My name is Maddy and I have joined the EME team this summer! My first time rafting was only a few weeks ago. Water, especially fast moving water, has always made me nervous. I grew up on the ocean and spent a good amount of time playing, swimming and lifeguarding on beaches with waves and strong currents. Rivers are completely different from the ocean, but both are strong, relentless, humbling and unforgiving. With all of this in mind I headed out on my first rafting trip nervous and unsure of what it would be like. My first trip was on Slaughterhouse Falls, a Class IV section that runs from Aspen to Woody Creek, and is our most adventurous section in Aspen.
Wade talked me through paddling, his commands, what to do if I fell out of the boat, what to do if someone else fell out of the boat, and what to do if suddenly I was swimming through rapids. Throughout the safety talk I felt a small sense of comfort knowing I felt more prepared to handle a situation, but was still holding on to the nervous feeling. If you ask Wade he will tell you that if you’re not nervous you aren’t really prepared, which I agree with. A healthy dose of nervousness is necessary on a trip like this.
We got on the water and started heading down stream through Entrance Exam and then right over Slaughterhouse Falls. This section of the river doesn’t ease you in at all. You have about a few hundred feet to figure out how to paddle and to feel comfortable before you are right in the thick of it. At the end of May when I first ran this section the water was lower and the experience was thrilling and scary. I thought it was a great experience, just the right amount of bumpiness and stomach dropping feelings, but everyone kept saying “I had to see it at high water…”.
My first day on Slaughterhouse it was running at 500 CFS. CFS is the number of cubic feet the river is moving per second. I am told, to visualize this, that a basketball is exactly 1 cubic foot, so the river at 500 CFS would be the equivalent of about 500 basketballs rolling down the river every second. On June 7th I embarked on my second Slaughterhouse trip and the river was running at about 1700 CFS (1700 basketballs per second!). I had heard a lot about Slaughterhouse at high water so I was expecting a difference, but it was way more different than I imagined. When we first got to the river I was looking at the river and thinking “It doesn’t look too much higher”, even thought I knew it was. The extra 1200 CFS makes a HUGE difference. Rocks we had gotten stuck on during the first trip weren’t even visible in the river anymore and we flew right over them. The drops felt bigger, the boat moved faster and the river was way splashier, and I decided I would definitely not want to be an involuntary swimmer in this river. The experience was thrilling and scary and everything I would have wanted for an adventurous Class IV.
I have also had the opportunity to run the Upper Fork Section of the Roaring Fork River, which was another great experience. I did this trip at low water, but I loved it! We floated calmly between some Class III rapids and got to check out the surrounding nature while listening to a few mildly funny jokes from our guide, Tom. This section was a lot splashier than the Slaughterhouse section was at low water, and we had the opportunity to stop, look around and catch our breath between rapids. This is a great section for those who are looking for a bit of thrill to introduce them to rafting for the first time.
The verdict is that river travel is growing on me and I cannot wait to explore more sections of rivers all over Colorado! Over the course of each trip I started to feel more comfortable with my balance and positioning in the boat and with the paddling and responding to paddling commands.
I am looking forward to an awesome season here at EME with lots of rafting and fishing! Give us a call in the office at 970-456-6287 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org