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Last Chance (Icebreaker) Float

More Adventures of the Skunk River Paddlers: Sunday March 18, 2001

All right, so we have had better ideas. With spring shining brightly off the last of winterís snow, and the Skunk River flowing, Rick and I launched our white water kayaks. This was no easy feat. First we had to find a landing that wasnít iced up. That took a bit of driving to different points along the river. This should have been our first clue. Love, however, is blind.

Besides the challenge of finding a put in that was not all iced up, we both also had to put on lots of clothes: wetsuits paddling jackets, life jackets, mukluks and lots more. We both are certain that that was why the fit was so tight in our white water kayaks. There was also the matter of a bit of winter flab around the middle too.

It did feel great too, playing the eddies as we went downstream once again after a long hard winter. A Great Blue Heron guided us for a while on our adventure. But, not for long. Suddenly going stagnant, the water suggested an ice jam somewhere around a bend downstream.

Walking now along side of the river, Rick and I viewed the dam of ice and logs effectively blocking our way. We stood there pondering our options, when, with a crack the dam of ice and wood gave way. It was truly an impressive sight as ice and wood shifting this way and that, shooting up only to be cut by another piece of ice or wood and then gone, lost in the moving mass of ice and wood that took us to the far bend downstream. After about two minutes, the dam found a new holding point. The area where we were standing was rapidly flooding as a result. It was time to go.

Upstream paddling, ferrying from the current side to the slower waters and then upstream again. This was the easy part. After, came a long walk dragging boats and gear across the snow-covered field and woods to Rickís house, which is near the river. The snow make dragging the boats easy on us and the boats, but walking in the snow was tough. Somewhere near the river on the first hill we pulled the boats up, my paddle must have slipped out of the kayak. This was only discovered when we got to Rickís house. A search proved futile and the rising river had probably claimed a paddle. After a refreshing pause, we walked a mile and a half down to my car at the take out. We saw a few neighbors along the way. I tried to look as natural as one can in a wet suit, but I donít think I pulled it off any better than we pulled off our ice breaker paddle down the Skunk River.

Gregory Vitale

 There was plenty of open water  Greg Vitale jam-up a short haul back to the house

Stream flow was approximately 900 cfs, and temperatures near 50.

free-flowing March 16th!

A bit of background information so you don't think we were ill-prepared and foolish for paddling in these conditions. I had been watching the ice at several points along the river for the past week or more. Based upon what I saw, I felt we would find open water from Sopers to Sleepy Hollow. Being optimistic, we first tried Anderson Canoe Access. It was nearly iced in. Crooked Bend and Bear Creek were marginally better. Sopers was open but slow, and we found an ice jam at the south end. Considering the warm temperatures, we discussed putting in and portaging any obstructions, but decided to play it safe and paddle near home. We launched at the Peterson Bridge. We were confident of our ability to stay dry, but were appropriately dressed for the water and carried additional gear and clothing. We had a great time, as we always do.


Created on ... March 18, 2001