Febrary-March Salmon & Steelhead Journal discusses composite oars.

In the most recent issue of Salmon and Steelhead Journal, Salmon and Steelhead Journal published an article on composite oars and their performance on the riverEric Martin discusses the game-changing qualities of the modern composite oar. After reviewing the history of wood oars and early composite oars (which tended to be, in Martin's words, "stiff and lifeless"), he marvels at the technological innovations in oar construction over the past few decades:

Modern composite oars are proving to be nothing short of spectacular. As more advanced materials, resins and manufacturing techniques become available, the performance options available in composite oars continues to improve dramatically. Rolled carbon fiber, woven continuous filament fiberglass and aerospace-grade graphite are creating oars designed to last a lifetime of rugged use. Just how advanced is the technology and materials going into, as my wife puts it, "just an oar"? Well, let's just say that oar shafts, artificial knee joints and nuclear submarine driveshafts are all produced from the same materials by a manufacturer participating in this review [hint: THAT'S US! THAT'S CATARACT OARS!]

Further benefits of composite oars.

Martin goes on to enumerate various other advantages of modern composite oars, such as ease in replacing blades (if you damage a wood oar's blade, you're looking at replacing the entire oar), ease in replacing handles, and how you don't need several sets of oars (great configurability from a single set of oars). Without mentioning Cataract Oars specifically, he goes on to say that

Some manufacturers take interchangeability a step further, designing shafts that not only have removable blades, but removable handles, and even break-down shaft configurations which make carrying a spare oar even easier in the small confines of a drift boat. This allows for changing out a standard handle for a counterweighted handle, or adding a shaft extension to the end of a shaft to quickly change the overall length of the oar. I have a set of oars for my 12-foot pontoon boat that can be switched over with shaft extensions to allow for use with my 17-foot drift boat giving me two oars with essentially one package, not to mention less stuff to store in my garage.

 That all sounds pretty good to us. Sold!

 

Feb 2016: "Ode to the Small Things: Moments Guiding on the Grand Canyon"

by Adam Mills Elliott

On "Duct Tape Diaries," the NRS community blog, Adam Mills Elliot rows in some big whitewater with his SGG composite oars made by Cataract OarsAdam Mills Elliott has written an amazing river rafting article on his relationship with the Grand Canyon, and on one particular rafting trip. Elliott has been a river guide through the Grand Canyon for twelve years now, so he knows that section of the Colorado River fairly well. This photo (right) is from his article, and shows Adam rowing a pair of Cataract Oars SGG fiberglass and carbon composite oars in some decent white water.

Rafting the Colorado River, Grand Canyon. In Adam's own words.

Naturally, we've got to share a bit of Adam's gorgeous prose here. Describing a particular hole, he recounts

I stood uncomfortably on a boulder, river right, just at the top of Crystal Rapids. The flow was somewhere around 14k cfs. I looked out at the tiny lateral waves bouncing off the left cliff and accelerating down the tongue. With one last dip, the line of bubbles riding the pillow waves exploded with curling foam, then folded toward the right, and collided with another wave coming back to the center.

During this scout, we’d been talking about our lines for a good 20 minutes already. I could see a range of emotions on faces nearby. Some people were giddy in anticipation. Some of the guides gave serious descriptions of the chosen lines to their guests. I was silent and nervous.

I was planning on going left. I still wasn’t confident in my line choice. Is it too high to go left? Am I going to get lost and flip in the center hole? Am I going to splat and flip on the bottom-left cliff?

I looked at the boulder I was standing on, at the sandals on my feet, and instinctively reached down and tugged on a couple straps. The rest of our group was clustered downstream, examining the right line and gesturing with contortions. A fellow guide was simulating the reverse entry “momentum run,” and with a smooth final pivot, arms mimicking the motion of pushing on downstream, they demonstrated a clean run, clear of the hole. The guide’s body visibly relaxed and even though they were facing away from me, I could tell they were smiling.

I wasn’t smiling.

I turned back to the curling tip of the emerald tongue, trying to count, again, how many little crests of laterals, and pour-overs, form upstream of the very dangerous Slate Creek Hole. The left line looked so thin from shore; both Slate hole and the center hole looked gigantic. My vision narrowed, the horizon lilted and I slipped a little on the wet boulder. Nauseous and clammy, I hunkered down and looked directly upstream, took a deep breath and stood again. Keeping my gaze soft, I let the horizon settle. I brought my attention to standing as tall as I could, reaching my hands as high as I could, pulling in as much air as I could. And as I let my breath out, I refocused my attention to that elusive point, and everything that surrounds it, somewhere at the center of the river, as far upstream as I could.

