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  • worst paddling experience

    I thought it would be cool to start a thread to find out what some of the, if not the, worst experiences some of you have ever had while paddling/floating. This topic may cross the rafting, kayaking and canoeing forums, but it relates to them all. I just think it would be exciting to hear about bad situations (huge rapids, falling out of the boat, forgot something, broken/deflated boats, etc.) that people have come across in their adventures and how, and if, they overcame the situation to rise above the scenario.

    As for myself, the worst thing I can think of was I was tubing a river in Texas, the Guadalupe River, which is a big party river with some dangerous spots. A friend and I were tubing along and we heard a low rumble for quite a while. We were young and inexperienced with the ways of mother nature. The rumble ended up being the worst rapid/hydraulic on the entire river, and the water level was higher than normal at the time. I was floating perpendicular to the river (we were curiously alone along this stretch of the river) and he was floating backwards and parrallel with the current. I heard a moan/scream from him (40 feet ahead of me), and when I looked over there all I saw was his feet sticking up in the air, going down. The low rumble was now very evident and not so low any longer. I realized he had gone down into a tumultuous hellhole (I believe it's considered a category 4 rapid). I had one exit point but I couldn't access it quick enough so I was next. I went over the fall, about a 3-4 foot drop, and it was almost a perfect hydraulic. I did all I could for about 15 seconds to balance on the tube in the face of danger, then it flipped me over. It had luckily propelled my buddy out of the current, and he was downriver obtaining his tube. It flipped me over backwards and I was injected downwards. It had to be 8 feet deep and the flow was dragging me around and against the rocks for a good 25 seconds. It popped me up and I reached for the lone rock that was out of the water nearby. I dragged myself up onto it (and it's surface area (above the water) was about 4" x 5"). All around me was horrible turbulence and my buddy was getting my tube. Once he got it I had to muster the huevos to again jump into the rapid and flow with it so that he could help to assist me out of the water about 20' down river. I was a bit banged up and it still stands as one of the most intense moments of my life.
    "Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer, Odyssey

  • #2
    Ripface that must have been an intense situation. Thanks for sharing, it was enjoyable.

    I might not have an experience as extreme but here it goes.

    My friend gave me a float tube before he left for Austraila. It was bran new and was never taken out of the box. Heck the packing tape still sealed the box tight. This was an expensive tube and I was thankful he gave it to me as a departing gift.

    I have another float tube but it was not as lavish as this one. I decided to blow her up and take it down to Beach Lake. Everything was going well, I was catching some small fish near the shore and decided to venture into the middle of the lake. Once I reached my desired destination I heard a hiss. It was quite odd. I look down at the tube and the large air camber was deflated at an extremely fast rate.

    I have never kicked, paddled, and fanned my arms through the water like I did on this day. I was in a panic state of mind.

    About three quarters back to the shore the tube was barely suspending my body weight. Finally the tube was empty and I prepared to have water enter my waders and hoping my life jacket would keep me above water. If I was lucky I was planning to pull my waders down. I started to sink, right before the water rose above my wader line my feet touched the rocky bottom of the lake. I walked the rest of the distance to the shore and went home.

    Needless to say I never used this tube again.


    • #3
      Along the lines of young and dumb things done on the water, and before I moved up the AK. We used to go to a yearly swim meat in Redding California, right on the Sacramento River. Some of the families stayed at the RV park that was downstream and on the River. So, those of us that brought rafts would float the river at the end of the heats each day. One of the times I and a few friends decided to launch our raft a bit further upstream than the usual launch, which was also closer to the **** that ran across the river by the pool. Our thought was we could get into the mainstream of the river sooner if we launched further upstream, true enough.

      What we hadn't factored was the **** had a backeddy across it's whole face, and as soon as we luanched and paddled out we found ourselves going upstream towards the face of the ****. This **** had water flowing over it's entire face. Needless to say it didn't take us too long to notice what was happening, and we were rather motivated to chance our paddling to ramming speed so to say. We broke away from the back eddy and started making our way downstream.

      That reminds me of another rafting adventure. My folks had a cabbin near lake Tahoe, so my brother and I figured we'd be up for taking our raft down the Truckee River. It's a pretty unventful float from the outlet of Lake Tahoe to the pullout by the Alpine Meadows ski resort. Uneventful it was until we were litterally in sight of the pullout. We managed to hit a big rock in the middle of the river, and my brother continued moving forward, while I and the raft suddenly stopped moving. I paddled down and picked him up, and we paddled to the pullout. Since I was the one that stayed with the raft I find it a rather humorous event, not so sure my brother agrees.

