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Kayaking the Boone River
July 2001 by Amelia Koford

Last Saturday, my father informed me that I was to go on my first kayak trip the next day. Robin and the Central Iowa Paddlers were having a float down the Boone River. I had been learning to kayak in the State Gym pool over the previous winter, but I had never been out on a river. I had just begun to get used to being upside-down in a kayak in warm, placid, five-foot-deep water. I wasnít at all sure I was ready for a trip involving an actual river. I was even less certain after my dad showed me pictures on the Internet of kayakers doing cartwheels and spins in turbulent rivers. Whitewater kayaking, everyone told me, was completely different than anything Iíd experienced in the pool. But on July 1st, with some misgivings, I allowed my dad to drive me up to Briggs Woods Park, where we were to meet the rest of the paddlers.

A large group from all over central Iowa assembled for the trip. (The Skunk River Paddlers were well represented too. - G.V.) From Ames and Boone were me, my dad, Rolf, Greg, Rick, Monty, Wiesia, Don, Kay, Travis, Miranda, and Jerry. We had a wide assortment of white-water kayaks, touring kayaks, and tandem and solo canoes. My dad and I started out in a canoe.

We stopped three or four times at riffles and people picked up river trash (including an air conditioner!), searched gravel bars for artifacts, and fished. We stopped for lunch at a nice rock garden, where there was a lot of exchanging of boats to practice ferrying and eddying. It was here that my dad and I conned Wiesia and Monty into letting us trade our canoe for their kayaks for the rest of the float.

Each boat went at its own pace. Robin needed to stop at every sand bar to search for treasures, while my dad took advantage of every rock to teach me about eddy turns and trying to surf. Fortunately for us, Wiesia and Monty were nice enough to keep our canoe until the take-out, which was Tunnel Mill, 13 river miles from where we started that morning.

We saw quite a few birds, as might be expected, including a Great Blue and a Green Heron. Cedar Waxwings were a treat, as were the colony of swallows (Bank Swallows?) nesting on a cliff. We also saw a white-spotted fawn sleeping in plain sight on the bank of the river.

Although I ended the day with sore arms and shoulders, I greatly enjoyed my first float down the river. I liked the forced relaxation and beautiful scenery. I had fun learning to eddy out, ferry and surf. I never had the occasion to use the roll I had so diligently practiced in the State Gym pool, but I wonít complain. Nobody showed me how to do the spins and tricks I had admired on the Internet either. I guess I need to save something for my next trip.

Editorís note: The Boone River at levels near 550 - 750 cfs has a number of drops, riffles and class I water perfect for practicing basic skills needed for safe paddling in moving water, including white water.       -   G.V.

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Briggs Woods to Tunnel Mill 7-1-01 @ 560 cfs