River Running In Inflatable Boats
There is no more exciting and more fun experience in inflatable boats than running a river. Before considering what kind of inflatable boat you want to use, you should consider what kind of river running experience. There are several variations of river running and each should be considered carefully
Floating mild rivers, camping and fishing along the way.
Here you could use a number of different kinds of inflatable boats:
- If the river is wide enough, deep enough and free of dangerous, rocks you could consider going in a transom boats. This is not exactly the most romantic experience. You are motoring on a river, not floating in serene peace, but there are advantages to transom boats. You can carry a lot in terms of people and gear. You can go fast. And last, but not least, you can get out of there fast, if you have to.
- If it is a narrower river with rocks and some white water. You probably do not want to use a inflatable sportboat, but you could use an inflatable kayak, a river raft, a motormount boat (generally without the motor) and or a pontoon fishing boat. A lot will depend on what you wish to do. If you just want to float the river and camp, a river raft or kayak might be great. If you want to fish, a motormount boat or pontoon fishing boat may be a better choice.
- If you are camping for extended periods, you should prepare what you bring very carefully. If you do not have previous camping experience, read a book on camping basics, talk to someone who done and learn more about what you are undertaking. Failure to do so can lead to some very unpleasant surprises.
Running White Water and camping and fishing along the way
All the points mentioned above, but only more so. White water introduces an element of danger and you need to be aware of all the possible conditions that can threaten your life. To do this properly, you should probably try some commercial river-running and camping, just to get a lay of the land. There are many good books on white water river running and the more you read, the better. Most important, know the river you are planning to run. Realize that rivers are living things and that the conditions on them can change dramatically with the weather and the level of water.
Bizarre events, like to opening of a dam above where you are river-running, can dramatically and suddenly change the conditions of a river. Be prepared to adapt and be aware of all the possible dangers. This is a great sport, but a simple mistake can kill you (floating into a submerged tree and getting caught and instantly submerged – it can be a real bummer, don’t do it!).
Regarding craft, river rafts and durable, well-made inflatable kayaks. pontoon boats and catarafts can all be used, but you need to be experienced with the craft and you need to know their limitations.
Running White Water for the day
on a day trip, you have all of the fun and all of the danger, but you lose the gear the clutter. This let’s you concentrate on the sport. In this case, the craft you use and your experience in the craft you use is particularly important.
Remember, as mentioned above, conditions on rivers do change, be aware of the possible dangers and be able to react. If you are running class 3 or above white water, be sure you know everything there is to know about that river and be sure your information is current. Has a part of a dam fallen into the river? Does it create a strange new hydraulic that can flip you in a nano second? Are there steel spikes pieces of metal sticking out of the river in unfortunate places?
Again, know your river and know all the precautions you should take when going down a white water river
Don’t expect to learn as you go…you may not return. Understanding these warnings and being aware of what your are undertaking, you can have an absolutely fabulous time running a white water river. Being ill-prepared can be fatal, so please be careful and learn about the dangers before you go.
Exploring Wild Rivers that have both white water and float conditions
Here you can have periods of danger interspersed with periods of supreme relaxation. Drifting by mountains through deep valleys can be a spiritual experience. Charging through class 4 white water can also be a spiritual experience. And as mentioned above, that's a spiritual experience that can kill.
Some basic terms you should know:
- Hydraulics – this is where a river has an arrangement of rocks and drops the create strong forces that can flip or capsize you. Please note, in a hydraulic there is often a strong back stream eddy which wants to pull you back into the hydraulic even if you think you have passed it by. Hint: paddle hard through a hydraulic and get by it. Make sure you don’t get sucked back into it!
- Weirs – weirs are underwater obstacles than can create circular and upstream currents that turn you around and disorient you. Often a beaver dam will create a weir with a backstream eddy. If you understand it and are familiar with you can ride upriver. If you are not, keep on trucking.
- Fallen trees – these can be very dangerous, even in mild currents, if you happen to drift into one. The tendency is to reach out to a branch for something to hold onto and often this flips you and puts you in a situation where you can be pulled into underwater branches and drowned. Avoid fallen trees and try to paddle away from them if you get pulled towards them. Understand that leaning away from a tree may cause you to flip over backwards and spill into the awaiting tree.
- Rocks and Big Drops – these are obvious dangers, but if you get to understand them they are almost always either avoidable or passable. Start paddling away from big rocks long before you are about to crash into them. Regarding big drops, try to scope them out while you still have time. If necessary, get out and got look it over before going through it. Be sure the section you are going through is “clean” (i.e. you don’t want to head into a boulder if it at the bottom of big drop (it is going to hurt).
- White Water Helmets – Wear one in class 3 or more white water – they can prevent your head from getting split open.
- Reading the river – after a while you will become used to the various kinds of water you will go through. As you do, you will come understand where it is shallow, where it not, where there are dangerous currents, where there are not. All this takes experience but if you come to learn to “read the river” many of the normal dangers will be eliminated or reduced.
- Waterfalls – Don’t go down them!
This is only a very brief and preliminary discussion of river-running and inflatable boats. There are many rewarding and exciting experiences you can have running a river in an inflatable, but you have to be aware of what you are getting into. Part of the excitement is taking some risk. This does mean not that you should just go for it without knowledge of those risks. Have fun, but know your river and know the limitations of your craft.