As the snow continues to fall in the Rocky Mountains, another foot this evening, we river guides are beginning to look ahead to the spectacular melt-off which will fill our rivers this spring…
This year we have a goal: Expose the youth of Delta County to the natural wonders in their own back yard. What better way to do that than train them as river guides? We have designed a comprehensive 9 day training course specifically designed for graduating seniors. During this training, new guides will learn stand up paddle, whitewater rafting, river rescue, hydrology, how to instruct and guide trips, outdoor cooking, and much more. This course will span 3 of our local rivers, and include a 3 day overnight trip.
The North Fork of the Gunnison River flows through the heart of our community, but to many it is off limits due to lack of equipment, knowledge and experience. The Gunnison and Colorado Rivers are also with in a short drive, but equally out of reach for those who unfamiliar with wild rivers. This program will begin to remove the barriers to these amazing local resource
Anyone who has been through river guide training can tell you that it is a challenge that demands all you have, and sometimes more. Whitewater rivers are truly wild places. Upon first entering this environment, these rivers appear as foreboding beasts with lives of their own, and they are. But trainees will learn their secrets and intricacies, swim through whitewater, and conquer their own fears. In the end, many river guides become more comfortable on the river than off of it.
If you meet one of our 2019 trainees on your next trip with Western Slope SUP, ask them how it went. I’m sure they will have some great stories for you.
This year the SUP crew instigated a new western slope tradition: the New Years Day Float. This January 1st was the maiden voyage of our new raft, The Enos T, named after the founder of our town. After a champagne toast and christening, the snow covered ground at the put in allowed us to pile into the raft and sled into the Gunnison RIver. We enjoyed sunny, 12 degree weather, snow covered scenery, and wintering bald and golden eagles. In all, five Western Slope SUP family and friends, bundled up and made the 8 mile river journey. Two river wide ice bridges presented the biggest challenges of the day. With a little creativity and a spare oar, we were able to pass through them.
Many will wonder why we would go to such great lengths just to go rafting in January. Maybe rafting is in our blood, maybe 5 winter months away from the river is just too long, maybe we are a little crazy…but it is a simple question with a simple answer: why not?
2018 has been among the driest years that Colorado has seen in the last century. This past winter, our corner of the state received only 10% of the snowfall we are used to. This lack of snow, which melts over the spring and summer months to feed our rivers and streams, has created unboatable, low flows on a majority of Colorado's rivers. We felt the low water sting here in Hotchkiss this spring. We were prepared to offer the first ever white water rafting tours on the high alpine rivers that flow into the North Fork Valley. Unfortunately, our inaugural rafting season was cancelled, as this year these rivers would not float our boats.
Here is the good news, the Gunnison River, where we operate our flagship SUP tours, is boatable all year every year. There are 4 big reasons why we are guaranteed great flows even in dry years: Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir, Crystal Reservoir, and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Yes, there are 3 enormous reservoirs and a national park just upstream of us. These reservoirs are able to store 1,058,016 acre feet of water. That is over 1,423 million cubic meters of water! There is also a minimum river flow requirement through the National Park, which means guaranteed SUP flows year round.
We are having the time of our lives this summer, running daily and overnight SUP tours on the Gunnison River. We feel fortunate to have this incredible waterway right in our backyard! Come join us on the river next time you need to get away. It will be there.
We have officially entered into our sophomore season at WSSUP and are excited to bring even more outdoor recreational opportunity to Western Colorado.
This year we have introduced overnight, raft supported stand up paddle tours through some of the most scenic sections of river in the west. Our 2 day/1 night trip takes place in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Our 3 day/2 night trip tours Ruby and Horsethief Canyons on the Colorado River. Both are unforgettable, all inclusive experiences featuring sand and sun, farm fresh local meals and our favorite Western Slope wines.
Also new this year is white water rafting. We now offer this thrilling experience on The North Fork of the Gunnison, which flows right through our hometown of Hotchkiss. Want a little more adventure? Head upstream with us to Anthracite Creek, which rages through the West Elk Wilderness and takes us for the ride of a lifetime on 6 miles of continuous class II-III whitewater.
With returning guides and a few new faces, you can expect the same great service and level of experience that put us on the map in 2017.
I remember the first time I stood on a paddle board. Five years ago I unstrapped my mom’s board from the roof of my Subaru and carried it across the sand of Goleta Beach. I was visiting home for a week. Most of my friends had moved away , my parents worked during the day and I was left with the task of entertaining myself for the majority of my visit. My 50 year old mother had recently developed a passion for paddling and bought a board. So one afternoon with time to kill I decided to get out of the house and try it out.
In Santa Barbara, California the most accessible body of water is the Pacific Ocean and I though the calm waters of Goleta beach would make a great place to try SUP. I spent my childhood here body-surfing the shore break and browning my skin on the warm sand. On this evening a gentle breeze rustled the palm fronds above, and the sun, low on the horizon invited me out to sea.
Standing next to the crashing surf, I realized I had no idea how to maneuver a paddle board so I went back to my surfer roots and got on my belly to paddle through the crashing waves. Fifteen minutes later, the board, paddle and I successfully made it past the breakers. Getting my footing on the tippy fiberglass board was a challenge, but the reward of paddling out into the setting sun, rocking on the gentle swell made it all worthwhile.
A seal surfaced beside me as I became aware of the kelp forest I was standing above. Minnows swam below me between its giant vines. Somewhere down there small sharks chased bigger fish through the maze of kelp. Phosphorescent plankton began to glow in the wake of my board. I smelled charcoal and Tri-Tip smoke from a barbeque far off on the beach. I heard the hollow thud of footsteps on the pier above me as I followed it a quarter mile out to sea.
It wasn’t the board, the paddle or the balancing act that drew me to stand up paddle boarding. It was new vantage point it provided me. Much like riding a motorcycle or an airplane for the first time, experiencing life from a SUP was a whole new way to see the world. The environment around me and the calm that came over me turned a familiar beach into a new world of wonder. Since that day, SUP has provided me a new amazing way to experience beaches, rivers and lakes across the country. I continue to enjoy experiences I could not duplicate without standing above the water. I am forever thankful for Mom and her fiberglass board, and I never go on a road trip without mine.