      Fortunately my boating experiences in AK have been rather uneventful. I intend to keep it that way.
      Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

      If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.


      • #4
        Aniak River

        I think probably the worst river I ever floated was the upper Aniak. I think we were the first people down it that year and we did it twice (yeah, I know... fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down).

        Anyway, the upper river was great until we hit treeline. Then it was a different ballgame altogether. Seemed like it would take us a week to float that upper fork, and come to think of it, it did. Logjams on nearly every corner, jammed clear back into the trees, making portaging extremely difficult. I'm attaching a photo for reference. Just a few sticks in the river... yeah, RIGHT!

        Michael Strahan
        Site Owner
        Alaska Hunt Consultant
        1 (406) 662-1791


        • #5
          sitting on a 60 qt cooler

          One day 3 guys from Anchorage came by my store to rent a Canoe for the day. They had no fishing gear, and did not have much of a clue as to what they needed. I helped them pick a few items and then they each bought a light spinning tackle rod. They bought a new tackle box, and then filled the box with not only the few items I showed them that would work on the lake I was sending them to, but stuff you would use for Kings, Silvers, and Pike... maybe Musky and Large mouth bass...
          about $320.00 later they had all the fishing gear they thought they needed for their first Kokane (land locked salmon) trip on a local kenai lake. They asked for 2 bags of Ice for the 60 qt cooler they had with them that was full of beer. We straped the canoe to the top of the car and had them sign a couple of copies of the waiver form ...that in theory keeps us from litigation... Yeah right!!.. anyway they headed out to the lake.... 2 hours later they returned with the Canoe paddles and life jackets. They were missing though...the new tackle box with all the tackle, the three fishing poles gone and the 60 qt cooler empty... and they were still soaking wet...
          Seems they decided to put that huge cooler in the canoe with them and the third guy was going to use it to sit on... SOme how they had managed to get out into the middle of the lake. When one of the fellows decided to use the heightened position of sitting or standing... (Depending on who was telling the story)on the 60 qt cooler.... well.. the canoe rolled over just like it supposed to when they are top heavy.. and all the gear, and beer and fisherman went for a swim..... The beer and the cooler, the paddles, canoe and the lifevested fisherman were all that would float....Yes Beer floats quite nicely...
          They told me that if I wanted $320.00 of new fishing tackle and a $200.00 cell phone and $500.00 digital camera, just paddle out to the exact middle of Spirit lake and dive about 35 feet.. I would find a bountiful treasure..... The beer they left floating around, but said bunch of teenagers on an authentic Huck Fynn log raft were very busy fetching up the brews as these guys pushed the canoe back to shore....
          It was not my worst paddling day,,, but I think for sure it was theirs...
          When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

          Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years.


          • #6
            Stupid is as Stupid does

            I just shake my head...

            Most people look at women and think we don't know a thing about the outdoors... which of course is false depending on which woman we are speaking of, but its refreshing to hear such a story...

            That three grown men, who want that great Alaskan fishing experience would spend that kind of money and then lose it all in such a short time, over a large lack of common sense...

            Thanks for the laugh...


            • #7
              Willow Creek

              As teens, a buddy of mine and I decided Willow creek (yes, the one along the Parks hwy) would be a good inner tube float trip. We picked as warm a day as we figured would come along during an Alaskan summer and grabbed the tubes. We dumped into the river about 3 miles above the Shirley Towne rd. bridge and floated all the way to Deception creek. The trip was a blast other than hitting our behinds on rocks while going through the white water and not to mention the brain freezing headaches we got from the cold water! We had to get out of the river about every 3-400 yds. just to get the blood flowing again. We warmed up nicely though while hitchhiking back to my house on Hatcher pass rd. Surprisingly, I haven't done that trip in an inner tube again......

              I may have to jot down a note about our canoe trip down the Deception creek too. It was VERY similar to Mikes trip on the Aniak....

              The porcupine is a peaceful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....


              • #8
                worst experience??

                Worst experience? Wow could I fill pages!

                I spent 6 months floating the Delta and Gulkana Rivers for the Alaska BLM a few years ago. During the 4th of July weekend we would station ourselves on the canyon rim at the Gulkana rapids/falls. It is a nice class 3 or 3+ depending on the water level and our job was to do assist as needed. We were not allowed to run the crafts down the picket fence of though the falls for the floaters but we were asked to many times. Our biggest issue was drunk floaters with little or no river experience and keeping them from killing any one on the way down the canyon!

