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INTRODUCTION: Seattle Recreation and the North Cascades

Kayaking White-Water Kayaking in the North Cascades and Surrounding Areas

By Robert Rousseau, Copyright © 2008,

You haven't lived until you've jumped into white water kayaking. Now that you know, you don't have any more excuses not to try it. The North Cascades are always right over your shoulder and offer some of the nation's best white-water kayaking and draw adventure-seekers from all over.

The Skagit River in the north and the Skykomish River alongside Highway 2 are popular with kayakers, as well as the Wenatchee River descending the eastern side of the Cascades. These are just a few spots.

Whitewater Kayaking: A Beginner's Guide

Disclaimer: Whitewater kayaking can be a dangerous activity that should not be done after simply reading an article on it. Be sure to discuss this activity with a qualified expert to determine if you're ready for such an endeavor before partaking in such. Remember that lessons in advance of kayaking are strongly recommended.

What is Whitewater Kayaking?

Whitewater kayaking involves paddling a kayak on a moving body of water, typically a whitewater or moving river.

Whitewater Kayaking and Ranges of Difficulty

River rapids are graded, much like ski runs, according to difficulty. Generally these grades run from Class/ Grade II (easiest of the whitewater variety) to VI (dangerous). Rivers that run in at Class/ Grade I involve lightly moving water with ripples. Since this doesn't really constitute whitewater, it does not fall on the spectrum of grading rivers for whitewater kayaking.

Equipment Needed for Whitewater Kayaking

Here is some equipment that you will need for whitewater kayaking.

Kayak: Pretty obvious, no? Kayaks generally range from around 5 feet to 12 feet long.

Paddle: Another obvious but needed piece of equipment for would-be whitewater kayakers.

Buoyancy Aid: When we say buoyancy aid, we mean something that will keep you afloat if you end up out of the kayak and in the river. This, by the way, is not as unusual a situation as you may think.

Helmet: Protection for your head is crucial in any extreme sport. Such is the case here as well.

Spraydeck: A flexible cover for a boat that is used in whitewater to prevent water from entering the boat.

Wetsuit or drysuit: You'll need to be ready for the weather and water temperature. Check with an area expert on the proper clothing needed, as it will change depending on the time of year and river.

Other recommended equipment for whitewater kayaking may include a rope throwbag, knife, and/ or safety whistle.

Whitewater Kayaking Types

There are several different techniques that kayakers may employ. Here are some.

River Running: This refers to touring down a river while trying to enjoy the scenery along the way. River running may include short day trips or longer multi-day trips.

Creeking: This involves more difficult rapids. Generally, it includes higher gradient voyages and may therefore involve running ledges, slides and waterfalls on tight and fast rivers.

Slalom: This refers to a technical and competitive form of kayaking. So it's really not for beginners at all.

Playboating: This is for show. In all other kinds of whitewater kayaking, people are trying to move along a river in a journey format. Playboating refers to kayakers that stay in one area where they perform entertaining maneuvers.

Again, not really for beginners.

Squirtboating: The precursor to playboating. Thus, the two are similar.

Whitewater Kayaking Techniques

Below are some brief descriptions of whitewater kayaking techniques. For more detailed video demonstrations, check out Expert Village, a great resource: Creeking Stroke / Whitewater Kayak methods

Paddle Strokes: These strokes are used to guide and turn the boat in various ways. This is very similar to paddling a boat, albeit it's a little harder considering the kind of water that's being dealt with.

Rolling: This is a must for kayers as it's a safety measure. In essence, rolling refers to the ability to regain an upright position after a boat flips. Don't go whitewater kayaking without knowing how to do such a maneuver. Also note that there are a variety of different ways that this can be accomplished.

Bracing and Sculling: Bracing refers to using the paddle to keep a boat upright. As with rolling, there are many different ways to 'brace'. Sculling is a more continuous way to accomplish the same thing. It is used only infrequently in whitewater kayaking.

Boofing: This refers to the way in which a kayak's bow may be raised during a freefall or movement downward. This is used so that the bow doesn't end up submerging.

But I'm a Beginner and Don't Feel Comfortable Kayaking Yet

Good, that means you're smart. Along with this, why not consider getting lessons and/ or going with a tour guide?

First you'll need to find a qualified person in your area. To do this, you can simply pull out the ole' phone book or type in "your area" followed by whitewater kayaking lessons. From there, you'll want to compare price and qualifications. Don't be afraid to ask what makes the person you're talking about getting lessons from an expert. Along with this, ask them if they belong to an association of such professionals.

You could also go to All About Rivers to find someone that offers lessons here: Whitewater Kayak Paddling Schools

Finally, you could also utilize the same set of circumstances to find yourself a good guide to take on any whitewater kayaking excursion. Remember, this could go a long way to helping you be safe.


Wikipedia Information on Whitewater Kayaking

Wikipedia Information on Whitewater Kayaking

See also:

Robe Valley Race Video
The Robe Canyon of the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Find a Hike in the North Cascades

Primitive Camping in the North Cascades
Hikes for Children - The Boulder River Trail
Highway 20 Hiking
Mountain Loop Highway Hiking
Mt Baker Highway Hiking
Highway 2 Hiking attempts to list hiking trails as we either trek them ourselves, have them recommended by friends or other readers, or read about them through other resources, such as books, news articles, and websites.

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