It was an unintentional call to my best self. It was a call to my ‘interconnected self’ through yoga. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was drawing an inner power from the verticality of my chakra and horizontality of the earth. I tied it all together through the intersection of my mind’s eye and a specifically vague singularity of focus called the drishti. It all happened within a few deep breaths, and I didn’t put words to it. The words don’t matter.

I don’t really remember walking back to the raft. I’m sure that I was only half-aware of the tall grasses that I had to brush away from my face. I’m sure that it was second nature to untie the same tautline hitch that I untied at every beach. On the raft, I had a sip of water, smiled and spoke again to my passengers. “We are taking a different line, a challenging line, but no less safe because of it. Check to see that things are tied in. Hold on well, and don’t forget to look around! Beauty is all around us!”

 Well said, Adam, well said. To read the whole article, head over to "Duct Tape Diaries"! 

Feb 2016: "Dreaming of Summer" by Seth Dahl of Go Idaho.

The latest blog post from Go Idaho is too good not to share here. It reads, in part,

The Middle Fork flows wild and free for 100 miles through the heart of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. It drops almost 3,000 feet during its trip, crashing through numerous rapids with names like “Pistol Creek” and “Devil’s Tooth.” Its scenery changes from high alpine forest to mountain desert and finishes with a bang as it cuts through a steep rocky gorge named the “Impassable Canyon.” It is a unique trip and a natural treasure.

I often think about those warm sweep boat days bathed in golden light. The sun drops low in the sky and the craft is pulled by a free current. The flying insects are illuminated amongst the tall grass and the pine and fir trees cast shadows across the river. The birds sing with the sounds of the river and water laps the floor of the sweep. Together, their voices became harmony to my ears and in that moment I feel truly alive!

 Accompanied by gorgeous photos of rivers, landscapes, rafts and whitewater guides, Seth's prose is a meditation on the art and experience of immersion in nature. It makes us all look forward to river rafting season!

Jan 2016: Easy river meals.

by Dylan Holt.

A flotilla of river rafts can hold a lot of stuff.

Bringing the kitchen sink while camping isn’t normally a good idea.  However, when you are on a rafting trip with 5 or so rafts able to haul hundreds of pounds of gear, you can bring whatever you want.  This is the simple beauty of rafting trips.  The ability to bring things like chairs, dutch ovens and giant coolers filled with amazing food, ice and drinks into some of the most remote places on the planet. 

Still, it's good to raft as lightly as possible to keep things simple.

With all that carrying capacity, sometimes it’s easy to bring too much.  In my experience, it is best to keep things simple, organized and easy when it comes to river meals.  For most, a river trip is a way to escape into the wilderness and enjoy the outdoors.  At the end of a long day in the sunshine or possibly a cold rainy day, it is nice to have an easy meal.  This reduces stress in camp and allows for more time hiking, fishing and generally relaxing.  For easy river meals it doesn’t get much easier than single dutch oven meals.  One pot, add a bunch of ingredients, and cook.  The cleanup is super easy as well—no dishes in the dark by headlamp. Here are 3 simple easy dinner meals for the river that will enhance your river trip and leave your friends and family smiling.

Dutch oven pineapple ham, whitewater style!dutch oven pineapple ham

This one is an old river classic.  Get your coals going and start to prepare a large dutch oven.  Use 3-4 lbs thick cut ham and slice, or you can use pre-sliced to make it easier on yourself.  Layer the slices of ham into the dutch.  Next add a ½ cup of brown sugar and pour 1 20 oz. can of crushed or ringed pineapple over the sugar, letting it melt over the ham layers.  Next add 1/2 can of 7-up into the mix.  Place the dutch onto your coals and cook for 45 min.  

Buckaroo spuds.

This one is an old Idaho river classic.  There are many ways to make dutch oven potatoes.  However, the easiest way I know of is to have your ingredients pre-prepped.  If you can do some of the prep work at home, you can simply add the ingredients and start cooking.  At home pre- slice a packet of bacon into smaller bits.  Dice a couple onions up as well as any peppers that you would like in your spuds.  Grab a bag of shredded cheese of your liking.  I prefer to use smaller ziplocs for all the individual ingredients and add them into a large ziploc to keep the organized and together in the cooler.  Now, being from Idaho I would say always use Idaho potatoes, however sometime this involves peeling and dicing and generally a lot of work.  The easiest way I’ve found is to find the small prepackaged baby dutch yellow or mixed potatoes.  This way there is no prep and you simply add them in with your ingredients and some garlic and butter and your prepackaged bacon, onion, and peppers.  Season to taste and place the dutch oven on the coals.  Bake for about 45 min.  Save the cheese till the very end to melt over the entire dish. dutch oven enchiladas

 River enchiladas.