                After 3 days on the canyon wall a group of guys come into our camp and ask about camping spots and how best to navigate the canyon. It was after 10 pm and we suggested that they back up and camp up river as all of the spots below the falls were full. I asked the guys who was the group leader and a tall intelligent guy comes forward. He asked me the best way to work through the canyon and I said in the morning was a good idea, he said that they were all lawyers and this was their first river trip and that they would “caucus” about weather they should move back up from the falls or try going down that night. Caucus???

                They decided that they would take the canyon that night so it was back to work but these guys were like the Keystone Cops and they were on 16 foot cats! The rapids was a pain in the ass with 14 foot boats but with a 16 footer was going to be fun to laugh at and with no trip leader it was pure comedy! Well they guys ended up doing a line job on the canyon and after about 1.5 hours of pure crazy laughs they were through. I thought that we would end up seeing a homicide before it was all over but no,,,darn!

                The next morning the lead lawyer asks me how many hours it is was down to Sourdough camp grounds as they had a pick up set for 6 pm that night! I could not explain to these guys that it was 2-3 more days depending on how hard they were willing to work period!

                Priceless for sure! I miss the days with the BLM!

                If your interested in doing float trips in the Western Brooks Range (Noatak and Kobuk Rivers) please look us up at We are your best source for rafts, canoes and equipment rentals.



                • #9

                  Wasn't in Alaska but up in Maine back in the 80's when I was younger the Boy Scouts used to have the "high adventure" program, still might I don't know. But the program I was on was canoeing the lakes and rivers in Maine. Our trip was going well and the waters wern't flood stage but just enough to raise a 3 to a 4 with rains and runoff. We got to an area and there was a Boy Scout group on the side of a rapid portaging with another group of kayakers. They proceeded to tell our guide was was going on when we were on the bank, while they were portaging a group of kayakers came thru so they decided to watch and see how they transversed the area. According to the guide they didn't get out of the kayaks to look and see the chutes, they just headed down. First man headed down and had a little difficulty, but made it. He turned in a tide pool and got his rope bag ready in case of a problem (He was the "experianced" guy for there group) and watched as the next challenger came along. Second guy proceeded down and as he was entering the chute hit a rock and flipped, they expected an eskimo roll but the kayak was hung up and seemed to be floating stuck in place. What seemed like minutes to them was only a few seconds and the kayak was released from it's floating position and headed down stream. They watched and waited for a flip but nothing happend. The bottom guy paddled to the kayak and pushed it into the tide pool but alas there was no kayaker in the boat. The troop began yelling for the other kayakers not to go down and were scanning the area for the boatless kayaker. Soon enough back up where the kayak had flipped a watersock would pop up every now and again. The first kayaker at the bottom crossed the river opposite the troop and threw the guide the rope and they began walking back up the rapid. After 4 hours they finally retreived the body of the kayaker, apparnetly when he rolled he had gotten his helmet pinned between two rocks and couldn't move, either he or the force managed to pop his spray-skirt to release the kayak. Sad day on the river and although it wasn't our party it effected us deeply, we had two days left and all we wanted to do was just canoe the lake the river connected to. It was a major "look before you leap" life lesson......
                  Yesterday I ran into an Old Girlfriend and I thought I missed her...
                  So I backed up and hit her again, ya know sometimes I really do miss her!!


                  • #10
                    Maine , a white water wonder!

                    I lived in Maine for a number of years and the White Water in that state is unreal! I was a high school Biology teacher at Millinocket and spent my summers on the many big rivers that drained the North Woods of Maine. I remember hearing about the BSA trip that went bad.

                    There is another BSA story that lives on the East Branch of the Penobscot River of a rapids called the Hascall’s Pitch which is marked with a large rock that is the last pull out before the falls. We ran the East Branch in spring of 96 just after ice out and it was a cool 4 day white water ride. When we approached Haskall’s Pitch we found a BSA Aluminum canoe rammed into a v in a large tree about 8 feet above water line and it was ripped in ˝! Talk about making 2 guys nervous for the next 4 days that did it!

                    I found Maine much like Alaska with lots of great rivers to run and lots of unspoiled country! If you are ever think about running the rivers in the Brooks Range look us up at Your best spot for Rafts, canoes and backcountry equipment serving all of NW Alaska.



