Thursday, January 25, 2007

California River Flows

I've been surfing the web for hydrology information on rivers in the West and California. Also, I've been looking at the weather predictions for this winter. A dry winter has set upon us as we remember the last two winters of huge snow packs and relentless rain. Is it global warming or is it just the natural cycle of the weather out here in the West? Most weather and hydrology sites seem to say that the weather has been actually quite normal out here this year. Some have even said that we would have a lot of precipitation next month and into March.

Here is a listing of sites that were interesting enough for me to spend quite a bit of time with as I looked at the Farmers Almanac to the National Weather Service. I'm having a good read outdoors in the hammock since the weather has been just incredibly beautiful!

I particularly like the weather map at the NOAA site showing normal river flows for this time of the year. The map is updated every 10 minutes, so it'll be a good one to bookmark to view throughout the river rafting season... especially for those who are planning group rafting trips. Normal flows mean that the river will be better suited for youth groups, families and corporate groups.

For extreme whitewater paddlers, you probably got your fix the last two years. This year is the time to drag those beginners and novices to go rafting. Introduce your buddies to whitewater rafting this year and get them ready for the big stuff later.

Monday, January 22, 2007

W.E.T. River Trips 2007 American River

W.E.T. River Trips is pleased to announce the following news about our company. We have finalized several new programs for the 2007 Rafting Season. New start dates for the Middle Fork American have increased our company's capacity on this beautiful wilderness trip. Also, the South Fork American River permit was increased by giving us a carrying capacity that will help us satisfy our many loyal clients. Why? Why did we increase our usage on our rivers?

rafting and paddlingThe history of whitewater rafting started around the late 50's and early 60's. Yes, of course, there were many early rafters throughout the Southwest; especially in the Canyonlands where river lore predates the 50's and even the turn of the century. But, I digress... what we're talking about is the commercial rafting trips. In the late 70's, river rafting became very popular as the entire paddleboat scene unfolded. Earlier, rafters enjoyed river trips by allowing a professional guide to row down rivers using inflatable rafts and oars. Large 10-foot, wooden oars were used to navigate the boat through rapids and rocks. The rafts of old were boats with no drain holes or mechanisms to allow the water out. We called them "bucket boats." That meant that someone in the boat either had to start bailing out the raft with a "bail bucket" or the oarsman pulled over in a calm eddy to bail the water out himself! Talk about an epic journey when the water was high... you're bailing constantly as a passenger and a critical component.

W.E.T. River Trips started paddle boats back in the late '70's. Key employees, Steve & Tim took notice of canoeists back East and applied that technique to paddling on the South Fork American in August of 1978 and the Tuolumne in July of 1980. Then self-bailing rafts made their debut shortly after. What a difference it made in the execution of rafting trips. Time to take a breather between rapids, time to position yourself comfortably for the next rapid, time to allow your guests a brief reprieve from the constant dousing over one's head... self-bailers changed rafting forever. And it changed W.E.T. River Trips and the entire industry, too.

Growth was tremendous for some of the larger rafting companies while W.E.T. kept a low profile with very small and intimate trips. The small boutique rafting trips became a slowly dying entity as larger rafting companies swallowed up the smaller ones. W.E.T. created many programs as the big companies started mimicking and outright copying our concepts. So back to the why? Why are we trying to be bigger? We're not. Just more efficient as our client base has grown and we were tired of turning so many people away. We offer great California river trips at a good price point. We want everyone to be able to enjoy a river rafting adventure. Not just the affluent or privileged groups... so, how do we accomplish that? We had to have more carrying capacity to allow us to discount special trips for non-profits and youth groups.

Our owner is firstly an educator. An educator that has dedicated his life to students who might not have all the advantages in this affluent world that we live in. He has opened our doors to even more types of groups and we are excited about our 2007 rafting season coming up this spring. Now it's youth groups, corporate groups, teens and tons of families that enjoy our trips. For those of you who have rafted with us, you know what were talking about here. You are the ones who have helped us grow. You are the ones who have encouraged us to hang in there when the "big dogs" were barking and nipping at our heels.

W.E.T. River Trips thanks you and all the others who have been in our corner since the beginning. Special thanks goes to Bill and Robyn Center of Camp Lotus who have been champions for this river community and for us. We also want to thank all the Coloma/Lotus businesses who have supported us with their enthusiasm and goodwill such as the Sierra Nevada House, the Coloma Gas Station, the artists and creative people in that community, and, of course, the Coloma/Lotus Chamber of Commerce. We also want to give special thanks to the American River Conservancy who has helped to save the South Fork American's beautiful river corridor.

Have a great winter this year as blue skies seem to dominate the horizon. With our past wet winters, storage in the reservoirs are healthy. That means the South Fork and Middle Fork American should have good dependable flows for this season. Get out and play outdoors and "get off the couch!" We'll see you on the river starting in March 2007!
W.E.T. River Trips staff and guides

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

W.E.T. River Trips - Guide School

Guide school reservations for W.E.T. River Trips started on January 15, 2007. rafting guideWe advise that you complete your First Aid and CPR requirements before you start our school. Those of you in college who are working on majors in recreation and plan on making this a long-term career, should also look at Swift Water Rescue, Wilderness Medicine and even EMT (emergency medical training) certification. All will be beneficial for your whitewater guide training advancement. Rafting outfitters in the State of California are required to have guides trained with the minimum of First Aid and CPR. Most agencies that govern the rafting companies also require Swift Water Rescue training. So be prepared before you come to join us. The rafting company will look upon you more favorably and you'll advance more quickly.

