Packrafting trips in January

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Bendboater
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Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Sep 26 2017 8:35 am

Hi,
I am looking for possible packraft trips in S. Arizona and/or S. California that might be boatable in January/Feburary?
Thank you.

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nonot
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by nonot » Sep 26 2017 10:01 pm

the only river I could see as being worthwhile to packraft are the Verde and Colorado...everything else is pretty much wadable. There just isn't that much water...anywhere.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Sep 27 2017 8:59 pm

Nonot, Thanks for responding and your suggestions.

Are there any hikes that access the Lower Colorado that may be combined with a float?

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by chumley » Sep 27 2017 9:12 pm

@Bendboater

You might want to check out Topock Gorge and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. I've never been there, but one of our frequent contributors, @azbackpackr, can probably provide the most information on the area.

https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=19603
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by GrottoGirl » Sep 27 2017 9:43 pm

If you were into technical Canyoneering there are lots of options for packrafting the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. The limit is 5 miles and you need backcountry and/or Navajo permits. There is a great book out called Grand Canyoneering. The pictures are worth the purchase!

You'd have to use a wetsuit in the winter.

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by azbackpackr » Sep 28 2017 5:42 am

@Bendboater
I guess you could hike into Black Canyon (just below Hoover Dam) from quite a few places (I'm sure there are even technical routes into it) and then packraft to a camping beach. Eventually you'd paddle to Willow Beach where you can leave a car. Non tech routes into it are very, very popular, and you won't be alone. These would include White Rock Canyon, on the Arizona side, and Goldstrike Canyon on the Nevada side. I recommend weekdays for these hikes. Otherwise every punk kid from Vegas will be there. If you are into real canyoneering, do your own research, I don't know those routes, but I'm sure they do exist. In any case, when you find yourself at the river, you would then use your packraft to get to Willow Beach boat ramp.

Goldstrike: https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=2402
Whiterock: https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=422

Below Willow Beach is lake Mohave, which has a wild shoreline. You could hike into it, but then you'd be faced with paddling a packraft on a windy lake. It's beautiful, though.

Further on downriver, by I-40 bridge, you can get into Topock Gorge via various non-trail routes on either the Arizona or California side. Be aware that where the washes run into the river there is generally always very thick brush, making access difficult.

It just seems a lot more practical to me to start with a kayak and go downriver, pull in and do your hikes, and then find yourself a campsite. It's illegal to camp in Topock Gorge, though. You can go on down to Lake Havasu and camp or take out, but it would be awfully slow in a pack raft. Again, having a nice swift kayak would be more practical. Put in at Topock 66 Marina, take out at Castle Rock Bay or go all the way to Parker Dam, which is about a three or four-day kayak trip.

On the south end of Lake Havasu on the Arizona side the vehicle access is restricted from the lakeshore, which has cliffs and steep hills. Along here are dozens of boat-in campsites that can also be used by backpackers. There are informal trails all along that area which are rarely used. These boat-in campsites have pit toilets and picnic tables. On the other hand, if you're backpacking, you wouldn't need to camp in a pay campsite. I've often thought of backpacking along that end of the lake. Just haven't gotten around to it. Take along your water filter. The lake water is very clear and filterable.

There are many, many sections of the lower Colorado that have houses lining the riverbank, or other private property taken up by farm fields. And there's a big Indian Reservation which has lots of no trespassing signs. You have river access, but aren't supposed to land. Between Highway 62 bridge in Parker, and Mayflower Park in Blythe I camped at two CA-side RV parks in a 55-mile stretch of river. There were no other legal places to camp--it's all levees and farm fields on the Indian Reservation.

Downriver from Blythe there is easy access. In that area you could ride a bicycle or drive a pickup along the river levees for miles, (both sides of the river) and camp on beaches, but there are no canyons. It's flat. There are farms there. Kayaking through there, we found random beaches to camp on, plus an RV park (MacIntyre), and a federal campground (Oxbow Lake). All were accessible by vehicle as well.

Downriver from Walter's Camp (near Palo Verde CA) you get to the two wildlife refuges which are best reached via kayak, canoe or motorboat. Walter's Camp is the put-in. You don't get any camping places at all until you get to Picacho State Rec Area on the California side. Otherwise, no camping is allowed in the refuges. From the put-in at Walter's Camp to the very first campsite is a whopping 17 miles of paddling. I wouldn't want to do that in a little inflatable, but it's not hard in a canoe or kayak. Also, access to the river via hiking in this section is most often impossible due to it being marshland with thick reeds.

Anyway, these are just some areas I know about. Hope this is helpful.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Sep 28 2017 7:17 am

Thanks to all for your suggestions and comments.

It sounds like most of the lower Colorado is probably better done in a faster boat. But, since we expect to be in the area for a month or two, I really don't want to drag along a hard shell canoe or kayak that would be left at trailheads when we are out hiking. So we'll just add the packrafts to our hiking/backpacking kits and see what opportunities we may find (if any) to actually use them.