                    • #11
                      this was a bad idea i had once

                      My brother and I decided a few years back that we really wanted to hunt on the other side of the Matanuska river near chickaloon. This would be a great place to hunt since most people cant get across the river - well we were among those people but we decided to give it a try and scouted the river for the best crossing point. We found a good area to cross and soon we were on the other side no problems. After hunting all day we hopped in the canoe to cross back. We carried the canoe up river a distance to compensate for the distance the current would take us. We made 2 mistakes this time we underestimated the current and failed to find a good spot to beach the canoe on the other side. About 3/4 of the way across the river we knew we were in trouble, we were moving faster then i had ever moved in a canoe and we were losing control - we had to paddle like mad to keep control and as we neared the other side the low beach was no longer all we had was cut-bank facing us the canoes bow slammed into the gravel bank and we both lurched forward, then the canoe bounced back toward the river and that was when the tipping took place. We were lucky, we both went under head first but our vests pushed us back up immediantly and we were close enough to the bank to push the canoe forward and save the canoe as well as the gear inside. We did end up losing one paddle and our tent, everything else was secured in the boat.
                      In the end it was a trip full of lessons, mainly never cross the matanuska in a canoe. oh -- and yes the water was cold.


                      • #12
                        Happy River... my worst, and best paddling experience

                        I had bought my wife a 14 ft cataraft for her anniversary to paddle around on the lake with (I know, it still sounds like a weak excuse even today!) A buddy owned a flight service on Lake Hood and was having a film made touting his drop offs for whitewater kayakers. He told me he needed a gear boat to haul the camera crew's equipment and the kayakers camping stuff. I said ok, thinking he was borrowing the raft, but he meant someone to row it too! I read about the trip, and practiced up with some runs on the Eagle River Campground rapids and felt ok with the idea. Then I started hearing river reports that folks were having troubles on the Happy that season, flipping, losing gear, swimming, etc. Every time I'd tell him about my increasing missgivings regarding the trip he'd tell me; "there's nothing to worry about, you'll have a whole bunch of professional guides along to teach you and look out for you." It all sounded good in theory, except that when it came down to it, the guides were all busy with the film crews, and the kayakers were all busy playing. And, since I was the heaviest, slowest boat I wound up far in the rear, getting stuck constantly and falling even further back as the day progressed. Pretty soon we got to the boulder garden section with bigger water, and bigger boulders, and lots of narrow chutes, and I got hung up / pinned pretty good a couple times. Being a neophyte and trying to push loose from a pin with the raft trying to flip on me was a pretty spooky situation. The last time I pushed so hard I wound up slipping between the boat and the rock and discovered that a guy could get pinned and hurt in there pretty easy! Fortunatly, one of the kayakers decided to get concerned about his tent and came back to look for me! Once we got the boat free I think he must have seen the growing fear in my eyes (or was rightfully worried even more about his tent!) because he offered to stay back and keep an eye on me. (Not a whole lot better, because I'd been hoping he'd offer to row and allow me to walk out cross country!) I made it through the rest of that day alive and at camp that night whilst everyone else was fishing and having a good time around the campfire, I was plotting about how to get across the river and walk home... They were all looking forward to the upcoming "canyon" and I was calculating how long I'd have to save up to buy the wife a replacement raft... They were planning their next float trip, and I was trying to decide it I could find a new flying service to deal with in the future! Anyway, that kayaker saw my concern and was really reassuring, one of the best coaches I've ever encountered, he convinced me I could handle everything the river had to offer in the next days and that he'd hang close to coach me if I needed it. Getting past that fear and continuing was one of the best things that ever happened to me in the wilderness. Something happened inside my head and my heart that I really can't explain, but the reward was the greatest day I've ever had on the water (or off for that matter) It seems the sun was perfect, the lines were perfect, my turns and spins and setups were perfect... It was glorious to be alive and one with the flows. Now, years later and many rivers and rapids beyond, I still every once in a while manage to touch my memory of that day a bit. Thats I think, the greatest of the treats of our wilderness... the memories we store up, and the ability to recreate them on our next encounter. So, this trip I've described was probably my worst (or at least tied for it) and was absolutely my BEST, paddling experience.


                        • #13
                          The 91 days my cousin and I spent on the Mississippi River in 1969. All the way from Northern Minnesota to New Orleans by canoe.


                          • #14
                            Where did you put in at?

                            Originally posted by AlleninAlaska
                            The 91 days my cousin and I spent on the Mississippi River in 1969. All the way from Northern Minnesota to New Orleans by canoe.
                            Where did you put in at? I have stepped over the beginnings of the Mississippi in Itasca MN.

                            From Wisconsin Originally.

                            What a wild trip. That river must be filthy at the Gulf... at least now... Its filthy in Minneapolis even...


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by faemystique
                              Where did you put in at?

                              Right where Highway 2 crosses over the river. Them ****ed rice paddy lakes are a B&%ch when the wind is blowing from the south.


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