View Full Version : Whitewater

06-10-2007, 02:03 PM
Whitewater rafting yesterday. For whatever reason, there were only two senior guides, myself and one other, on a trip with 8 rafts. One other guide has 3 years experience, but the other 5 were all first timers. Added to that, we had to use 6 brand new rafts, ones that no one likes. The new rafts are narrower than the old ones and more prone to capsizing. Plus, they don't steer as well.

Amanda was the trip leader. She is in her later 20's, but has been a river guide for 9 or 10 years. I was 2nd in experience. This is my 7th season as a river guide. In age, I am the oldest guide working on Tennessee's Ocoee River. Before we started the trip the company manager pulled us aside and cautioned us to be careful and to keep a close watch on the other guides. With the lack of experienced guides, combined with the sensitive handling required with the new rafts, Amanda and I were a little apprehensive about that trip.

The 3rd year guide is a pretty college girl named Summer. She and I took turns going first down the various rapids and "catching safety". That means that we stopped below each rapids and waited, ready to throw our rope or to paddle out and rescue anyone who fell into the river. Amanda was "sweep", bringing up the rear, she would pick up anyone stranded on a midstream rock or who had made it ashore.

I was safety at the bottom of "Moon Shoot". Right at the base of those rapids is a rock where the water boils up over it. A raft can get pushed up on it by the current, and sometimes if conditions are right, it will turn turtle and flip very quickly.

My own raft was floating quietly in an eddy as I watched one of the first time guides coming down Moon Shoot. I could see that he was not where he should be, and that he was going to hit that big rock.

Sure enough. His raft slid up the rock, leaned at a dangerous angle, and over it went. The guide and all 6 of his customers were in the water. Most of them popped to the surface and reached their overturned raft, but one teenage girl had been swept along the river bottom. She came up gasping and choking. I had my crew immediately start paddling toward her.

I pulled the girl into my raft. At the same time I noted that the others were all clinging to their upside down raft and swimming into an eddy with it. They were all okay. The girl I had picked up had a twisted ankle, some scrapes, and I could see that some nasty bruises were already starting to show. More than anything else, however, the experience of bouncing along the river bottom had scared the shyte out of her. Much to her credit, she recovered her composure, got back in her own raft, and contined on down the river with the group.

Later, at another rapid, appropriately called "Flipper", Summer had her chance to do essentially the same rescue as I had done. As we tell our customers; "Flipper is NOT named after the dolphin".

It was an interesting day. This season's fun on the river is just beginning.

Memphis Mike
06-10-2007, 03:00 PM
Have you ever rafted the New River or the Gauley River in West Virginia? It's some of the wildest whitewater east of the Mississippi.

High C
06-10-2007, 11:31 PM
Have you ever rafted the New River or the Gauley River in West Virginia? It's some of the wildest whitewater east of the Mississippi.

I've done the New in a canoe a couple of times. Spectacular! :cool:

Memphis Mike
06-11-2007, 12:03 AM
I've done the New in a canoe a couple of times. Spectacular! :cool:

Yeah, that's where I grew up. I really miss it sometimes. Beautiful country.

06-11-2007, 12:25 AM
Can't you guys find any calm waters, like on a big slick lake, where you can paddle with one hand and hold a cup of coffee in the other hand?
What's that? Oh, you like that fast water? Now I get it!

06-11-2007, 07:04 AM
The Gauley is probably the best whitewater in the eastern US. At the end of the season a group of Ocoee River guides make an annual trip up to West Virginia to run the Gauley.
I've stood on the banks of the New River, but never actually been out on it.
The Ocoee, here in southeast Tennessee, was the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater kayak events. The other Olympic events at that time were, of course, in Atlanta. Atlanta is only a couple of hours away by highway.