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Nine. Thatís how many turned out for a Sunday afternoon paddle. Itís a big number considering the short notice. We began our paddle of about nine miles just outside of Ames and ended at the first bridge on the Skunk River just downstream from the confluence. We all had white-water kayaks.
For most of us, it was our first paddle on this stretch. And the surprises were unending. Beaver, Green Heron, Great Blue Herons, Blue winged Teal Ducks, several Barred Owls Cardinals, Orioles, Robins, Common Yellow Throats, Barn Swallows, Turkey Vultures, and deer splashing across the water just in front of the boats. Unseen, but heard, were Cat Birds, Yellow Billed Cuckoos, and Black Capped Chickadees.
The brown water, not a healthy sign for a river but prevalent in Iowa, had some treats too. Our crack paddler, Monte, took advantage of the white water run over the golf course ďdamĒ. It has a step down feature to it, making a relatively smooth sloped tongue to run. We lingered and practiced our skills: ferrying, eddying and peel-outs on the downstream side.
Monte is so good that his unsecured baseball cap didn't come off of his head when he went under and rolled back up. Scott, however, wasn't quite so lucky with his sunglasses when he took a bit of a spill. Playing in the water took effort in the then hot day, so Rick did a roll just to cool down a bit.
Further downstream, the more substantial dam at Lincoln Way warranted a portage for most of us. I am pleased to say I didn't lose another paddle as I dragged my kayak out of the water this time like I did previously this spring. It was not, however, due to having learned my lesson particularly well. My paddle did slip out of the kayak and into the water, but Rick happened to be there this time and grabbed it for me.
While I was fussing about on my portage around the Lincoln Dam, Monte spotted for Matt, who took a run over the dam, getting caught in the hydraulics. Always one to stay calm, he executed his smooth roll once and then again and finally had to wet exit to get out of the dangerous undercurrent at the base of the dam.
After we checked to make sure that Matt was all right and had all of his gear, Mark safely ran the Lincoln Dam in his relatively long kayak. We played a bit more in the current downstream from the dam, before we all moved on again.
Low head dams can create dangerous hydraulics; broken concrete and rebar only add to that danger. We all wore life jackets, but could also have worn helmets while negotiating and playing at these dams. Having cohorts who can help, if needed, is also an important safety point. And of, course, developed skills that are well practiced are needed. It is safest just to portage around Iowa low head dams like most of us did at the Lincoln Dam.
Our paddle now took us past a bit of junk, though, surprisingly, not all that much was visible through the trees and understory. This was primarily near South Duff. The most useful was the canoe paddle that Eric spotted and retrieved with Rick's assistance. The most unusual sight though was a lost kybo stuck in the bank just shy of the confluence with the Skunk River.
After a hardy scramble and a fast clean up of the boats and gear, we loaded up. Mostly, we loaded up Rickís pick-up truck with six boats: three inside and three on top. Only now, with the last boats secured in their respective places and all of us off the water, is it safe to say that Big Swim Dave stayed upright this time. Colin, his son, I am sure, breathed a sigh of relief.
Squaw Creek 190th to S. 16th, 3 hrs @ ~250 cfs