Sunday, June 12, 2011

Minnesota's Hidden Falls, Double Drop, and Manitou Canyon Falls

Video of Chris Bear(green boat), John Kiffmeyer(blue boat), Justin Japs (orange boat) running Hidden Falls on the Cascade River - Minnesota, USA. And rare footage of Scotty Baker running Canyon Falls on the Manitou River into Lake Superior. Video Footage shot by Scott White.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Devils Track River Lines...

The rapids and lines on the Devils Track river are so often forgot year after year it seems. Mostly because people only paddle it once a year, and sometimes it doesn't flow every year.   

Devil’s Track River Lines.

The run starts off with class II boogie water. You go through 2 narrow cliff walled canyons with class III drops. Next the canyon opens up and makes a large sweeping right hand curve and a horizon line with mist spraying up. Triple Drop rapid. You can take out on river left or river right. River left is to scout both drops and pick your line. River right take out is where you portage the rapid.

More walled in meandering class II following the portage Admiral falls. The river picks up pace and there is a distinct green water hump in the middle of the river signaling serpent slide rapid. Follow the flow and enjoy the ride.

The canyon walls open up with some long straight sections and easy paddling. After one of these long straight sections the river makes a left turn. This signals the 10 foot drop. The line is right of center down the green tongue.

Then you go under the superior hiking trail bridge. There is one more 10 foot drop. Run down the center. Be prepared to get sent towards the river right wall.

The river meanders through tall canyon walls until you come to the next horizon line. Portage down the middle. Eddy service is on river left or right. PDM is best scouted on river left. The line is to run 5 feet off the river right shore. Take a strong boof stroke and point the nose a little right. Land. Then take another boof stroke if you need too.

The easier take out which is starting to become the norm, is 100 yards downstream of PDM on river left before the canyon narrows up again. Hike straight up until you hit the superior hiking trail. Hike downstream maybe ½ mile until you see the walking bridge. Do not cross this bridge. The easy route down to the river is hike down through the woods on trail right before the bridge on trail right. Hike down and go towards that creek bed. Climb down onto the creek bed and follow to river. Very slippery and sharp on creek bed. Sometimes it’s best to just walk down the creek bed in water to get the most grip if it's icy on the sides of the creek.

After the Pitchfork portage, the river canyons up and meanders quite a bit until you see a big notch in the canyon and distinct horizon line. On a sunny day, It's probably the darkest spot on the river from lack of sunlight into the narrow gorge. There is a small eddy on river right if you want to scout Ski Jump and Up Against the Wall.  Run ski jump right down the center. Bank right on the pillow. Try and get river right as much as possible for the most water under your boat. Left is ok too but scrappy. Ride into the big curler off river right wall at UAW. After Up Against the Wall, Get river left and run this drop river left into the hole at the bottom. And that's it for the big stuff. Enjoy the class II into Lake Superior.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Illgen Falls - Baptism River

Here's a short clip of Scott White running Illgen Falls on the Baptism River. Illgen Falls is a a park and huck waterfall. It's as classic a waterfall as you will find anywhere in the world. The baptism river is located on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota USA.

Here is another North Shore video made by Minnesota Boater's Cliff Langley and Joel Decker

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lester River, Duluth Minnesota

Lester River located just north of the city limits of Duluth, MN, is the river that signals the start of the North Shore whitewater kayaking season. Here is a video from April, 9-10 2011 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Southwestern Minnesota Boating

Ramsey Falls nicknamed Little Yellowstone

Located on the edge of the great plains, Redwood Falls, Minnesota is a Midwest whitewater destination during early spring runoff. Granite rock riverbeds and steep topography from the Minnesota River Valley create whitewater.  It's 2 hours west of the Minneapolis and 1.5 hours from Mankato. Rivers in this area start running about 3 weeks before the more popular Minnesota whitewater destinations. They run about the same time as the Vermilion in Hastings usually around March 15th. And there is free camping at Beaver Creek Park. Camping is 5 miles north of Redwood Falls on county road 71, then go east on county road 2 for three miles and you see it after you cross the river on your right.

There are 3 primary whitewater rivers in the Redwood Falls area. The Redwood River, Ramsey Creek, and Beaver Creek. Plus a few other unexplored runs.

Here is a short video of Beaver Creek on April 2, 2011. Paddlers are Brian, Jade, Chris Baer, Scott White, and Justin Japs.

There is lots of information about the Redwood river and Beaver creek that can be found on However, Ramsey Creek and particularly Ramsey Falls (nicknamed Little Yellowstone), is fairly new to the whitewater world. The river consists of canyon wall class II whitewater and one big waterfall, Ramsey Falls. 

Video 1 shows the visual water level on the first descent.

On March 19, 2011, Justin went back for another look at Little Yellostone.  It was approximately double the flow of the first descent.  A small rock outcrop was visual in the middle and two separate waterfalls on river right and left. It looked good to run.

On March 27, 2011, Scott White and Justin Japs returned to the falls with intentions to run it if water levels were the same or a little higher than the week before.  The level was good and they both ran the falls.  Video 2 shows Scott White's awesome descent.

