 Mile with the guides and learned a lot. Did the one out of Denali Village and the guy let me oar thru a couple spots.
One thing I did was the "Learn to Return" swift water rescue class, could be a responder, teaches how to be in the water and what to do. I think the boat part is easy, but what to do and how to save your self if in the water is important. Did class 3 in the water once wooohooo.
I'm ready to get on the water