12. February 2015 08:03
During the last weekend of January, Sheri Griffith Expeditions owner Jose Tejada and his son Obe took a trip through Westwater Canyon. Our Operations Manager, Brenda Milligan also took some time to go rafting in Westwater Canyon that weekend.We asked Obe to give us his thoughts on the weekend:
We arrived at the Westwater ranger station around 10:30 in the morning. It was raining. In fact, it had been raining all night and most of the day before. There was no trace of the sunny, high 50 degree weather that was present when my dad and I hatched this plan. “You can’t boat every month if you don’t start in January” My father had said. He hadn’t been on the water yet this year. Sure I had been on a San Juan River trip two weeks earlier but this was Westwater. Here the waves would be unavoidable. To be cast out of my brother’s 14 foot NRS boat was a real possibility. It is easy to stay dry on the San Juan River, but this was not the “Juan”. The date was January 30, his last chance to get on the river this month.
For those who have never experienced winter rafting, the gear you bring can make or break an excursion of this sort. It was on a cold April trip down the Gates of Lodore, while wearing a wet suit, that I decided my winter wardrobe needed some upgrades. The neoprene that makes up these suits is designed to trap water next to the skin so your body can warm it. This is great if you are submerged in the water. Also not bad if air/water temperatures are higher than the 40F/35F temps we had when we put in. I went on this trip with a dry top and splash bottoms. My dad wore splash gear: the same type that Sheri Griffith Expeditions routinely gives to their customers in the spring and fall.
And so we pushed off into the frigid water with the rain in our faces both silently wondering if this was going to be one of those trips more fun to tell about than to experience. There was no turning back now. Not that it ever really crossed either of our minds. You don’t go white water rafting in the winter expecting to be perfectly comfortable, and it could have been much worse.
A quarter mile downstream we spotted a Red Headed Sapsucker (Woodpecker), my first. An hour or so later, we saw our first bald eagle of the trip at the miners’ cabin. It flew within 20 feet of my Dad’s boat. These I have seen many times because some of them live in Moab year round. I never get tired of seeing these amazing birds. Just before Little Delores rapid we saw a small heard of mule deer does. This was a very good trip for wildlife.
We had planned on meeting up with Brenda’s group, who had spent the night in the canyon (doing some river clean up), run the rapids together then push them out with our motor. They thought we might have canceled due to the bad weather and we missed each other by about half an hour. At Lower Cougar Bar, which had three feet of ice on it, we did our final tie down. It was also here that the rain stopped and we could see a small sliver of blue sky to the north!
Our runs through the inner gorge of Westwater Canyon were great! My dad didn’t even get his sorrel boots wet. With all of the water on the black Granitic Schist canyon walls, it made the canyon seem like it had been polished. Sometimes it is hard to pay attention to my runs because of all the scenery that there is to take in. Every time I am here I marvel at the contrast of the red Windgate Sandstone on the black Granitic Schist. This is truly a special place.
After Westwater Canyon, the water fall at Star Canyon was spectacular. I tried to take pictures of it but I could not do it justice. This is where we spotted Brenda’s group. So we quickly hung the motor and caught up to them. It sounded like they had had a great trip as well. One of their crew had hauled out two huge beams from the canyon. I love to see people hauling out trash like this. It shows the dedication the river community has to keeping this amazing place clean!
The sun came out for the ride out. The temperature must have come up into the fifties. What a wonderful trip. There was great wildlife, great scenery, great friends, a great time with my dad, and now the weather had just gotten gorgeous! Hard to believe it was January 30th. We will see what February brings.
Sheri Griffith Expeditions
2231 S Hwy 191