Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Weekend

Many paddlers enjoyed the last of Minnesota's spring run off on the North Shore. On Friday people boated the Cascade river, Saturday a crew got on the Devils Track river, and spent Sunday on the Cascade. The water levels were: Cascade -7", DT 1.25'. Unless there is more rain this could be the end of a long season lasting nine weeks on the North Shore. Let's hope for a fall season!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tres Rios Weekend

Belicks Surprise rapid - Poplar River

Friday had absolutely nasty weather conditions on the North Shore with heavy rains/snow and strong winds. Most of the crew spent the night in Duluth and headed north on Saturday.

Poplar River flows through Lutsen Ski Resort - Sliding down to the river

Saturday was much improved with sunny skies with winds and temps on the cooler side in the lower 40's. Beta was gathered on the Devils Track and Cascade and it was determined those rivers were still a bit to high to have fun on. The crew of Ryan Zimny, Joel Decker, Burgess Norrgard, Justin, Tommy Norton, and North Carolina paddler Chris Gallaway all put on the Poplar river at a fun medium flow. Everyone had a good time on Belieks Surprise and really enjoyed the canyon section.

After the Poplar river, the crew heard the Kadunce water levels were up from the day before. The level ended up being a perfect Medium flow. The same crew plus Tommy Meirerhoff geared up and made the mile hike to the put in admiring the narrow river some ninety feet below. The Kadunce river gorge is a special place on the North Shore. The gorge on average is ten feet wide with fast roller coaster ride type rapids. The waterway is 4-6 feet wide and steep. It is dark in the canyon with little light penetrating to river level. The walls are dark grey and they appear as black bricks. You feel like you are truly in a tubed water slide. Everyone had great runs except for one paddler didn't have a good day. He ran the big waterfall (in pic) and swam out of his boat in the pool below. Luckily he was able to swim to the river left shore and climb out. The rest of his gear washed down to the crew below and had everyone worried as to what happened. The crew gather up his boat and gear and anxiously waited for the swimmer to come down. He never did. From far above the top of the canyon we heard yelling and received the sign that all was good. The Kadunce rocks!

Disappearing deep into the enchanted gorge

On Sunday, the weather was near perfect for spring paddling the North Shore. It was sunny, temps in the 50's with no wind. The Devils Track river and the Cascade river were on the top of the list to paddle. The DT's water level gauge is all messed up with logs choking the left channel. It is difficult to get an accurate level. No one was completely sure the DT level so John Alt drove down to the Cascade to see what levels were.

The Cascade was at -1 and Tommy Norton, Chris Gallaway, John Alt, and Justin Japs were up for a high water run. The crew paddled down to Hidden Falls and scouted the falls. It looks pretty intimidating at -1. Justin, Tommy, and Chris all fired it up. Tommy went right to left at the top and hit the hole at the bottom and broke his paddle and other things. Chris went right to left at the top into the hole and surf out. Justin started left at the top, stayed left the entire rapid and caught the left eddy at the bottom.

Since Tommy broke his paddle and other things, he was done for the day and hiked out with others. John, Justin and Chris continued down the Cascade and ran all rapids except Hannah's Hole. The run went really well with no problems, just sick lines, lots of action, and good times.

A safety cautionary note: There is a large tree down 4 feet off the water level that spans the entire river at the bottom of cheese grader rapid.. It has thick branches protruding to the river bottom. This tree is where the river narrows and flows into the river left wall. Luckily there were a few branches missing and a 4 foot gap close to the river left wall and all paddlers got through safely. This tree definitely has to be cut out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jim Rada Race Weekend

You couldn't ask for a better paddling get together in the Midwest this weekend on the beautiful Presque Isle River near Ironwood, MI. The event doubled in participants and spectators from a year ago. The Jim Rada Memorial Race was formed by Midwest paddler John Kiffmeyer to show appreciation and respect to Jim Rada who pioneered many of the North and South rivers of Lake Superior many decades ago. His spirit lives on and will forever be remembered and honored.

The weather was great with temps in the upper 50's and sunny on Saturday. The race was a huge success and all paddlers and spectators had a great time. This years trophy went to Joerg Steinbach who used his 28 years of experience to use the river currents to his advantage to dominate the competition.

