Winter 2008 showered record amounts of snowfall on a number of the western mountain states, and at the time, it was a boon for the ski industry which had seen little snowfall the year before. But as seasons turned, and the warmer months of summer arrived, that snow began to melt, and feed into the rivers, creating some of the best whitewater conditions in some time as well. Now, rafting and kayaking services are experiencing a boom of their own, with reports on the Salmon and Tuolumne rivers as well as the Rio Grande and the Kern having swelled well beyond their typical levels.
I personally experienced this epic whitewater first hand while in Montana for Primal Quest. A week before the race we were concerned about the very large amounts of snow that were still in the mountains, but a warm front moved in, and began to melt that snow, turning our planned kayaking and riverboarding sections into challenging Class IV+ nightmares. Teams were navigating the Gallatin River in rubber duckies and on riverboards when things got a bit hairy, forcing us to shut down those sections early and cancel the paddling sections on the Yellowstone River the next day as well.
Once things calmed down a bit though, the water looked great. There were a lot of nice places to get in some whitewater running, and there were certainly plenty of people taking advantage of the situation. If you’re heading to Montana, or any of the other western states, now might be an excellent time to take that rafting trip you’ve always wanted.
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