On April 2, 2011, Scott White, Chris Baer, and Justin Japs returned to see the water level had risen higher than the previous week.  Video 3 shows Chris and Justin's rides

So far what we have learned is this. This falls was measured with a throw rope on the 1st D at 32 vertical feet with an 60 degree 8 foot lead in. With higher flows, the cauldrom fills up a few more feet. There is no online gauge for Ramsey creek which makes it difficult to predict when it's running. At the base of the falls there is a small cave behind the river left that locals frequently swim into. One paddler has swam after running the falls. He flushed away from the base, and flushed out of the couldron with the rest of his gear. It was a non eventful swim and a typical yardsale of gear.The best safety is set up by repel from the river left cliff with throw ropes and with paddlers in the water within the cauldron at the base. The first descent of Ramsey Falls occured during the fall of the year after a major rain event. The ground was pretty dry prior. Redwood Falls got approximately 5 inches of rain over a 2 day period of time. The online gauge for the redwood maxed out somewhere around 7000cfs on or about September 27th, 2010. A week later, the Redwood gauge dropped to 2000cfs. This is when Ramsey Falls was run for the first time October 6th.

Ramsey falls is a high quality waterfall. It ran at good levels for 5 straight weeks during this years spring runoff.  It's a straight forward waterfall and a relatively safe waterfall to run. The first picture above shows low water Ramsey falls and the exposed rock ledge throughout base of the falls except river left. This ledge is what made people afraid to run it for all these years, when in reality, when the flows are at runnable levels you so far out from any underwater ledges.  To compare it to other Midwestern waterfalls, the cauldron setting and rolling lip is similar to Gorge falls, it's size is similar to Illgen falls, and the boof is like second drop on the east fork of the north shore Beaver river.  Big soft aerated boils at the bottom provide great landing pads for flat landings. Ramsey Falls has been run 8 times to date, since it's discovery to kayakers in 2010. There is much more to learn.

Here is the Redwood River C.F.S. levels and dates from this spring.


Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 Jackson Villian Review

I picked up my new Villain Elite Large a few weeks back and have paddled approximately 100 miles of class IV and V rivers in the last two weeks. I went with the Large because I wanted a larger volume boat and the Elite model has cross link plastic. (i am 5'11, 195lbs) Cross-link plastic was the biggest factor when choosing my new creek boat. I have paddled two different cross-link Wavesport Y boats very hard over 10 years and I have never broken a cross link boat. I will add  more material to this review with more water time.


The first thing that stood out was it's comfort. This boat is very roomy and the outfitting is very adjustable to your likings. You can easily navigate your way through the outfitting to make it your own.

The boat is very forgiving and easy to paddle. Anyone from a beginner to well seasoned veteran running Class V will enjoy this boat. 

It is quite nimble for being an 8'8". This boat is designed to carve with the smallest leans and you have plenty of time to react to where it takes you. You may want to adjust the seat forward or backwards to find your optimal balance point.

This boat has great performance. I have never been in a kayak that boofs better than the Villain. It wants to boof you every chance it gets. You timing can be slightly off and you can still make your boof stroke. When your timing is perfect, be prepared for a great ride and a soft landing. I was very impressed by the soft landings the Villain gives you. There is not a flat surface on the bottom of this boat which helps hard impacts while running waterfalls. After running waterfalls the Villian has great resurfacing to keep you in control. This boat creates amazing amounts of speed in whitewater. This speed combined with a well thought out bow design punches through holes while remaining in control.

The Villain is very stable. The way I see it, the Villain has three dimensions of stability. The first is the semi flat bottom, the second is the bottom chine, and the third is the chine on the sidewall. It takes some effort to make it flip over. You will notice immediately that shape of the boat creates a stable platform. The secondary chines work very well for balance support. The third chine on the side wall  adds another dimension of stability. This third chine works very well when you want to make a fast hard turn. Even in the pool practicing hand rolls, I had to lean over to nearly 90 degrees to fall over.

Cons:(may not be cons for you)

The cockpit rim is huge. The cockpit was designed big for good safety reasons, to help with exiting easily in dire situations. When putting your spray skirt on, you really have to work hard to get the back of your skirt around the rim. It takes a lot of effort to stretch to the front rim even with a wet skirt. You can unlock the backband and that helps to get the back of the skirt started, but if you liked the backband position the last time you paddled, you will have to readjust it to get back to where you like the backband.

The performance is so good on this boat that sometimes it's difficult to control your speed after a big boof. The Villain is no slouch in the weight category. The Villain L ranges from 48lbs to 50lbs. This weight plus it's ability to create great speed on the river can be a hand full at times. After you get a big boof be ready to put on the brakes if the situation calls for it.

Rolling this boat takes some effort. It is not difficult to roll, but there are easier creek boats to roll than the Villain. Hand rolling the Villain takes pretty precise technique.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2010 Season

In 2010, the spring season had limited boating opportunites during the average peak flows between April 1st and May 15th. Inner city Duluth creeks and the Split rock were all that ran.

Paddlemania was a big hit once again in 2010. It keeps growing every year.  This year's paddlemania saw an increase from 6 paddlers to 11 paddlers doing the Slot Machine Showdown, a first and second descent of the Beak on Octopus rapid in the Dynamic Duo tandem kayak, a midnight run down the lower, and lots of laughs around the fire.

2010 did see a great fall season all across the Midwest in late September for two weeks. The Brule, Devils Track, Cascade, Lester in Minnesota and the Presque Isle, Black, Falls, Slate, Silver rivers in Michigan all recieved enough rain for fun runs. It was my first trip to paddle the L'ance area rivers and they were pretty good quality rivers.