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Adjusting River Running to Climate Change

Published on 7/1/2015


By Mike Grijalva


My favorite run in our area, of all the choices we have within a reasonable radius, is the lower Green River gorge.   I have run it at many levels, from over 2k, down into the few hundreds.  Some people like it large, maybe over 2k, but in the future we may not see levels like that very often.   The "hole in the wall" surf wave is usually the best in the 700-800 range, and it is great if you can hit it at that level.   But usually we have to take what we get, or go elsewhere.   This year I ran it around 400cfs and of course hit several rocks and thought this is probably as low as I would like to go.  Then it went down to 300cfs and we ran it with the same results.   Then I ran it at 247cfs and made it down ok, and found it still fun and very challenging.  So then my buddy Jake and I tried it at what may be the stable low level of 166cfs.   We ran the first drop ok, scraping rocks at the bottom, but did just fine(photo 2).  We carried around the second drop with too little water that runs thru large cobbles(photo 3).  And then we ran the rest of the 7 miles of river, never having to get out of the boats.   There were two places where I had to turn backwards and push down through gravel bars with only a few inches of water.   
The river has more character at this level.  Lots of fluted sandstone ledges are visible underwater.  We saw more fish, but all pretty small, probably salmon smolts.  We found new surf waves,  and every line thru rapids was a slightly different version of what I was used to running.  There are many last minute decisions that have to be made on the fly to keep from grounding out, but the challenge was excellent fun.  Are you up for a challenge in a beautiful gorge that you will have to yourself?  
If you go, bring along a trashbag or two and pickup after the teenagers who leave the remains of their latest party.  The trash in the first photo was new, because we picked the area clean just two weeks ago.  The property owner has put up a new chainlink fence to keep out the litterbugs, and we hear that a new combination lock will be put up on a gate with the same combination as the main gate, but this is not set up yet, and we had to go over the fence on the normal trail down.  Two kayaks strapped together at the bows helped to get over.
We humans need to adjust to the new climate, and this is a first step.  Dress light and go kayaking.  

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