This one is super easy and requires hardly any prep work.  Get a bag of the El Monterey chimichangas from Costco and a can of enchilada sauce.  As well as a bag of shredded cheese and a can of olives.  Oil your dutch oven and place the frozen or semi frozen chimichangas into a layer in the bottom.  Add your cans of enchilada sauce and olives over the top.  Cook for 30 min in the dutch oven, adding cheese to melt at the end.  Easy, cheesy and super tasty.

With meals like these, you may forget that you're in the wilderness!

Not really. But, you'll be glad to have delicious grub to chow down on at the end of an exciting day of whitewater.

December 2015: Wolf Creek Rapid of the Selway River.

by Dylan Holt.

A river rapid like no other.Wolf Creek Rapid of the Selway River is a challenging stretch of whitewater for river rafting

Over the course of my whitewater river guiding career, a number of rapids have challenged me and made me a better boater.  But, over 8 years, one rapid sticks out in my mind as being the scariest, toughest and most challenging: Wolf Creek.  Wolf Creek Rapid on the Wild and Scenic Selway River is always a challenge. 

Wolf Creek rapid strikes fear into seasoned river rafters.

During commercial trips we would pull into the calm waters of the eddy above the rapid knowing full well what was below while our guests remained oblivious to the sheer terror that the simple thought of running Wolf Creek can induce in seasoned guides.  Making the hike up to scout the rapid, you climb a small trail up to a vantage point that overlooks the whole rapid.  This hike is a quiet anticipatory hike, a pilgrimage of sorts. All the while thinking to yourself “what’s it going to look like this week.”River rafting in the Wolf Creek Rapid of the Selway River bucking big whitewaterAs the water goes from high water to low water near the end of the season, Wolf Creek is an ever-changing and evolving beast.  In high water the rapid is an amazingly fast crash down through large holes big enough to swallow an 18’ raft. Just when you think you are done with the ride you are greeted by a very large standing wave at the tailout of the rapid nicknamed “Jaws.”  Jaws has flipped a number of boats and is a formidable opponent in high water runs. Elwoods Rock on Wolf Creek Rapid whitewater of Selway River

A veteran river runner's advice on the Wolf Creek rapid.

I always remember what a veteran Selway boater told me about Wolf Creek in high flow.  He said, “Good or bad, it will be over before you know it,” referencing the sheer speed of the drop.  In low water Wolf Creek is still fast and very rocky, providing a highly technical run that can screw up the most experienced boaters forcing plan A to quickly become B, C, D, and Oops.  There are many wrap rock hazards that can sink a boat instantly if the boat is pinned sideways due to the high speed and force of the current as the entire river is forced to squeeze against the cliff wall. 

Elwood's Rock: making whitewater even more exciting.

Once past the main wrap hazards you are forced to contend with a large flat faced boulder named “Elwood's Rock.” The rock is named for early Idaho Selway River outfitter Elwood Masoner, and fell into Wolf Creek rapid the year he died. The placement of Elwood's rock changes a straightforward class 3 rapid into a challenging class 4.  Whitewater holes in Wolf Creek rapid of the Selway RiverElwood's rock has seen its fair share of whitewater rafting carnage.  The flat nature of the rock tends to paste rafts sideways and flip them instantly, as the majority of the current in medium to lower flows head directly for the rock. 

The satisfaction of a whitewater rapid successfully run.

It’s always a great feeling to be below a rapid like Wolf Creek right side up and everything intact.  Below the rapid the feeling of sheer terror gives way to pure joy as we would always let out a big wolf howl signifying and celebrating a clean run.  

 

 

 

November 2015: Announcing the Cutthroat shallow water drift boat oar blade.