Most white water guide schools in California are scattered from the far north, central and southern sections. In the north, rivers like the Cal Salmon and Smith are great runs in the early season starting in mid-March through May. In central California, the American River whitewater sections are best suited for rafting schools. The central California area has a very long rafting season from March through September. Most California guides work on the American River so no matter where you are employed, you'll end up there at least for a while. In Southern California, the Kern and the Kings are usually available for training purposes around May and June.

Top rafting schools include W.E.T. River Trips, a guide school that focuses only on professional rafting guides; Whitewater Voyages, a program that's been around since the 80's training both commercial and non-professional guides; and Zephyr Expeditions, a guide school open to the general public.

All guide schools should have experienced trainers leading the school. rafting guideYou should learn on the water and not from a manual. You should have a ropes component, swift water rescue techniques, emergency procedures, client-guide relationships, government rules and regulations for rivers in California, liability issues, food safety and preparation, warehouse management, equipment/raft management, and of, course, reading the water!

W.E.T. River Trips has chosen to focus only on commercial guides for our guide school. We decided that commercial guiding was too difficult of a subject to dilute with an open guide school program for the public. Commercial guides need to know so many more things than just techniques and gear management. Because we deal with the public on rivers that are very popular, our staff needs to have strong people skills and strong personalities to lead beginners, novices and advanced rafters down the river.

Our whitewater guides have to have many, many river miles before they are allowed to guide a commercial raft of clients. Because of this, our guide school starts in mid-March on all kinds of flow levels. Last season, one of our new guides trained in our guide school, and by the time busy May came, he already had approximately 45 trips under his belt. By the time August came around, he was a seasoned guide with approximately 100 trips.

Keep in mind that it's important that you start researching your options soon. Call the companies and see if the program works for your focus and your schedules.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

HIGH SCHOOL Senior Year!

teen rafter
As each rafting season reaches an end, nostalgic thoughts tend to blossom in the dozens. With the weather turning grey and the air and water temperature plummeting to unreasonable numbers, rafters say farewell to hitting the currents day after day. And yes, there will always be the hardcore badasses who could give an "F" whether or not they freeze their asses off. But for the majority of us, we would much rather throw on a big Gortex jacket and hit the slopes in hopes that this new season's snow will melt into the raddest flows for next year.

As a sullen teenager, I didn't raft as much as I should have. I was "busy" with parties, preparing for college, and other social engagements. I didn't want to get wet and ruin my new trendy hair cut. But when I look back at what I missed, I start feeling a little regret. Despite some major obstacles and problems such as the wildfire, this past season had some gnarly flows and exciting runs. Out of the few times that I went, I must say, I did enjoy myself immensely.

I took some buddies down and went on a wilderness trip on the South Fork American where we layed down our sleeping bags right on the beach and slept under the stars. Ya, my friends were pissed to get up the next morning so early, but they were pleased to find a breakfast feast of chicken apple sausage, country egg scramble, English muffins, orange juice, pineapples and melons prepared for them by the guides. The water was cold at first when we put-in, but as the sun brightened and the rapids became more exciting, all negative thoughts left. The day was not only super fun, but also a good ol' bonding experience with my friends.

This season I hope to go down at least 10 times more than this past season. And not only go down my normal South Fork American run, but expand and do more Middle Fork and North Fork American trips. Maybe I'll even hit up some Kern River down south! By then, I'll be 18 and free to drive all over California as I please. Maybe I'll even turn it into a high school graduation trip and try to pound as many California Rivers as I possibly can. PARTY ON.

Thanks to Liz, teen consultant for W.E.T. River Trips for her "words from the wise!"

Friday, January 05, 2007

River, Life Changes

It struck me yesterday, as I flew back from long-time W.E.T. River Trips' guide, Saul's wedding in Hawaii, that I felt blessed to have long distance memories, especially those that I can readily retrieve, of people and places. I hadn't been to Hawaii in 22 years and the islands have changed. At first, I was disgusted and angry for what I perceived had been done to a formerly quiet and calm little tropical island; now, it was lined with resorts, condos, golf courses, malls, and traffic-brimming roads. I felt fortunate that I remembered the long distant past, and I looked beyond the clutter and glut. Still, the sun was strong, the water clear and warm, and the locals were kind and happy to share this place. During the wedding, we faced the ocean and that is all that we could see besides Saul and his bride, Irene. A long-term view that has changed very little in thousands of years; the ocean remains a true constant. The island will continue to change, and so will I.

What I now appreciate about being old is that my points of reference continue to expand… maybe that's why I will soon be addled with too much information to sort and ponder; however, for now… it is still a puzzle and a revelation. Everyday we are challenged to figure it out and to find ways to make it all work. Usually we do and sometimes we don't, but we respect the challenge and keep working on "This".

Changes still come slower on whitewater rivers. If someone gets too arrogant and builds too close to the water, a hundred-year flood comes along… sometimes that hundred-year flood comes 3 times in 12 years! There is a dramatic slowing down that rivers impose… they too will change… in due time. Sometimes that change happens over a thousand years and sometimes those changes can happen overnight. You can count on differences; however, sometimes you have to look closer at a shift in a gravel bar, a new tree on the shore, more turtles than last year... and sometimes it hits you in the face as a fallen tree, a new rock or a new rapid.

The three forks of the American River run through and straddle fast- paced and fast-growing communities yet, "river-time" is always different… predictable, surprising, and mythic. There is a Madrone tree that is growing out of a road cut above Salmon Falls that I have been watching for 30 seasons. I first noticed it because it was so small, and that the botanical wonder insisted on growing in such an
improbable spot 30 feet above a road on a cliff, and at a 45 degree angle. Consciously and unconsciously, I continue to watch the tree, and I review its progress in growth and I assess its health on every single shuttle for the South Fork American. I remain happy to report that the tree is now large, well-established, and seems to be doing just fine. I will continue to watch… I can't help it.
Post by Big Poppa, the Boss!