All competitors and friends camped in the State Park overlooking Lake Superior which was a spectacular experience. New stories were created and old stories were told around a huge campfire.

On Sunday some paddlers packed up and went home while a large crew put on the amazing Black River. The weather was perfect. Sunny and 65. Many paddlers ran the entire river from Patowatomi to Lake Superior. To be on the river that day was incredible. Everyone was stoked and going big. Many paddled all the big drops: Patowatomi falls, Gorge Falls, and Rainbow falls with great lines.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

N. Chainsaw Weekend

Manitou River, North Shore

The weather was steller Friday and Saturday before turning to cold and rainy conditions on Sunday. The Split Rock, east fork of the Beaver, Manitou, and the Poplar all had healthy water levels. On Friday, groups hit the Split Rock and the East Fork Beaver with good weather conditions for North Shore paddling this time of year. Mid to upper 40's and partly cloudy. It rained briefly in the late afternoon.

The Split Rock was at a medium fun level on Friday. The group consisted of Justin Japs, Joel Decker, Nate Heydt, John Holtan, Chris Baer, Burgess Norrgard, and Joerg Steinbach. At this level the river is pure fun. Everyone paddled really well. After the Split Rock, this same group hit up the East Fork Beaver for some high water action. One member even fished his way down with an ice fishing spinning rod and a mepps spinner from the kayak. The water was a bit too high with limited eddy's to fish. Most of the group ran the big three and had sick lines.

Joel Decker, Joerg Steinbach, John Alt, John Holtan checking the water level of the Manitou River. 3.5 feet that day.
On Saturday, you couldn't have asked for a better day to paddle the North Shore this time of year. The sun was shinning bright, not a cloud in the sky, good water levels, and temps were in the mid 50's. Great temps for this time of year. The crew of Alt, Decker, Nate Dog, Joergy, Lucky Holtan, and Japs put on the Manitou river ready for the unexpected. Most of the crew had never been on this run and had no idea what to expect. John Alt was leading the way and knew this river well. That was all the crew needed to know. The water level was at 3.5 feet which correlates to a high water level. The first part of the run starts out with swift flat water winding through a high plateau on top of the "North Shore hill." It was quite scenic among the mature red pines and black spruce. From a far distance off, the crew could hear the thundering roar of a large rapid. Everyone eddied out on river right above the large horizon line and took a look at this rapid. Most paddlers glanced quickly and a couple looked at it hard to find a line. This first rapid had never been run before. Many paddlers have seen a line down it, but always passed on the opportunity to run it. A "line" refers to a route down a rapid.

Left to Right: Nate Heydt, Joel Decker, Justin Japs, Joerg Steinbach, John Alt

Joerg and Justin thoroughly looked at this large drop from top to bottom. At this water level it looked very runnable from their eyes. Nearly all the jagged rocks and ledges were covered by water and river right side of the river looked like to the place to run. There was plenty of water going over the falls to soften any hard landings. The lead in consisted of a hard left turn around an exposed rock on a four foot green water tongue. To stay left and straight on this tongue was the most critical aspect to have a successful descent. From the green tongue you drop 8 feet down to a ledge into a hole, immediately drop another 14 feet down off a second ledge, then drop onto a large ramp with a huge rooster tail spraying water vertically at the bottom. The water below rooster tail is highly aerated with many side currents flowing onto a large flat ledge. It would be described as intense chaos. The water channelizes and flows off the final ledge into a monster shallow hole at the bottom. Justin gave the thumbs up to the crew to set up safety and had a successful first descent of the "Imperializer."

1st D of the "Imperializer"-  Paddler Justin Japs 

Looking down stream after the Imperializer there was immediate class III/IV boogy water with many downed trees in the river. The crew knew they would have to watch out for trees in the river. In one instance, a member of the crew attempted to paddle over a tree, only to slide upstream and completely flip under the tree and re submerge down stream. This was a very scary moment for all. We were very happy there were no branches pointing down to the river bottom.

