Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Day 9 & 10. Going with the Flow
Eric Larsen
24 October 2017 | Colorado River
For nearly 10 years, I've driven I-70 past Rifle, Colorado and have wondered what It would be like to paddle the Colorado River that parallels the highway. Now, I know.

It has been an interesting change of perspective watching cars and trucks zoom by as we steadily paddle. Most of the day, we were fairly far away from roads of any kind and we watched the world go by at river-level... and learned a few things along the way.

For starters, a lot of people like to throw old cars in the Colorado River here. We saw four or five cars in various stages of submersion. We also learned that most animals are curious about us. Horses, cows, deer, coyote and even an Bald Eagle stared inquisitively at us as we paddled by. Great Herons and Canada Geese, however, want nothing to do with us.

It took us a while to get organized and on the river this morning. We each made a few adjustments to our Kokopelli pack rafts and clothing so as to ensure a comfortable but then it was fairly steady paddling until sunset. We stopped twice during the day to stretch our legs. By seven o'clock the sun had set and we found the perfect campsite surrounded by cottonwood trees. A large fire dried out clothes and a hot meal warmed our insides.

Today, we were up in the dark and tried to get moving as quickly as possible but the shortening days do not give morning warmth easily. We shivered as we got out of the tent.

The transition from tent to packraft went even more smoothly today which, as usual, was important as we are still behind in miles.

Side note: our Kokopelli packrafts have performed incredibly well despite being bumped and dragged at times. They are easy to maneuver, super buoyant and surprisingly comfortable. I had to stop myself short on several occasions today as my mind wandered toward future packrafting adventures.

We zigzagged across I-70 several times today. It was fun to be able to learn more about the river that we all had so often simply just driven by. Still, there is an underlying pressure to make miles and we paddle nearly non stop throughout the day.

Our big concern today was the dam outside of Palisade, Colorado. Two days ago a fisherman had warned us we would notice the current slowing just after passing under I-70. The Grand Valley Diversion Dam is a huge 15 feet tall by 550 feet wide structure that diverts water to irrigate the Grand Valley. Manning this 100-year old structure is a man and wife team who live in a surprisingly well curated house just opposite the dam. They led us through the gate house and down to the lower side. Theirs was a quiet life and we wondered what type of spectacle we might have caused.

A mile or so later, we encountered another damn that we portaged around as well. Later, after the sun had set and darkness was settling in, we paddled into Palisade and heard something that sounded like yet another dam, but we were able to take a small shoot on river left. In the fading light, we scrambled to find a camp, but when Rebecca missed an eddy, we had to ditch our initial choice for another, which as it turned out was a much better site. We were cold and wet and counted ourselves lucky as any more time on the river in darkness would most likely have meant a serious accident. Still, another fire and warm meal shout out the harder memories of the week as we reflected on how far we have come.

Image: a river selfie!
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