Available 2016. Cataract Oars engineers have been spending a fair amount of time on the Cutthroat oar blade. We've been optimizing it and analyzing it. We want it to be the best shallow water oar blade out there. And we think it is. Its scooped shape allows for more underwater surface area and better propulsion of your drift boat. No more gravel grinding with the blade tips; no more scraping rocks on the shoals. This oar blade is designed for shallow water drift boat fishing, and can gain purchase in even a small amount of water without trashing the blade edge on the bottom.Cutthroat shallow water oar blade made in the USA by Cataract Oars on the river

Whitewater rafting Desolation Canyon.

by Dylan Holt, 11/9/15

For those of us that live in Salt Lake City, Utah there are many good options for multi-day river rafting trips.  Most are about 4-5 hours of driving away.  The Desolation Canyon section of the Green River is the exception.  It lies about 3.5 hours to the put in from downtown SLC.  The road into the Sand Wash raft put-in is notorious for popping tires and thrashing trailers, so make sure to have good spares.  Shuttle companies won’t shuttle your car if you don’t.  The put-in at Sand Wash is also notorious for being the worst place on the planet for mosquitos.  Ok, maybe not the worst on the planet, but it’s bad.  During late May and June, plan on the bugs being horrible. Do yourself a favor: if camping the night at Sand Wash, reserve the tented cabins near the river. The view in the heart of Desolation Canyon during Dylan Holts river rafting expedition

The 84 mile section of wilderness river that flows through Desolation Canyon, so named by John Wesley Powell due to its inhospitable nature, cuts through a canyon that, at Angel Point, is deeper than the Grand Canyon.  Desolation Canyon is known for its amazing beach camps underneath old groves of cottonwood trees.Sunrise at Jacks Creek camp during Dylan Holt river rafting trip in Desolation Canyon

Petroglyph panel at Flat Canyon viewed during Dylan Holts river rafting trip through Desolation Canyon

The Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River boasts a number of archeological sites left by the ancient Freemont Indian culture.  Additionally, the entire left side of the river is the Ute Indian Reservation, and a permit is required and can be purchased from the tribe to camp and hike on their land.  Please be respectful of Native American artifacts and sites, and leave them as you found them.  The trip through the canyon is punctuated by amazing scenery and class III whitewater rapids that will challenge novice boaters and provide fun for all.  Shallow water Joe Hutch or Cow Swim rapid on Desolation Canyon river rafting run

This rafting trip should be done in 5 or 6 days, minimum, and during low water years the first 25 miles can be quite slow.  So slow, in fact, that some folks decide to bring a motor for the first part, as well as to fight the notorious headwinds that can form in the canyon.The view from Upper Wire Fence Camp after storm seen during Dylan Holts river rafting expedition down Desolation Canyon

The canyon boasts abundant wildlife: eagles, snakes, lizards, mountain lions, big horn sheep and bears. Desolation canyon is well known for bear activity, and river runners should keep food contained and not left out overnight.  Keep a clean camp and you shouldn’t have a problem.  Swaseys boat ramp at end of Dylan Hots Desolation Canyon river rafting expedition

The take out at Swasey’s ramp is a nice large concrete ramp with toilets and a large parking lot.  Please only take up one lane on the ramp and be as quick as possible de-rigging.  The drive into Green River, UT is a quick one, and most boaters ritualistically hit up Ray’s Tavern, a local whitewater burger joint, before heading back home.  The run is controlled during the prime season (May 1-Sept 30) through an online lottery on Rec.gov.  However it can be quite easy to obtain a permit in the off season.  If you decide to go in the spring, make sure that the river is ice free, as there is potential for ice damns to form as the ice breaks up in March.    

Miles of river: 84

Days on the river: 5-8

Rapids classes encountered: III

Put In / Take Out: Sand Wash, UT / Swasey’s Boat Ramp, UT

Gauge: USGS Green River at Green River, UT

Photos: Shonti Breisch

A pair of old SGG oar shafts made in the USA by Cataract Oars prior to recieving a complete refurbishment

An oar refinishing case study, 10/2015.

Newly refinished Cataract Oars carbon and fiberglass composite SGG oars have three fresh coats of spar urethane and a new rope wrap

 

As featured on our oar shaft refinishing page, Cataract Oars recently refinished a pair of black SGG oar shafts for a client and documented the entire process. The refurbishment of these oars included three coats of Helmsman spar urethane, a new rope wrap, and new Cataract Oars stickers.

Shazam! the magic of new oar coatings.

The finished oars can be seen to the right; the unfinished ones to the left. The before and after are so different, it's hard to believe these are the same set of SGG oars. Yet they are—visual proof that those tired-looking and scuffed Cataract Oars shafts can get a new lease on life with a few moments of your time and a few key supplies. See our oar refinishinig page for complete details. 

