Sunday, March 17, 2013

Flushing Down the Dry Beaver

Welcome to Arizona paddling....a week long season happening by way of a rapid warming trend following a cold and snowy winter.  Only in Arizona can you run Dry Beaver Creek, desert counterpart to the perennial Wet Beaver Creek.  There are in fact beaver in this normally dry stream bed.  As semi-novice kayakers with plenty of time on the water in other craft, boat control but no ability  to roll, Ack and I were looking for something with less volume than those found in the more popular run-offs, and hopefully less vegetation, too.  The incredible amounts ebb and flow of the streams here means that the growing season for riparian vegetation is long and the flood cycle is short and infrequent.  This holds particularly true on perennial streams so with our most "educated" guess withstanding we took a stab at a section of creek for which we could find exactly no information.  None.  Zero.  Zip.  The best I got from a real paddling buddy was, "yeah, people run that."  Good enough for me.  The section was from Highway 179 just south of the Village of Oak Creek to Interstate 17 in McGuireville....about 12 river miles with a 10 mile bike shuttle via the highway.  With our shuttle set we launched our boats downstream into water that would be dropping in volume all day from a start around 350 cfs.  

Our theory here was that in Dry Beaver, since it only holds water during flood cycles that there would be less vegetation and more open waterway.  Wet Beaver according to the paddling guide is not runnable due to perennial flow and resulting vegetation.  Within a few minutes of launching we were greeted by fence wire and for me a branch to the shoulder that didn't want to move.  Soon thereafter we found ourselves boating in an alder forest.  This is about the scariest boating imaginable, but the volumes here today were nothing in comparison to Monday's run of Beaver Creek below the confluence of Wet and Dry which saw double the flow.  This allowed for generally safe scouting of the forested waterways and portaging (French for "I'm a crappy boater") where necessary.  There were stretches here clogged with bank to bank debris and water flowing beneath it.  So much for our theory. Only once did we find ourselves in a bind where a seemingly clear channel was met with a water-level four inch log.  Ack was able to bunnyhop the log in the more nimble green boat.  I got stuck underneath it.  Backwards.  Boat under log.  Body pinned, but upright.  Ack was able to help me out of the jam.   Scout those forest sections thoroughly.

AZ forest boating

Eventually our theory did pan out and we got about 6 miles or great open channel boating.  There were still some strainers to be found on the banks, but the main channel by and large was open and runnable Class II/III water with some great wave trains and even a few more challenging rapids with pillows and holes.  This made fore a totally worthwhile trip at this water level.  A little more water would still be do-able but I can't imagine it being great at over 450 cfs.  Mostly because the ability to scout the forest sections would disappear.  The end of the day was met with broad streams and multi-channel arm boating and a gradual return to forest boating at lower, flatter water approaching our take out.

Ack swims and I fill and drain

A common sight - rock bar pour over through vegetation

A great open class III rapid

Crappy Bikes

This concludes our Northern Arizona whitewater season.  Until more snow melts, thanks for reading!