This Was A Dumb Idea

I mean, when we won the permit, it seemed like a really good idea.

A week before launch, the ramp at Corn Creek was still over 7 feet, and we damn near canceled. Fortunately, flows dropped fast and we caught it at a more respectable flow. Many of the rapids washed out, but some of them formed huge wave trains that made for a wild ride and crazy sticky boils that eat packrafts. Big Mallard was still covered, with two holes and a huge wave ripping off the rock. Elkhorn had enormous waves, that ended in a huge hole in the bottom – but a very easy sneak. Bailey was big, as was Split Rock, 5 Mile, and Black Creek. Chittam was intimidating as hell, with two big laterals to punch through both pushing you into the chaos. Relatively easy move in the end, but felt pretty rowdy.

Rudow and I were intent on paddling our packrafts, but we’d have support from a much bigger crew of folks rowing real rafts. By the time we hit the launch ramp, the water was just under 6 feet, and dropping fairly quick. By most standards, that’s medium-high flows. In a packraft, it felt huge.

Needless to say, we swam. A lot.

No rapid was scarier at these flows than Chittam. The beta says the run is to punch the upper right lateral as high as possible, stay just right of the wave train, and ride it out in some massive waves. From the scout, it looked pretty damn intimidating in a little 10 pound boat. Let alone in a big raft trying to punch that thing.

Rudow and I went last, and slowly watched every raft drop over the horizon line into the meat. Most of our rafts were able to get far enough right, except Lindsey in the Mini-Max. She nailed the top lateral, got surfed back to the left right into the massive waves coming off the wall. She survived the first wave, and then got ejected in the second, and the boat stayed upright.

In packrafts, it’s actually probably an easier line than it is for the big boats, as we were able to hit the line with a bit more precision in a much softer spot. From there you just skirt the eddy line and stare into the depths of the massive waves 10 feet to your left.

The Main is a damn fine river. At medium to high water, it has some of the funnest rapids I’ve run. Certainly up there on par with the Grand in terms of what the actual whitewater feels like. Combined with amazing white sandy beaches and incredible weather, I can see why it’s one of the most popular river trips in America.

With the water dropping, the famous Main Salmon beaches start to emerge.