On the River: Relaxing on a raging river | AspenTimes.com
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On the River: Relaxing on a raging river

Bob Ward

I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself, or more importantly my 6-year-old, into. I’d never seen the Crystal River so big, muddy and angry, and after we crossed over McClure Pass, the North Fork of the Gunnison was a brown torrent.We were headed for a flat stretch of the main Gunnison River near Delta, for a two-day, 14-mile float. It was my son’s first river trip, so I was one happy dad. We were following a boater friend, who was towing the raft, hauling 90 percent of the gear and had planned virtually the entire thing. He was bringing his 5-year-old, so this trip was more about the boys than us (not that we’d left the beer and margaritas at home).But by the look of the rivers on the way to Delta, we were going to be riding one massive flow of water on this leisurely “float.”At the put-in, the Gunnison was bank-to-bank full and deep brown, and temperatures were expected to reach the 90s, so it wasn’t going to quiet down. We pushed off and spent the next two-or-so hours riding the crest of what we later learned was about 12,000 cfs. But while the huge flows increased our speed and shortened our float-time, they caused us no problems except to make the dads a mite stricter about life jackets, and to decrease our eddy-out options.The flow was impressive, even to the kids. We saw entire cottonwood trees floating downstream. But the high river wasn’t as captivating to the little guys as the passing Union Pacific freighters, the sound of which inevitably drew cries of “Train!” from both. Oh, and skipping red sandstone rocks across the expanse of the river.Best of all was our campsite at Dominguez Canyon, a large tributary that featured a waterfall and a set of rocky cascades and pools near the confluence. While the dads drained the libations from the cooler, the boys splashed, hollered and generally went bananas in Dominguez Creek.By the time we returned from our evening hike, the moon was rising above the canyon rim. We roasted s’mores in a fire pan and crawled into our tents around 10 p.m. Both exhausted kids crashed in a blink; neither even asked for a bedtime story.I never would have thought 12,000 cfs could be so thoroughly relaxing.


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