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Kayaking through Rock Slide

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Offline adiaz

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Kayaking through Rock Slide
« on: May 09, 2019, 02:12:11 PM »
Hello! I値l be in Big Bend May 11-17 and I was hoping to kayak from Lajitas to Santa Elena Canyon, I heard is a level 4, how bad is it? is it dangerous? I致e kayaked for many years but never in a rapid.... and since I値l be by myself, I want to make sure that is safe



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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Kayaking through Rock Slide
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2019, 02:53:44 PM »
Hello! I値l be in Big Bend May 11-17 and I was hoping to kayak from Lajitas to Santa Elena Canyon, I heard is a level 4, how bad is it? is it dangerous? I致e kayaked for many years but never in a rapid.... and since I値l be by myself, I want to make sure that is safe

It all depends upon the river flow. I've done the Rock Slide twice. Once in an inflatable kayak, and once in a small packraft. Both times were more-or-less pieces of cake. The sound of the rapids echoing off the very high, narrow Santa Elena Canyon walls may scare the pee out of you, but it's really not that bad. Rock Slide was probably no more than Class III+. But both my runs were in the fall season, with flows around 600-800cfs. The river was fairly shallow, probably no more than 5 feet deep, so even if I'd capsized, I still had a good chance of floating out on my back or climbing up onto rocks and hopping out (maybe). There are a couple of nice cobbled beaches just downstream where you can beach yourself. Things could still go bad; you could take a hard knock on the head, but I didn't feel the need for a helmet and I didn't see or hear of anyone else using one.  The best line of attack shifts from season to season and sometimes from week to week. Debris floating downstream can block some of the channels, but the rocks themselves are pretty permanent.  Louis Aulbach's Guide to the Upper Canyons of the Rio Grande has an excellent breakdown of the Rock Slide, as does the American Whitewater website.  Note both the necessary pre-rapid scout - there's a convenient gravelly beach/boulder field on river right JUST before you enter the rapid - and the copious eddies that can give you breathers during the run.

https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1826/

During my full-park float in 2017, the rapid that kicked my butt was the San Carlos, just upstream of the Rock Slide and Entrance Rapid. It was almost completely overhung by thorny mesquite and in attempting to avoid the trees, I breached on a mid-channel boulder and flipped and took a lung-full of very cold autumn water. But I survived to tell the tale. I also lost a tooth even further upstream when my paddle rebounded off a wall-shot and drove straight into my jaw, but that was mostly because my packraft skids like an air-hockey puck and never met a wall-shot it didn't want to kiss long and deep. Yeee-haw!!!!!

Your trip should occur before the summer rains, and flows should be correspondingly low. Desert Sports' website always posts up-to-date daily river flow reports. You'll want at least 200-300cfs to make it fun. Anything below 900-1000cfs should be do-able by most experienced paddlers. Above that, you may want to get some expert advice.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 07:36:27 PM by House Made of Dawn »
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Kayaking through Rock Slide
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2019, 02:58:08 PM »
BTW - the rest of the float from Lajitas to the take-out below Santa Elena is absolutely gorgeous with ever-changing and very remote scenery. Very few challenges, mostly just a delightful float with first class scenery. I highly recommend it. The Rock Slide just takes it up a notch into an adventure.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline adiaz

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Re: Kayaking through Rock Slide
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2019, 03:47:07 PM »
Thank you guys, I really appreciate your replies....!!! I値l check those websites


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