Maybe, if there is water (and it isn't too cold), the Verde or Salt Rivers might offer up an opportunity.
Would love to get down to the Rio Grande, but not sure that will work on this trip.

I will continue to monitor this thread should other suggestions come in.

Regards.

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by azbackpackr » Sep 28 2017 7:21 am

@Bendboater
Let me know if you are near Needles, CA, maybe I can be of some help. I work for an outfitter who would rent you a boat and would also provide a shuttle. I'll be up and down the river a lot all winter in my kayak and on foot, from Lake Mead to Yuma.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Sep 28 2017 7:42 am

A rental may be make sense. I will bring good (carbon) canoe paddles along just in-case we go this route. Maybe we can put some thigh straps in it and I can give canoe rolling classes :lol:

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Howard70 » Dec 11 2017 5:40 pm

Two Suggestions:
Black Canyon on Colorado: My wife and I were camped near Willow Beach below Boulder Dam on the Colorado in December of 2015. I watched NOAA weather reports until there were two days predicted S winds and launched from the beach S of the marina in a packraft. Had a great paddle of 10 or miles with tail winds & camped on the CA shore around Copper Basin. The following day started calm & I paddled about 3 miles with no wind. Then the winds picked up quickly and I surfed the raft on small wind-generated swells for 5 miles to the road at El Dorado Canyon where my wife picked me up. That 5 mile run was like running downwind in an ultralight sled with the spinnaker up - the best flatwater day I've had in a packraft. There are several washes N of El Dorado Canyon where you could hike W and then SW to join the road after a day or so and be picked up if you wanted to combine the packraft overnight with a backpack. I don't know the AZ coast well, but I suspect you could get into some great country there eventually heading back over to Hwy 93.

Lee's Ferry to Soap Creek Canyon - I was lucky and scored a private launch permit in the Grand Canyon via a followup lottery that same December. Original plan was for 3 of us to run the river to Hance Rapids over a week and then hike out via the Tonto and Grand View trails. My partners we both injured in separate situations shortly before our launch date, so I decided to make a shorter trip solo. I launched from Lee's Ferry and ran down to Badger Rapids the first day & camped below the rapids after a portage. The second day I ran on to Soap Creek Rapid, portaged & camped. The third day I carried half the gear out to 89A via Soap Creek Canyon & slept near there. The forth day I went back down Soap Creek and carried the remaining stuff out. A single carry would have been possible had I not taken gear for the whole Hance Rapid / Grandview version of the trip. When I launced from Lee's Ferry, I hoped I'd have the nerve to carry on with the complete plan, but after two days & the two rapids I realized I was over my head for a solo trip of that stretch. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would back in via South Canyon, launch at river mile 31 or so (downstream of the "Roaring 20s") and then run on to Hance. Most of the rapids in that stretch are spaced such that you could run, portage & camp if, like me, you lack the confidence to run the Colorado's big, pushy water solo. The main challenge to trips in this section of the Grand Canyon is scoring a private launch permit. You need to sign up for notifications of the followup lotteries. Once you have a launch permit do your research about how a packraft can meet the regulations of the National Park Service & how you can launch at sites other than Lee's Ferry after packing into the canyon.

Howard Snell

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Dec 11 2017 6:54 pm

@Howard70
Thank you for the suggestions. Black Cyn is a great suggestion. The Grand though won't work because, of course, the permit thing. Have done it twice in WW canoes (once solo and once tandem) and we have been on the wait list for our own trip since the 90's so we probably have enough points to go almost whenever we want. Getting old though...... Have the San Francisco/Gila and Verde rivers on our list of strong possibilities.

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Howard70 » Dec 11 2017 10:19 pm

Bendboater wrote:... Have the San Francisco/Gila and Verde rivers on our list of strong possibilities.
I've not done any sections of the San Francisco. I have done two sections of the Gila. One in Arizona (Old Safford Bridge to near Safford with a layover day for hike up Eagle Creek) and once in New Mexico (Nichols Canyon to Cottonwood Canyon). The AZ section is spectacular - we had 850 - 1,000 cfs in March of last year, but it's pretty bony right now (I was there over Thanksgiving but didn't launch). The NM section is also good, but not as remote or deep as the section in AZ. I don't think you'll find enough water in either of those in January, but watch the gauges.

I launch on the Verde this coming Saturday at Beasley Flats. We'll run down to Sheep Bridge over several days and then backpack out east on one of the trails that traverses the Mazatzal Wilderness. It'll be our first time in that country. Verde is >200 cfs in that region so ought to be OK.

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Dec 12 2017 6:26 am

Howard,

We were planning on being in the Safford area around the end of February. My guess is that the New Mexico reaches will be to bony then, but I am hopeful that the Arizona Box will have enough water. After the Gila, perhaps we'll wander over to the Verde.
Hope you have a great trip on the Verde this weekend......
9 degrees here this morning......just thought that would put a smile on your face.

