|Road leading out of Smith Falls State Park. This is a huge improvement over Friday afternoon/evening. (Picture courtesy of Cory Diedrich.)|
It was still raining when I arrived at the campsite, but Cory had a plan! He had brought along a small dining fly that he had setup his tent underneath; we moved the fly over and I did the same. We BSed a bit as we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. The flotilla would consist of just kayaks, paddled by Cory Diedrich, Sam Diedrich, Roger Debates, Tom Coughlin, Steve Joseph, Kati Albers, Jen Geyer, Willard Story, Matt Story, and me. The rain had stopped and started a couple of times while people were arriving. By the time everyone's tents were up, the rain had ceased for the night.
On Saturday morning, we got up and loaded Cory and Sam's boats onto Roger's trailer. We headed into Valentine for breakfast at a local cafe; Cory and Sam rode with me. After breakfast, we headed to Cornell Bridge to begin the cruise. Luckily, we had no surprises launching this year.
|Launching. (L to R: Matt Story, Sam Diedrich, Kati Albers, Willard Story)|
|Some canoeists launching for the fun day at Smith Falls State Park.|
As we took it easy for the afternoon/evening, we met the newest member of the National Park Service working the Niobrara National Wild and Scenic River. I don't recall his name, but he is an avid whitewater canoeist. We also found out that he enjoyed surfing/playing in a wave at the rapid at Rock Ford. Cory got his card and I think we plan on getting him involved with SDCKA and/or Black Hills Paddlers. For supper, Cory whipped up some delicious cajun chicken tortellini. It was excellent.
We got up on Sunday, tore down camp, and had a little breakfast. I made a pot of coffee (both days actually) and we used up the eggs I brought. I wanted to get them all used because the carton was soaked from melting ice in my cooler and I wasn't sure if it would hold up on the way home. We combined the eggs with some bagels that Cory had brought.
After shuttling the vehicles down to Rocky Ford with Cory's pickup, we began the second day's cruise. Fyi, it has been sprinkling off and on since breakfast. The Sunday half of the cruise is a little choppier/rougher and we were joking about the recent American Express commercial as we paddled through the ripples.
During the past week, I had decided that I was going to run the Fritz's Island rapid/drop when we came to it. Most people take a channel on the left side of the island and avoid the drop; last year, Matt ran it, but I was nervous about the length of my boat catching. Then I took my boat through the Palisades last summer...
The run was easy; Roger, Matt, Tom, and I ran dropped it (everyone else went around). Roger went just to the right of center, Matt took it at the center, and I was just to the left of center. I did not see where Tom dropped it, but we all had clean runs.
Here is what the NPS website has to say about Fritz's Island rapid: Fritz's Island Rapid or Fritz's Ledge is usually runable above 900 cfs, with a straight, 2' drop over ledge and a powerful current. And from the Nebraska Game and Parks: One mile farther is Fritz Island. Go left around the island. Going to the right will take you over a rock ledge where it is easy to capsize. Fyi, the flow was around 1100 cfs for us.
|Fritz's Island Rapid in August 2008 at around 600 cfs. (Picture courtesy of American Whitewater)|
|Fritz's Island Rapid (Picture courtesy of NPS)|
Immediately after the drop, we took a break at Stair Step Falls. We had some fun with group pictures and joking about the recent American Express commercial.
|Tom Coughlin "going through the rapids".|
|Roger Debates "going through the rapids".|
|L to R: Sam Diedrich, Matt Story, Tom Coughlin, Jenn Geyer, Roger Debates, Kati Albers, Pat Wellner, Steve Joseph, and Willard Story. (Picture courtesy of Cory Diedrich.)|
|Fritz's Chute/Narrows rapid at ~600 cfs. The river was at 1100 cfs for us. (Picture courtesy of American Whitewater.)|
|Rocky Ford at ~600 cfs. (Picture couretesy of American Whitewater.)|