 

 

Ice management: 10 tips for a happy river cooler.

by Dylan Holt, 10/26/15

Food cooler packed and ready for river rafting trip

Ice management is a science when it comes to multi-day river trips.  If you can afford to, invest in a nice heavy duty cooler such as an Engel or a Yeti.  These coolers will make your life much easier on the river.  They are able to keep block ice for weeks if treated right.  Here are 10 tips on a happy river cooler.

1: Pre-cool your cooler. Place ice inside your cooler prior to adding food and the ice for your trip.  This will help cool the cooler down and ultimately preserve the food and ice longer.  Also, store the cooler in a cool dark place such as a garage.

2: Block ice is your friend. It lasts much longer than regular ice, and can be chopped for cocktails.  Finding good block ice can be tricky.  Most grocery stores stock blocks of compressed ice that are sufficient for a 5 day trip.  But if you are going for longer you want to try and find a pure solid block of ice from an ice sculpting facility or ice manufacturer.

3: What about dry ice? Dry ice can be used in certain coolers such as a YETI to preserve ice on the way to the put in. Just don’t put it in the veggie cooler!  It will ruin any vegetable or piece of fruit that it comes in contact with.  Its fine for the meat cooler, just be aware that anything in a cooler with dry ice will be frozen solid. Dry ice can also be used as an easy way to pre-cool the cooler (see #1).

4. Frozen 1gal bottles of water are great. They don't make a mess in your cooler when they melt. Also, they can be used as drinking water.  I prefer the Crystal Geyser 1gal bottles.  They fit in my 120qt cooler easily and save a lot of trouble on long rafting trips.

5. Freeze all meat beforehand. Or anything that can be frozen.  This will not only keep food longer, but will add to the overall ice in the cooler.  Allow plenty of time for the various meats to thaw at camp. 

6. A Seal-A-Meal is a wonderful thing.  You may consider using a Seal-A-Meal for sealing various proteins and making sure that juice from fish or chicken doesn’t leak all over the inside of your cooler.  This is also a great way of organizing meals and portions prior to the trip.

7. Be organized. Searching through a cooler over and over again for the missing parmesan will melt ice faster than you think. Know where meals are, and label packaging.  Try to keep meal groups together. You might know where that pack of chicken is, but your buddy may not, and the less time riffling through the cooler the better.

8. To drain or not to drain? There are whole chapters on internet forums on this subject. I say, to each their own.  I prefer to use frozen 1 gal jugs so there is nothing to drain, thus resolving the issue see (#4).

9. Place a wet towel on top. A wet towel placed on top will create evaporative cooling and slow the melting of any ice and contents of the cooler.  The ultimate in cooler protection is a wet towel combined with an insulating pad such as a paco pad.  This will ensure that come day 5, the steaks are cold and there is extra ice for cocktails on the beach.

10: Remember to clean. Be sure to clean out the cooler with soap and bleach at the end of the river rafting trip. After returning home, it can be tempting to put the cooler in the garage and forget about that remaining food scum. However, there is nothing worse than packing for your next whitewater adventure and discovering an old moldy cooler from a month ago! Taking the time to clean the cooler will ensure that you're ready the next time!Dylan Holt gives tips and tricks for cooler optimization while on river rafting trips

 

Salmon River rafting trip, and a close encounter with wildfire.

by Dylan Holt, 9/1/15Relaxing on the bank of the Salmon River during river rafting expedition

Last week I spent 8 days rafting through the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho. This August, Idaho has been inundated with multiple wildfires . We were told that we would see active fire on the river and we did almost every day.  The smoke was thick in the air but the cooler than normal temps and eerie apocalyptic feel made for an unforgettable ride.  We had a large group and got to enjoy many of the large sandy beaches that the Main Salmon River offers.  We had very seasoned veteran river guides as well as some newbies on the trip.  One rookie boater found out that you don’t want to hit the big rocks in the middle of the river, as his boat almost wrapped a rock in the first 5 minutes of floating.  Luckily the raft came right off the rock, but we could have spent hours winching the boat off the rock in the top of Gunbarrel rapid. Rafting Salmon River whitewater with Cataract Oars

An idyllic river rafting trip. Almost....

