It’s a rare opportunity when different segments of the population work together especially when one of the major beneficiaries is the outdoor recreation industry. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know cooperation existed. I am used to ranchers and farmers putting up barbed wire over rivers, blocking bypasses on diversion dams not to mention expensive court cases. I understand that many of these land owners make their living off the resources that flow through their property. I am not disputing that many people in the recreation industry should try to be a little more understanding. However, the understanding needs to flow both ways. Nothing is a better example of this than the arrangement that is exhibited between farmers, Idaho Power, and recreation enthusiasts.
I was planning on making a trip to the Murtaugh section of the Snake River, just to the east of Twin Falls, Idaho. After meeting with Darren the owner of Creature Craft, I found out he was planning on going up to the area the same weekend with some other Creature Craft owners. They were going to run the Milner Mile and then do the Murtaugh section of the river. The Milner Mile was a little on the rough side for my skills, at this point, with almost 1.8 miles of straight class 5 and 6 rapids. However, it would be my first time running the Murtaugh and it would be awesome if I had someone to run it with.
I was excited to meet up with other creature peeps, and I was just excited to run the Murtaugh. I wasn’t considering running the Milner Mile, until Darren called me shortly after I left my house. He suggested that I bring my backseat for the creature craft, and he would see if he could find someone else to row it, while I rode princess. It sounded like a cool idea so I turned around and headed back to get the back seat.
All the creature peeps met up at Cauldron Linn, a small waterfall/giant hole in the Snake River. Apparently several people have tried running it and everyone has died. After looking at it for a while, a plan was semi-hatched but abandoned because they didn’t have the proper equipment. We retired to camp where we inflated all of the creatures and prepared to run the Milner the next day.
The next morning, we got up and headed to the put in for the Milner Mile. Apparently this river is best to run with higher water; anything under 10k is no good. However, thanks to a special arrangement, river runners can request a special release. If there is enough water to meet irrigation needs, Idaho Power, with a one week notice, will shut down the power plant and release the extra water into the Milner section instead of diverting it through the power plant. Basically this means a little old lady somewhere is wondering why her blender won’t work (not really but it’s fun to ponder), while a bunch of guys in kayaks and creatures float down a river
Usually when one look at waves from up above or from the road, they look significantly smaller than they really are. As we walked along the scout path along the river, I noticed one thing, but it didn’t sink-in until one of the veterans pointed it out. The waves were really big. From 100 feet up on the scout trail, the waves looked really really big.
The person, who was going to row my creature was 16 year old cataraft sensation, Luke Henthorn. I had met him the year before on the North Fork of the Payette when he was only 15 and rowed it in a cataraft. I had never really talked to Luke much and didn’t know too much about him. But as we started our descent of the river, I knew that I was in good hands and wasn’t nervous at all.
The short ride was over before I knew it. The entire run taking us less than 8 minutes. Now in a car, 2 miles in 8 minutes isn’t really fast, but in a raft, you are hauling ass. We flipped twice but righted the raft quickly. However, when water is moving that fast, flipping a creature upright in 3 seconds, still means you missed a lot of water. It was an awesome experience and I hope that there is enough water next year to run it again. With that run behind us, we headed down river to the Murtaugh bridge where we would start another section of the Snake.
The Murtaugh was the section I was really excited about. I had read about it and watched videos. I knew there would be a monster rapid in the middle called Pair of Dice, and some tricky navigating on the Let’s Make a Deal rapid. This stretch would be considered really vanilla for the creature craft people, doing it in a kayak would be fun, but I was new to rowing and for me it was going to be a challenge. For this stretch, I was rowing by myself.
The first part of the river, featured several large class III rapids. Many people in Utah may consider them Class IV rapids. I had the opportunity to practice solo rowing by myself as the creature hit a few waves sideways and turned onto its side. I would like to say this was intentional but it wasn’t. I flipped a total of four times on this stretch and I really didn’t mind it. This was my first solo run in anything that could be considered challenging. It was my chance to see what would flip the creature and what wouldn’t.
The Murtaugh section was really fun with large pushy waves. I concentrated on keeping my creature pointed in the right direction. The experienced creature peeps were playing on the V waves, playing in the holes and just having a fun time. I had just become comfortable in the creature when we approached the spot that would make me nervous, Pair of Dice rapid.
The videos show most of the people portaging Pair of Dice. As a matter of fact, few people run Pair of Dice over 12k. Today it was 15,5. We were several creature crafts strong with two catarafts, and one R3 raft. One cataraft found a different way to run it, the R3 portaged and the other Cat ran the left side of Pair of Dice. I would be last.
I was nervous and I think it showed… I am positive it showed. Pair of Dice was a class V something I had never done in a Kayak or paddle-raft before. A good portion of my fear was that I still didn’t trust the set-up on the Creature Craft. I had done two class V/VI rivers before and flipped several times, but it’s always more nerve racking when you are by yourself. Darren assured me I would be fine and just to follow his path.
As I approached the big hole I lined it up perfectly so I could turn it at the last moment when I started to drop in. The biggest challenge I had had previously was Pair of Dice on the Murtaugh so I was a tad bit nervous. Once I got to the lip and looked into the chasm below, I pondered whether I should have gone into it straight instead. The drop in immediately flipped me upside down, turned me around and shot me out where I righted the boat, and then proceeded to hoot and holler, much to my own embarrassment. Once I finished the run, I let Ford run the creature, when Ford ran through Lochsa Falls, he stopped to put his horse head on and proceeded to take the easy line. Considering he could only see out of the horses nostrils it was more by accident than desire.
Sunday night once again we met up at the pavillion, where we watched videos, they held a raffle and an award was presented for the best flip of the weekend. We stayed up late, and met a lot of new people. As we walked back to camp we made an elaborate plan to return the next year.
It’s common in society to associate Madness with negative feelings and emotions. However, I can say I have been touched. I look forward to next years and the years to come with a new Memorial Day tradition.
As I began the approach to Pair of Dice, I saw Darren tip and go down sideways. I adjusted my line a little and hit the left side, which knocked me on my side before carrying me towards the center of Pair of Dice. I eventually rolled it upright, realized I was fine and immediately started hooting and hollering because I hadn’t made a big enough idiot out of myself yet.
The next major rapid was Let’s Make a Deal, a fun rapid with several stone towers in the middle of the river. Each space between each rapid is considered a door, and you are supposed to choose a door to go through. I remembered from all the beta, that the best door was door number two. After door number 2 was a long wave train with numerous holes and fun V shaped waves.
There were a couple more rapids at the end of the run, one of which earned it’s skull and bones several years before. I knew the fun was over when we passed a SUP’er who was rowing up the flat water. To date this river had become my favorite stretch. It is sad that most of the time there isn’t enough water to run, it truly is a classic.
Its location, only 3 hours from Salt Lake City makes it closer to me than the rivers in southeast Utah. As a comparison, the 13 mile stretch of the Murtaugh has almost 20 something rapids all of which are 3’s, 4’s and a 5. The 13 mile daily, outside of Moab, has only 7 or 8 and only one or two will be a 3. Why on high water years, is this stretch not more popular? Who knows. I will be watching water flows consistently for this stretch and will row it every time I can.