The crew came to their second horizon line with a tree across the top of the drop on river right side. John Alt quickly signaled the crew to run this 5 foot ledge on river left. Everyone had great lines and were greeted with a water smash to the face by the hole at the bottom. It put a smile on every ones face. The exciting Class III/IV boogy continued on for a while after and the river characteristics changed to winding small canyons. This was an indicator to take out on river right to portage Pinball rapid and a serious canyon deemed unrunable. Joerg and Justin missed the portage and eddied out just above Pinball on river river right. It was a good vantage point to see the rapid, but a terrible place to be downstream of the take out. They had to scale nearly vertical canyon walls in chest deep snow to get back on track. Joerg and Justin deemed the steep hole in Pinball at that water level, to be a 50/50 chance of punching through. And if a swim occurred at Pinball, it would most likely be the last. The real portage was quite extensive in two feet of snow with many downed trees in the woods from the recent ice storm. The crew put back on the river after the canyon and were greeted with more fun class IV boogy water.

John Alt and crew portaging on the Manitou River

They encountered one more horizon line which led to a fun left to right side curler move off a large boulder. They boogied down more small canyons in the bright sunshine until they arrived at "Rain Falling Up" falls which is a spectacular waterfall and one of the North Shore's hidden Jems. The crew made their last portage on river left and walked out to highway 61 feeling great after a exciting day on the river.

On Sunday the Upper Poplar was flowing high at 1000 cfs. The weather was soggy, windy, and mid 30's. The crew of Nate Heydt, Joel Decker, Andy Schidel, John Holtan, John Alt, and Joerg Steinbach all seal launched into the river off the walking bridge or from shore. The regular seal launch spot from the golf course wasn't doable due to high water levels under the bridge. The crew screamed down the class IV boogy water until they got to Beliek's Suprise rapid. They got out and scouted Beliek's and all fired down it with good lines. They could hear many boulders racing on the bottom of the river. They continued down through more class IV until they came to the canyon section. They all got out and scouted and half the crew ran it. It was described as extremely fast, many blind drops from big wave trains, and huge holes to punch through or go around.

Poplar River Crew - John Holtan, John Alt, Joerg Steibach, Joel Decker

Monday, April 20, 2009

High Splitty Weekend

 Justin Japs - Split Rock River - Under the Log rapid

The Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior rivers were cluttered full of paddlers this past weekend. Most rivers ran high throughout the weekend from the Split Rock south. A large contingent of Midwest paddlers and a few out of region paddlers of arrived to enjoy the spring run off. It was an interesting weekend to say the least from reports. There were many exciting new runs and waterfall drops for a some paddlers, however, there were numerous swims, injuries and broken boats as well. It almost seemed like the drastic change in weather brought a drastic change in luck.

On Friday, groups hit the Split Rock and wicked high levels, Lester at high flows, Amity at lower flows, and the French and Silver at high flows. It was beautiful and 70 degrees. There were many reports from the Silver and French that wood is present on many of the rapids. Some deemed not runnable.

The Friday Split Rock crew of Joel Decker, John McConville, Andy McMurray, John Kiffmeyer, Nate Heydt, and John Holton had lots of action. They recorded the highest water level descent in kayaks. The level was a few inches over the Mordor level gauge, which is painted on the walking bridge pylon. There were two swims resulting in two completely trashed kayaks. No one was seriously injured. Only a cut thumb needing some stitches. Midwest Mountaineering's Peter Noren shipped two new boats to those paddlers the next day. Way to go MM.

On Saturday, groups hit the Split Rock at high flows, the Lester at medium flows, and the French and Silver at medium flows. Weather was cloudy and mid 40's.

The Saturday Split Rock crew consisting of Ryan Zimny, John McConville, Chris Baer and Justin Japs had a successful decent with water levels a foot lower than Friday's insanity. It was still in the uber high category. One incident occurred resulting in a bruised shoulder from "Under the Log" rapid.

Justin  - Split Rock River - Winfrey's Rapid

By Sunday the weather turned for the nasty. By noon, snow was already accumulating around Beaver Bay northward with temps in the 30's. Groups put on the Knife at low flows, the Lester at low flows, and the east fork of the Beaver at high flows.