For part of the crew this was just the second half of the trip as they had made their way down the Middle Fork Salmon to meet us and continue on.  This trip is normally referred to as “turning the corner” and is a once in a lifetime kind of whitewater trip.  In camp, we played games such as Frisbee golf, Bisbee, bocce ball and told old river trip stories around the fire.  It’s an amazing thing to disconnect from the world, and by day two none of the group knew what time it was nor did they care.  We would awake to a breakfast of bacon and eggs or eggs benedict and clean up camp, breakdown the gear and load up for another day of whitewater rafting.  The loading and unloading of the boats becomes a main routine while on the river as you leave one home and float to another.  Some people prefer to stay and camp as long as possible in one spot.  But, personally I find this boring and like to keep the show moving.  This trip was a particularly slow moving show.  We would wake around 10:30 and launch for the day around 1:00 pm, although it felt like 11:00 am since the sun wasn’t able to heat the smoke filled canyon up, the air stayed cool and it was never too hot.  This became our lives, everyday paddling through awesome splashy whitewater and enjoying ice cold beverages with your friends.  When day 8 rolled around, we started wishing we could just go back to the top and do it all over again. Smoke and red skies over the Salmon River during rafting trip

The whitewater fun ends in a forest fire evac.

But as we made our way down past the last rapid and toward the ramp, we were greeted by  forest service cops, who told us we had 20 minutes to load up our stuff and they would escort us down the road.  A forest fire had blown up the last couple days due to high winds and had overtaken the main road to Riggins, Id.  So, we would have to take the only other road out to civilization.  A sketchy backcountry zig zagging road that climbed 4500’ out of the canyon and up to the rim where it descended toward McCall, Id.  None of us even knew if the shuttle drivers with our cars had been able to make it in, which luckily they had.  We proceeded to load up the gear in record time for 8 rafts and make our way down the road.  We got about a mile down the road when we got the call that the road was closed now.  So with no hope of escape we went back to the boat ramp to regroup.  Eventually we got word that the main road was clear and we had to go now.  So we proceeded down the main road toward Riggins.  As we crossed the Manning Bridge, fire was all around us on both sides of the river and burning heavily downstream around the Partridge creek ranch.  We made it out and our forced escorts left us at Spring Bar ramp as we kept on going to Riggins.  Once back in civilization, we all recounted what had just happened to us, knowing we were lucky to make it out of there and back to the “real” world.  All in all, it was an unforgettable trip down a wild river and through the fire.  Only to come out on the other end wiser, happier and lucky to have witnessed nature in its wildest purest form.River rafting group is evacuated from forest fire area after whitewater rafting the Salmon River

 

Rowing Low Water: a TruMontana post

a TruMontana blog entry, 8/18/15low water on western river

There is a common misperception that rowing in high water is more dangerous than rowing in low water. Sure, high water might be colder, faster, and, well, higher, but low water can be just as dangerous. Low water on western free stone rivers presents a grueling challenge, even to the most experienced oarsman (or oarswoman). As the river drops, more boulders are exposed. Rocks and tree branches that were previously submerged to a safe level are now dangerous obstacles. Rock gardens appear everywhere and you realize that you can't take your eyes off downstream. The river has become a minefield. The once familiar section becomes the unfamiliar, changing day to day.

Rowing low water isn't scary; it's challenging.

And technical. But then, we river rats like to mix things up. Keeps it new and interesting, right? We find our hands clinched to the oars—crabbing, in river parlance—maneuvering between boulders, finding perfect lines, and shooting the gaps.

Taking care on a low river.

It's important that everyone in the boat or raft take precautions when hitting the water. You don't want to find yourselves stuck in the middle of the river, wedged on a rock, or—worse—flipped, with your expensive gear now at the bottom of the river.

Some guidelines for river safety:

  • Keep your eyes downriver
  • Stay alert
  • Wear life jackets (or at least have them in the boat—it's the law!)
  • When in doubt, point and back row
  • Don't be afraid to portage; no need to be a hero
  • Ask someone who may be familiar with a particular stretch of river
  • Have fun while being safelow water river rafting on montana rivers

Cataract Oars at the 2015 Outdoor Retailer

Dylan Holt holds the new Cataract Oars all carbon Deso kayak paddle in the Outdoor Retailer booth

The Cataract Oars sales team had a great time showing off our oars at our OR booth this year. In addition to our standard offerings (SGG oar, SGX oar, X-Wound oar, etc), we debuted a couple of new products that are nearing market-readiness. The Deso kayak paddle was a big hit. Folks were attracted to its sleek design and all-carbon strength. Also, our new Cutthroat shallow water oar blade garnered a lot of praise, especially from drift boaters and fishermen, who clamored for Cataract Oars to bring it to market as quickly as possible.

