Finding rapids and warm weather in October

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 13-19, 1998
Ice climbing under a Big Sky
Finding rapids and warm weather in October
Glorious Glacier: short hikes for August

Finding rapids and warm weather in October
Question: Five of us are looking for an unguided class III or IV river trip that we can do over the course of three days on the water. It needs to be somewhere warm in October that still has runnable water. Where might you direct us?

Ken Ray
Bethel, Maine

Adventure Adviser: There are several rivers to choose from, depending on the amount of rafting experience you have. Obviously, the mother of all October runs is West Virginia’s class IV-V Gauley. Because the water comes from the top of Sommersville Dam which has been heated by the sun all summer long, the water is downright balmy for October, hovering near 65 degrees. Combine that with the explosive reds, oranges, and yellows of the gorge and you're in for a beautiful trip. The one drawback, however, is that the Gauley is famed for very big and technical whitewater. If you don't have extensive whitewater experience, I suggest going with an outfitter. Call Class VI River Runners at 800-252-7784).

In southeastern Utah, the LaDore section of the Green River is an ideal fall trip if river levels are high enough. The class III-IV water winds through the vermilion cliffs and lodgepole pines of Dinosaur National Monument during most of the three- to four-day float. The other great advantage to choosing this trip is that this section is easily accessible from Vernal, Utah, just a short drive from the put-in. Though they don't offer Green River trips in October, Hatch River Expeditions (435-789-8513) in Vernal, should be willing to give you the specifics on permit and put-in information, and whether the river is high enough this year to run in October. A bit closer to home, and thus a bit cooler, is the Kennebec River in Maine. You’ll definitely have to don wetsuits for this trip, but the dam-controlled Kennebec is one scenic snapshot after another with rugged mountains, forests, and lakes around every bend. Though it has a few gnarly sections, namely Magic Falls, the Kennebec is generally termed a class IV river. The only problem is that it’s only an 11-mile trip which is hard to stretch out over three days. For information on water flow, call Central Maine Power’s flow information line at 800-557-3569. New England Whitewater Center (800-766-7238) can give you information on any Maine River you care to raft. Also, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide by Bruce Lessels is a handy reference book for rafting in your neck of the woods. Call 617-523-0636.

This year, and this year only, I’ve heard that California might have some good water this fall, largely because of the hefty spring runoff. Usually, California rivers are reduced to a trickle by this time of year, but I’ve heard the Tuolumne River in particular will be going strong. ARTA River Trips (800-323-2782) in Groveland should be able to impart some invaluable advice about the Tuolumne. Finally, I suggest calling the River Travel Center (800-882-7238), a travel agency specializing in raft trips. Obviously, the travel consultants are looking to put you on a guided trip, but they are also extremely knowledgeable about which rivers are best during specific times of year.

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