PL Guide: The Most Epic Spring of Whitewater Kayaking Ever: Where to be and When


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With so many events to check out, drainages to explore and parties to attend, figuring out your spring paddling schedule can be tough. Fortunately, Paddlinglife’s got your back. We did some scouting, touched base with all our contacts and came up with the perfect schedule to get you through mid-June. We guarantee that if your follow our plan, paddle hard and don’t skip the parties, that you’ll have the best 6-weeks of kayaking in the lower 48.

Week 1. Today – May 10th : Reno
The Yuba drainage is going off right now and the Reno River Festival is this weekend (May 8-10), so Reno is your base for the next week. To find people to boat with, check out or hang around the playpark, as competitors are going to be staggering in throughout the week. Word on the street is that Stephen Wright has been lurking around town for a while, knows what runs are good and probably how to win the rodeo. Make a friend in Reno that has a couch you can crash on, because you’re definitely going to be passing through again. Don’t miss the Hotel Charley 4 premiere on Friday before the Reno Fest.

Week 2. May 11th-17th: Up to Chico
Early season California runs are nearly unbeatable, and this is your one-week window to nail as many of them as you can. Snag 49 to Bridgeport if you haven’t already, then head up to Chico to catch Big Kimshew, Ben and Jerry’s and the South Branch of the Feather. The Middle Fork of the Feather is a great 3-day warm-up for the big overnighters you have coming up later. Look up Taylor Robertson for beta and be prepared to paddle harder than you ever have in your life if he offers to take you down “the stouts.” Chico State students will be finishing finals this week, so there will also be plenty of parting to do also.

Week 3. May 18th-25th: Chico to Buena Vista, Colorado
Spend Monday and Tuesday recovering from a huge weekend and snagging a couple final local runs. Make sure to catch Bald Rock if it’s in, and make the all-day drive to Buena Vista, Colorado on Wednesday. The prelims for the Buena Vista pro rodeo begin Friday, so spend Thursday dialing in your Phonix Monkeys, McNasties and loops. They’re bragging that they have the largest cash purse on the 2009 Pro Circuit, so make sure you’re good by Friday. The annual CKS Paddlefest is this weekend also, so get ready for another big weekend of partying and fun events. And after that, of course, head to Steamboat Springs for the 4th Annual, ahem, Paddling Life Invitational

Week 4. May 26th-31st: Colorado Creeking/Team Trials or Bust Back to Cali
So you’ve got a choice to make here. U.S. Freestyle Team Trials are next weekend in Glenwood Springs, so you either need to go creeking in Colorado and practice for that, or you need to bust back to Cali ASAP and run the goods. If you’re more of a river runner than a rodeo star these days, get back to Cali because it’s going to be primetime. The stuff around Tahoe is going to be perfect, so you’ll be running South Silver, maybe Royal Gorge, Lovers Leap, or even South Merced. Running laps on South Silver is awesome and you’re coming into overnighter season, so you’re stoked.
If Team Trials is your bag, run Lake Creek, head over to Marble and get ready to win prelims on Saturday.

Week 5. May 25th-May 31st: Colorado Creeking or Cali Creeking
If you’re already in California, keep up good life rolling. Your choices are going to vary depending on the weather. If temperatures are moderate, things might not change much. If it gets hotter, you’ll need to start thinking higher elevation already. You’ll certainly be tapped into the local scene by now and know what’s going on. South Tahoe area is a great location to base.
If you’re in Colorado, there is tons of great creeking to do also. Levels here are snow dependant also, but you’ll have gotten it all figured out at Team Trials and will have found plenty of paddling partners.

*Side Note: There is no Gorge Games this year, so if you really want to race the Green Truss of the White Salmon, make it to the locals race on May 30th outside of Hood River.

Week 6. June 1st-June 7th: Colorado Creeking/Teva Games or Cali Creeking
If you’re in Cali, you know what’s going on. You’re probably nailing Upper Cherry Creek right around now, probably Fantasy Falls also. You still have big runs on the horizon!
In Colorado, snag a couple of creek runs on your way to Vail and get Homestake figured out for the race on Thursday and be dialed in for freestyle on Friday. This is going to be an awesome weekend of high-profile competition and late parties.

Week 7. June 8th-June 14th: Going Going, Back Back, to Cali Cali
If you are winning rodeos and really digging the freestyle park scene, stick around Colorado to do another week of creeking, then head to Salida on Wednesday to get ready for FIBArk. The Pine Creek boatercross is awesome, and the rodeo is a fun community event. If you would rather creek than throw loops in the playpark, go back to Cali! After FIBArk, there will be lots more creeking to do, locations depending on the weather.
If you’re in Cali, the perfect days with lots of sunshine, crystal clear water and smooth granite continue. You’re spending lots of nights sleeping out on the river and exhausting yourself every day. You’re gradually working your way to higher elevation runs, culminating with Dinky Creek.

After that 7-week tour, you’re definitely going to need a break. Head to Hood River for some much needed relaxation time and perfect quick class V runs. Run the Little White Salmon as long as possible, then do daily runs on the Green Truss. Make sure to stop by the Beaver Lodge and meet the Mayor. You can also shred the wind by kite or check out the area’s epic mountain biking. Just be warned—you may not end up leaving…

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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