3rd drop on the East Beaver

Reports from the beaver were pretty epic. Chad Kehn, Melissa Grover, Justin, Joerg Steinbach, Nate Heydt, Burgess Norrgard, John McConville, Mike Manger, Mike Jorgenson, and Jeremiah Andresen all put on the east fork in a snow storm. Many first time runs for people. The water level was very high. The typical 1/2 mile class III boogy water was now pushy Class IV boogy water with many holes leading into the three perfect 12-20 foot waterfalls. The high flows gave a few paddlers a hard time. One paddler dislocated his shoulder. A few paddlers did the big three and had gigantic aired out boofs off the middle 20 foot drop. Was quite a sight to see.

Joerg - East Beaver - 1st drop

Reports from the Lester were really good. Even some first time runs down "Almost Always" for Burgess Norrgard and Chris Baer!

Justin  - 1st drop - East Beaver

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Photos from The Lester

Top Left: Mike Manger at the brink
Top Right: Jeremiah Andresen at the lip

Left: Melissa Grover with a perfect line
Right: Chad Kehn in a froth of whitewater

Left: Tina Andresen catching some air time
Right: Justin running Almost Always falls

Left: John Kiffmeyer setting up for the tuck... Almost Always
Right: Joerg Steinbach free falling... Almost Aways

Peter Noren setting up to hit the flume... Almost Always

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lester Creek

Saturday a group of 15+ friends came together to enjoy the sunshine and to paddle Lester Creek in Duluth, MN. The water level was low/medium. This was the first time that most of us paddled a real creek this year. We have been paddling big volume rivers like the Lower St. Louie for the past few weekends. The North Shore rivers are starting to run. Good times.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lower St. Louis River April 4, 2009

The crew of (pictured left to right) Ryan Zimny, Joerg Steinbach, Justin Japs, Joel Decker, John Kiffmeyer, and not pictured rookie Tony Nigon all paddled the lower St. Louis River at 800 cfs. The Dam that separates the upper and lower sections has always been considered a run but no one stepped up to do it. John and Justin hiked up to the base of the dam and determined it was good to go. The final test was sending a log over to see how it would react in the hydralic at the bottom. The test was a success and John went solo and got the 1st Descent of the Dam. The rest of the crew decided to line up and go at the same time. It was a success and a Gas!
This run was also Tony Nigon's first taste of Class V rapids. He did awesome and it was great to be apart of taking him down the river. He styled Octupus and Finn Falls with ease.

Lower St. Louis River March 28, 2009

Tommy Meirhoff and Andy Scheidel loading boats

Joergie, Decker, Scheidel, Zimny, and Justin paddled the lower louie on Saturday. The water level was approximately 6000cfs. The weather forecast predicted 36 and partly cloudy. Well, it was completely wrong with snowy conditions. It was a hot 27 degrees, windy and snowing. Pre-paddle, we all gathered at Decker's and everyone was stoked to get out on the water regardless of the nasty weather conditions. It was great to have most of the crew back together again after a long brutally cold winter. The crew loaded boats into Tommy's suburban and cruised to the put in.

Andy Scheidel and Joel Decker getting out into some whitewater

Zimny, Joerg, and Justin put in above Cliff''s hole. Decker and Scheidel put in below the large manky hole. Above the hole, Joerg was off like a jack rabbit as usual. Zimny sat in a large eddy and watched Joergs line. Zimny creepily yelled that Joerg was off line going into the meat of Cliff's hole and "we better get down to recover the carnage if he swims."

Left to Right: Joerg Steinbach and Andy Scheidel

Zimny sprinted far river left to narrowly avoid the hole and Justin followed the same line. As they paddled passed the hole, Justin looked river right and Joerg was sitting in the eddy grinning. The crew was shocked and stoked he made it out of that sous hole. He got worked in the hole then flushed himself using the "dig for the brown technique." It was a great "stay calm under pressure moment." After the race course section, they paddled through first sister rapid and paddled river right around second sister to Octupus. By that time, the wind and the snow was kickin. Decker had a sick line and pinned himself on flat water during the Octupus portage. Nothing dangerous and totally halarious.

Joel Decker pinned

The bone yard was a full on sprint fighting cold hands and frozen faces. Scheidel was stoked! We reached the swinging bridge waterfall and all had great lines and soft landings. We came off the river completely full of ice with huge smiles on our frozen faces. The season is on....

Left to Right: Andy Scheidel, Ryan Zimny, Joerg Steinbach, Joel Decker, Justin