Steve

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by azbackpackr » Dec 12 2017 4:47 pm

@Howard70
Whoa, wasted a Grand Canyon river permit taking out at Soap? Why not do the whole thing and do a lot of side hikes?

@Bendboater
All these adventures sound fun, especially the SF River along about March or so. I'm getting too old for bumping around in a lot of whitewater, though. I'll stick to my long skinny sea kayak. I hate to suggest stealth camping in some of the areas we discussed before, but it sure could be done. For example, with a pack raft, in Topock Gorge, hiking away from the refuge and into the Chemehuevis, you could camp on BLM land and not in the refuge, so I can't see that being illegal. It could be pretty fun, too. But Topock Gorge itself is overrated, in my opinion. It has zero "wild" feeling to it, what with the motorboats zooming up and down, and trash on the beaches. Black Canyon is about the same. Not my favorite places. Too busy.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Bendboater » Dec 12 2017 5:22 pm

@azbackpackr
Thanks for the hint. I wouldn't consider dispersion camping on BLM land to be "stealth camping" either.

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by hikeaz » Dec 12 2017 5:45 pm

I believe that short-trip packrafting on the Colorado in the GCNP can be done with merely a backcountry (backpacking) permit - I believe that the limit is/was 5? (river) miles- mix-an-match of mile(s) is OK. Sure would be a preferable way to get back to Tanner or Palisades after hiking out to the L.C., getting around Papago Rock near the west end of the Escalante Route or Granite Rapid down to Hermit Rapid, among others.
Last edited by hikeaz on Dec 12 2017 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by Howard70 » Dec 12 2017 6:31 pm

azbackpackr wrote:Whoa, wasted a Grand Canyon river permit taking out at Soap? Why not do the whole thing and do a lot of side hikes?
Why Didn't I think of that? Seriously, I don't think the permit was "wasted" as my last partner was injured within a week of our launch date & refusing the trip would not have placed it back into the next follow up lottery (in other words the trip couldn't have been made available for anyone else at that point). Thus even the ridiculously short solo trip I completed was a great introduction for me - better than not going at all. I didn't complete the whole thing simply because I didn't have the nerve. No pride here.
hikeaz wrote:I believe that short-trip packrafting on the Colorado in the GCNP can be done with merely a backcountry (backpacking) permit - I believe that the limit is/was 5? (river) miles- mix-an-match of mile(s) is OK.

That's correct - although you may need to find an online copy of the then-superintendent's addendum setting out the means of doing that written in response to a lot of effort and background work by Roman Dial.

Another option if you want to have packraft sections longer than 5 miles, don't get a permit in the follow up lotteries, and like the western reaches of the North Rim, is to combine a "Diamond Down" river permit with a backcountry permit. As long as you hike to the river and launch downriver of Diamond Creek a "Diamond Down" permit can be for 5 days or less & allows running on down to Pearce Ferry if you wanted. A possibility would be dropping in via Separation or Surprise Canyons and exiting via Burnt. With a bit of walking on the Sanup & Shivwitts you could loop back to your car on the track to Kelly's Point.

Howard L. Snell

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by rcorfman » Dec 13 2017 12:17 am

@hikeaz
Packrafting isn't allowed in GCNP when there is a reasonable overland trail/route to use. For example, a buddy put in for a permit to hike out to Clear Creek, then packraft back to Bright Angel. He wasn't allowed the packrafting part, so we had to hike both out and back.
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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by hikeaz » Dec 13 2017 8:20 am

rcorfman wrote:
Dec 13 2017 12:17 am
@hikeaz
Packrafting isn't allowed in GCNP when there is a reasonable overland trail/route to use. For example, a buddy put in for a permit to hike out to Clear Creek, then packraft back to Bright Angel. He wasn't allowed the packrafting part, so we had to hike both out and back.
That's grim.....and, for instance, to float down from Hance to C.C. would have been a bit to far to qualify as well; though it seems that if a river-CROSSING is involved it's a little easier sledding, permit-wise. It seems that the 'system' is set up to disallow logical, 'fun', itineraries and allow (maybe) more utilitarian ones.
kurt

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Re: Packrafting trips in January

Post by chumley » Dec 13 2017 9:27 am

II. 36 CFR Section 1.6 - Activities that Require a Permit
2.10(a) - Camping Activities:
River crossings incidental to a backcountry hiking permit are allowed under the following conditions:
• Only the minimal amount of river travel necessary to gain the hiking terrain of the opposite shore is permitted
• Multiple crossings are approved if the permitted itinerary requires them
• Backcountry permits involving such crossings will only be issued for backcountry use areas that are immediately adjacent (across the river) from one another
• If proposed crossings for a given itinerary result in five or more miles of travel upon the water, a private river trip is required
• The five mile limit applies to same side, river-level hikes for which entry into the river is necessary in order to navigate around terrain that prohibits travel by foot.

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