Day 6: Hermit Rapids

hermit rapids
photo by Lynn Myers

 

Here we go, into the mud bath. Hermit Rapids is one of the larger rapids we went through. The raft is heading into a trough and very shortly the whole raft will be half submerged. Every thing is in waterproof packs, so if everything goes right the ping-pong ball raft will pop up again and the water will drain off with nothing the worse for wear, although we may ourselves be a little damp. That's me in the yellow jacket at the rear of the raft.

The rapids on this part of the Colorado tend to be hydraulic rapids rather than boulder fields. The river is constricted above the rapids, then the water drops over the obstruction. The energy released by the drop of the water causes a hydraulic "jump" and this expresses itself in a series of steep waves below the drop known as haystacks or rooster tails.

Running a rapids in a raft uses a very different strategy from what I'm used to when using a canoe. In a canoe you try to go slower than the flow of the water and use the manuveribility of the canoe to dance around the obstructions. It's not uncommon in a canoe to go back and forth across the river searching for the best route. The rafts are much less manuverable. Paddling one is like paddling a bathtub. In a raft the strategy is to line yourself up as best you can then go as fast as you can down the rapids and use the momentum of the raft to punch through the waves.

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