Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Icebergs and mile long slides, Split Rock River, MN at Floodstage!

Ben Kinsella, coming out of the mist of Under the Log, minnesota, Chris Baer, split rock river,
Ben Kinsella, coming out of the mist of Under the Log
Paddling rivers at flood stage is dangerous! This Spring, John McConville and I tackled the Split Rock River in Northern Minnesota at a terrifying level. Not only was the flow significantly above recommended, but there were trees and giant icebergs moving down stream with us.


Normally, there is a simple spray-painted gauge on the left bridge piling at the take out. There are a few hashes and a couple letters next to them. One of the lower hashes has an S next to it and one of the upper hashes has an M next to it. The locals jokingly refer to these two levels as the Shire and Mordor levels. After completing a descent where the entire gauge was buried under frothing white water, I think a new line and new initial may be necessary.

a fun sequence of Scott White on ski jump, split rock river minnesota, chris baer
a fun sequence of Scott White on ski jump
The put in is on private property and has had a few issues over the years. After speaking to a local resident and police officer, we were allowed access to a small tributary upstream. John and I put our kayaks into the normally tiny tributary… but this day the tributary was cranking! I remember getting a good boof over a downed tree only 10 feet into the creek. From there down the water multiplied and multiplied. By the time we reached the confluence, and were actually on the Split Rock, we both looked at each other with wide eyes and gaping jaws!

As we paddled the first mile or two of "flat water" our conversation went as such… THIS IS FREAKING HUGE! We got to be careful! Did you see that HUGE ice burg! Yeah, I think that was the one that sunk the Titanic! Stay close!

Ben Kinsella realigning on Winfrey's Whimper, minnesota, split rock river, Chris Baer
Ben Kinsella realigning on Winfrey's Whimper
Arriving at the first major rapid, we had already seen tons of icebergs, lots of anchor ice, and more logs and trees then I could count. We scouted the first mile or so to the next reasonable eddy. The directions went as such, "Flow, Left, Right, Middle, LEFT! Middle, Middle, Middle, try to eddy out". Those were the directions I had in my head for more than a mile of Class 5+.

Completing the first chunk of the rapids, John and I were glowing with excitement and sharing stories of being obliterated by huge rouge waves and running lines we never thought could possibly work.

After another huge scout, we agreed the sun was setting a little faster then we were hoping. We rallied a couple more of the big rapids and kept good downstream progress.

Ben Kinsella on the first major slide, minnesota, Chris Baer, split rock river,
Ben Kinsella on the first major slide
One huge rapid after the next, we were getting picked up and flung 15 feet off line on what normally is a bounce micro-creek.

The crux rapid, "Under The Log", at 3:51 in the video, WOW! Looking back at this I have no idea why I wanted to run it. There was almost no chance of a clean line. The low angel slide plowed into a ferocious 8 foot tall hydraulic. Upon contact with the hydraulic the chaos ensued. For a few seconds my 93 gallon kayak felt as small as a squirt boat. Violently window shading into a sloppy brace, then rotating just in time to get the nose up for the final hydraulic.

Flooded rivers will always be the top end of danger, and the top end of excitement. The following morning I spoke with John, neither of us had slept well, I had found myself tossing and turning reliving the days chaos.

another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

1 comment:

Mark Mueller said...

Baer, I knew you ran the shit, but man that run was shizzle. Unreal. Good on ya!