Independence Day, rafting on the Salmon River

Dylan Holt, 7/7/15Dylan-Holt-and-friends-took-their-Cataract-Oars-on-an-Independence-Day-rafting-expedition-on-the-Salmon-River

For the Independence Day weekend, my family and friends decided what better way to celebrate our freedom than to go whitewater rafting on the Salmon River.  We loaded the gear in the truck and headed for the boat ramp in Riggins, Idaho.  Once at Shorts Bar, we unloaded the boats, rigged up coolers, and slid the oars into the locks, while others ran the shuttle down to the Lucile ramp.  The sun was shining and the water was the perfect temperature.  The run, known locally as “the town stretch” has plenty of big class 3 whitewater and is an absolute blast!  A-string-of-river-rafts-on-the-Salmon-River-over-Independence-DayThe Salmon was running about 6500 cfs and it made for a very fun wet and wild day.  We took turns rowing the various rapids one after another. 

A series of whitewater rapids.

First up Timezone, named after the bridge that spans the river outside of Riggins and separates the Pacific Time zone from Mountain Time.  The tight squeeze with its large waves crashing over the boat getting everyone soaked.  Chair creek was a huge wave train with many fun clean waves, the boats bucked and rolled over one wave and then slid down the next.  This made for a memorable ride.  I was getting tired of rowing by midday and let my brother take the oars for Fiddle creek rapid.  As he rowed into the entry of the rapid I quickly realized that he was headed for a large hole, a very very large hole!  I yelled for him to get left, but once I saw his delayed reaction, I yelled for him to go right! But no such luck.  We were headed right into the belly of the beast.  The 16ft raft was swallowed up by the massive hole and crashing wave, tossing the boat like a pool toy.  I jumped to the high side of the boat, hoping we wouldn’t flip.  We crashed through, somehow, upright and fine.  I was relieved that the raft didn’t flip, and just then I noticed that my girlfriend had her new Nikon dslr camera out in her hand.  Somehow the camera didn’t get wet.  If we had flipped I’m sure it would be lying at the bottom of the river as a very expensive rock.  We relaxed and ate lunch after the gauntlet of rapids, recounting the near flip and all the awesome whitewater.  We finished our journey on the river at the Lucile ramp and loaded up the gear for the drive back to McCall.  It was the perfect way to celebrate Independence Day, and quite possibly a new annual tradition.

Drift Boat Dogs: 6/31/15: a TruMontana post.Fisherman-and-dog-on-drift-boat-fly-fishing-trip-on-the-river-with-Cataract-Oars

Fisherman-and-dog-on-drift-boat-on-the-river-with-Cataract-Oars

It’s officially summertime and as the temperatures continue to rise we are all flocking to the water. Before hitting the river, a simple boat check is in order: anchor, oars, life jackets, pump - check. Cooler packed - check. Anything else? After pacing back and forth in the house and rummaging through the garage and car one last time, it is time to set out. Until your furry friend is bouncing off the walls in excitement, hoping to tag along. So, what do you do?

How to take your dog fly fishing. 

When packing along your dog for a day on the river, a dozen hassles run through your mind. She is going to be whining for attention, inching over the side of the boat, choosing to nap right where you are rowing, or worse, step on and break one of your prized rods. But put these worries aside, your dog is a boat dog. Next thing you know you are swinging the back door open and she is sprinting toward the car eager for a day on the river. Finally, you are on the road and check your mirrors to see her hanging out the window, ears blowing up in the wind and tongue flopping. All your worries have flown away and you are eager for a great day of fishing with your best friend.

Now, not every dog is born to boat, so take the appropriate precautions to protect your loved ones. So, load up and take your dog fishing!

 

Dylan Holt: San Juan Trip Report, 3/27/2015

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Spring river trips—nothing like getting back into the groove with the first trip of the season.  I was eagerly awaiting the chance to get back into the canyons and sunshine of southern Utah to raft the San Juan River.  We launched March 27 for a 7 day 6 night rafting trip that would take us 84 miles through some of the most remote, scenic river canyon sections in all of Utah.  The San Juan is a mellow float with plenty of time to look at the scenery and wildlife. 

 

There are some whitewater rapids on the river, but for the most part they are easy and offer a welcome splash in the hot weather.  We had perfect weather: 80 degrees and sunshine for a week—the perfect getaway in the spring. Half of our group had never been on a river rafting trip, and the other half were seasoned rafting veterans, ranging from commercial guides to devoted river enthusiasts. I had done a rafting trip on the San Juan River before, however this time we would have much more time to explore the side canyons,with their ancient Anasazi ruins.

