Exploring new rivers is at the heart and soul of whitewater kayaking. Every new river, is a new personal descent and adds to the river's storyline. Here at Send It, ME we're always looking for something new to explore. It doesn't matter so much about "First D's", or second, or thirds...but exploring the logistics and beauty of places where such information is scarce.
Here's some things to consider when exploring remote and or unfamiliar rivers.
Do your homework -
Learn how to read a topographical map. The Maine Atlas and Gazatteer (aka "the adventure sendy book"), is an amazing resource but is small scale, and these places are much bigger than you. In unknown and difficult whitewater groups can move as slow as 1 mile per hour, so knowing your mileage and gradient become critical when atnticipating travel conditions.
|the Exploration starts here.|
Put Ins, Take Outs, and Contigency Plans-
Again studying a map and having it with you comes in handy here. Knowing your put in and take out roads before hand saves you many missed turns (and believe me you will miss a turn or two no matter what). Have a plan B, or contigency plan. Hiking out of rivers that are too high, becuase of injuries, and other unforseeable risk is always a possibility. Having a planned evacuation point, or landmark, and telling someone at home about it can and will save you valuable time and decrease the chances of a misadventure turning into an epic accident.
Find out who's run it and ask for information about it. Sharing information supports the overall community, debunks myths, and increases overall knowledge and awareness. It also respects those who paved the way for us.
There is no crystal ball, but study the region's well known rivers in closest proximity. Estimate the size of the watershed, gradient, and other terrain factors to guess how the river holds or when it flows. Time weather patterns, rain forecasts, and season based on your research. If the area is high, your river will likely be high too. Always be extra cautious in high water conditions.
|Take extra caution in high water|
Experienced friends who are flexible, and committed to figuring out the river are key. This requires group, environment and personal attention when managing unknown risks. I like the "we'll see when we get there" approach where observations about the actual river dictate the decisions rather than the expectation to send. The team looks out for each other, and has the common goal of having an adventure. Get formal training in swiftwater rescue and wilderness medicine - it will save lives.
|Trust, communication, and teamwork make the work fun.|
Earn It -
|Chuck Mathieu taking a well deserved break, Crack Rock Stream exploration Photo: Chris Hull|
People give me a lot of shit for what I regularly carry for creeking. A spare paddle, med-kit, unpin-kit, food, a hat, firestarter, repair materials, and of course rope. These are the same people who I have to lend this stuff out to on the river. Carrying this stuff has lead only to minor inconveniences, rather than epics when the shit went down.
Portage It -
You may have to portage a little more. Log jams, junky rapids, and or huge canyons at high water will send you high and dry. OG Send It, Ranger Thomas Perkins says, "Portaging is a celebration of life."
Ask yourself: is there enough daylight for me to run this, can I run it, is my team strong enough to run this, can they deal with me if I get hurt, can I come back and run it under better conditions? etc.
|East Hasting's Falls.|
Send It -
If it's good to go, send it in style. Run those rapids, protect our rivers, practice Leave No Trace ethics, and treat yourself, others, and rivers with respect.