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Surf’s up on rivers

Janet Urquhart
A kayaker skirts Slaughterhouse Falls on the Roaring Fork Wednesday, deciding the river is still running too low to navigate the rocks at the rapid. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)
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Aspen paddlers anxious to hit Slaughterhouse Falls below town may find the water a bit low for their liking, but runoff is slowly ramping up the challenge at favorite spots on area rivers.The Roaring Fork below Maroon Creek, including Slaughterhouse, was running at 323 cubic feet per second Thursday morning – low but runable, according to Brian Wright, co-owner at Glenwood Canyon Kayak.Still, a couple of paddlers were portaging around the falls on Wednesday afternoon rather than risking slamming into the rocky outcropping that forms Slaughterhouse.”I’ve paddled it at about that. It’s definitely shallow,” Wright said.

By Friday morning, it was up to 380 cfs and warm weather should continue to boost flows.Most paddlers prefer Slaughterhouse, a Class 4 rapid, at between 700 and 1,200 cfs – high enough to clear the rocks in the tight, technical drop, but not too swift, according to Wright.The Colorado River at Shoshone in Glenwood Canyon had risen above 3,200 cfs by midmorning Friday – in other words, it’s not yet experts only, he said.”The Colorado is at a nice medium flow right now,” he said. “It’s definitely doable for anyone who knows what they’re doing.”

Below the Colorado’s confluence with the Fork, the river was topping 5,400 at mid-morning Friday.Up on the Crystal River south of Carbondale, the Class 5 stretch called Meatgrinder, right below Redstone, was running at relatively low 562 cfs Thursday morning and had jumped to 730 cfs yesterday morning.”Even at that [562 cfs] it’s a very dangerous rapid,” Wright said. “It’s just a Class 5 rapid – it’s always Class 5.”I’m sure we’ll see it get high enough this year that even the best paddlers will stay out of it.”

Wright said he knows kayakers have been up to check out Meatgrinder, but he hasn’t received a report on its condition. It can take just one big log lodged in its boulders to close off the section to paddling for the season, he noted.Rapids are classified 1-6, with a Class 5 considered extremely difficult and Class 6 unrunable.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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