We pulled into the town of Bluff, Utah at 3 am and were met with a campfire that our friends from Colorado had blazing in anticipation of our arrival.  We met some new friends and drank some beers around the fire until the sun started to come up and we figured we should probably get some sleep.  dylan-holt-rows-cataract-oars-through-gypsum-river-rapid-on-san-juan-river-rafting-tripWhen we awoke, we drove to the boat ramp and discovered that it was full of other people who also had river rafting on their mind.  After we got all the gear unloaded, the BLM inspected us and then we were on our way down the river.  The San Juan River flows for this time of year were abnormally high, due to warm weather and the early runoff of the snow high in the San Juan Mountains.  The river was running about 1,000 cfs, which, for the San Juan River, is a wonderful and easy going flow.  We had two 16 foot rafts, a 16 foot cataraft, and a couple of inflatable kayaks.  As we paddled and floated downstream, we spied numerous pictograph panels left from the ancient peoples that used to inhabit the canyon.  After exploring the pictographs, and a very large ruin under an alcove called the River House Ruin, we camped for the night, enjoyed some delicious Dutch Oven dinner, and sipped cocktails around the campfire.

The next morning would be a long day as we were to float a short ways down the river and then spend a couple hours hiking up Chindle creek.  We had secured a permit from the Navajo Nation and were looking forward to exploring this remote canyon.  We found many ruins and pictographs and spend the next couple hours exploring the area.  We then paddled down the river to our next camp in the evening hours.  As we neared our camp, we passed group after group on every  beach above Mexican Hat, camped for the night.  We worried that we would not find a spot; however, we rowed on and found an amazing camp with an awesome hike above the campsite to a point where we could overlook Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. 

two river rafts descend the san juan river propelled by composite oars made in the usa by cataract oars

Since we were next to Mexican Hat, we enjoyed tequila, burritos and tacos as we told stories around the campfire.  The next morning we began the daily ritual of breaking camp after breakfast, loading the rafts and strapping down all gear for the day.  This process was now the new normal and this was to be our life for the next 5 days to come.  We then floated through the river canyon, enjoying the scenery, and unloaded the rafts at our next camp. 

My favorite part of the San Juan River has to be the “Goosenecks,” a series of entrenched river meanders that bow back and forth.

 

It takes hours to navigate these oxbows of river.  At this point, you are in the very deepest part of the river canyon, and you feel as if you are in the underworld.  A couple of days later we arrived at Slickhorn canyon, which has an amazing hike up the bedrock of the wash to some large pools of clear, cold water that are a welcome sight to anyone hiking in the desert.  We hiked back to our camp to be greeted by a spectacular sunset, and once again enjoyed dinner around the campfire.  Our last camp was Oljeto Wash, a small sandbar perched at the mouth of a large wash on the Navajo side of the river. 

After a lovely last night on the river, we awoke to a building wind that made me shudder at the thought of what lay downstream.  cataract-oars-magnum-oar-blade-on-x-wound-oar-shaft-in-the-san-juan-river-during-rafting-trip.jpgWe only had 8 miles to the raft takeout but due to the lack of gradient in the river at the bottom near where Lake Powell has backed up into the river, there are multiple sand bars lurking just below the surface of the water.  In large rafts, these can be very tricky to navigate through as you are only floating on about 6 inches of water and if you get stuck, you have to get out and push yourself off.  But, we also had the wind to deal with now; what had started as a small breeze during breakfast was now a 40 mph steady wind.  It took 20 minutes to get around some of the corners in the river where it should just take a couple minutes.  Rowing with all our strength, oars (Cataract Oars, of course!) churning in the shallow water, we finally made it to the take out in 5 hours!  We proceeded to break down all the gear and get loaded up.  Luckily, we had the so called “ramp”—really just a muddy river bank—to ourselves, and we were able to spread out the gear and load quickly.  All the while, the wind raged around us, blowing sand into every nook and cranny imaginable. 

We said good bye to our friends from Colorado and drove off into the desert, headed back to Salt Lake City. 
However, an hour later we found ourselves staring at a ferry closed sign at Lake Powell, we realized that we had made a wrong turn and had gone to Halls Crossing instead of going by Hite marina.  This unfortunate miscalculation would eventually have us scrambling and praying that we make it to a gas station before we run out of gas outside Hanksville, UT.  As we neared Hanksville, we coasted into town on fumes and found a gas station that also was a burger shack.  Our prayers had been answered.  Feeling lucky and thankful, we headed home on a full tank and full stomachs.  This would surely be a trip to remember.cataract oars x wound composite oar on the san juan river