With a proposed water pipeline in the works, 2010 might be the last year folks will be able to cruise down the Yampa River in its natural state. Roaring 72 miles through northwestern Colorado, the Yampa River is the last major free-flowing tributary in the entire Colorado River system. This Class III river, ideal for families, is in its prime in early June when the snowmelt fills the channel of Dinosaur National Monument. Butch Cassidy found these slickrock walls and layers of cavernous rock to be the perfect hideaway. 2,000-foot deep sandstone gorges create a colorful canyon maze that effectively blocks out the world. In its place, you’ll find one of the largest concentrations of endangered peregrine falcons in the States, golden eagles, and bighorn sheep. Adrift Adventures features five-day runs on the Yampa. Minimum age is 7.
A four-hour drive south of Portland or a 6-hour jaunt north of San Francisco is the remote Rogue River in southern Oregon. Cutting through dense forests of pine and scrub oak, the Rogue is definitely off-the-beaten-track, a place where writer Zane Grey could think in peace and put his pen to the paper. So it’s no surprise that the Rogue become one of the first rivers to come under federal protection when 84 miles were designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1968. On a weekend trip this summer with Rogue Wilderness Adventures, you’ll raft a 34-mile chunk of the Rogue, camping one night and spending the next night at a historic lodge. An added bonus is that the gourmet dinners are paired with some of Oregon’s best pinot noirs. Price of the 3-day guided jaunt is $899 per person.
It was 1997 when I first met Brian McCutcheon, owner of Rivers, Oceans, and Mountains, or simply ROAM. I had been hired by Men’s Journal magazine to write about the first descent of the Klinaklini River in British Columbia. It was a spectacular journey down a rip-roaring river dwarfed by snowcapped peaks and glaciers. I was accompanying Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, who came to the Northwest with his entourage to hook salmon on the fly. The fish weren’t biting but the scenery and excitement of riding the Klinaklini more than made up for the lack of salmon.
McCutcheon now offers multisport trips around the globe, including his latest and greatest, the lakes district of Argentina. But it’s his native BC that he knows best. For starters, try one of the most exciting whitewater rafting runs in North America, a weeklong jaunt down the Chilko River in southwestern BC. Take an hour seaplane flight from Vancouver to 4,000-foot high Chilko Lake where a new $10 million lodge was recently unveiled. Then let the rollercoaster ride begin. You’ll cruise 130 miles, dropping 3,000 feet through a tumultuous blur of lava gorges and narrow chutes. Looming overhead are sloping carpets of forest and jagged peaks. And, on those rare moments when you slow down, you might find yourself staring at an eagle or grizzly. BC also stands for serious Bear Country, home to 12,000-plus grizzlies.
Starting next Saturday, April 17th, you can go on a rollicking good ride on the Concord River, just north of Boston. Zoar Outdoor, known for their rafting trips down the Deerfield River in central Mass, is leading guided jaunts on the Concord for any one 14 years and older. For the price of $82, you can rip through three major class III and IV rapids—Twisted Sister, Three Beauties, and Middlesex Dam. Zoar supplies all gear. All you have to do is show up and get ready to scream.
In 1973, Richard Bangs co-founded Sobek Expeditions and almost single handedly put the sport of white water rafting on the map. Sobek was the first outfitter to descend Chile’s Bio Bio River and Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, now considered classics. In 1991, Sobek merged with Mountain Travel to form one of the premier adventure companies in the world. Now Bangs has joined forces with another renowned rafting outfitter, OARS, to guide a trip down Costa Rica’s Pacuare River. From July 10-16, join Richard and his son Walker as they raft the Pacuare, then head to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast. With its maze of waterways, Tortuguero is often called the Venice of Costa Rica. From mid-spring to late summer, four different types of turtle return to shores to lay their eggs, including the giant leatherback, which can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Cost is $1780 per person and you can book at 800-346-6277.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about renowned Boston chef Jody Adams leading a bike trip through northern Italy. Inn-to-inn biking trips lend themselves well to good food and wine. Yet, that doesn’t mean other active travelers can’t imbibe. O.A.R.S., one of the most reputable whitewater rafting outfitters in the country is teaming with Stephen Kautz, president of Ironstone Vineyards in the Sierra foothills, to present award winning wines while rafting down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Spend the day on an exhilarating blur through Class III and IV rapids, then camp on the shores of this Wild & Scenic River and get ready for a nightly wine tasting paired with gourmet fare. The six-day “Wine on the River” jaunt starts August 27th.
Western River Expeditions will celebrate its 50th year in 2011. Founded by Colorado River rafting pioneer, Jack Currey, the outfitter quickly expanded beyond the Grand Canyon to the other great rivers in the West, heading north into Utah and Idaho. Next summer, the company will unveil a new adventure for families with children as young as five. Called the Salmon River Canyons Family Magic Trip, the five-day, four-night jaunt will include a River Jester, whose sole duty is to keep the kids happy, leading nature-oriented games and activities for the kids, cooking a separate kids dinner at night, and telling stories and singing songs around the campfire. The Class II-IV rapids are mostly on the mild side, well-suited for the youngins. Trips meet and end in Lewiston, Idaho, and cost $1,435 for adults, $1,245 for children ages 5 to 15.
Two years ago, I was in Ocho Rios riding a tube down the White River under a canopy of green. Today, I’m headed back to Jamaica for a weeklong stay with the family in Negril. This trip, I'll be on the Great River, which starts in the mountains between Negril and Montego Bay. This is the lush Jamaica, the one I think of when Bob Marley sings, “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I’ll listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird as I float under a green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of the waterway like ivy climbs a wall. Irie, mon! Have a great week. I’ll be back on Monday, February 28th.
One of the original rivers in the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and a centerpiece of Idaho’s 2.2 million acre River of No Return Wilderness, the Salmon River deserves its reputation as one of the premier whitewater runs in North America. Especially the Middle Fork which boasts more than a hundred rapids in as many miles. What this means is a rip-roaring ride through narrow canyon walls, with glimpses of bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain elk on the shores and eagles and ospreys flying overhead. Once you reach land, you can hike up side canyons, soak in natural hot springs, fish to your heart’s content, or use the time to gather your thoughts and write down your notes. The Middle Fork, after all, is great fodder for a travel story. And lucky for you, you’ll be traveling with two of the finest travel writers in the business, Michael Shapiro and Tim Cahill. I had the good fortune to travel with Shapiro to Kenya last November and he made my life easy, always asking that poignant question before I had the chance. He’s also incredibly sociable without the slightest hint of pretension. Cahill is known for his uproarious romps in such books as Jaguars Ripped My Flesh and Pecked to Death by Ducks. Together, they will be teaching the craft of storytelling to aspiring writers on a five-day jaunt down the Middle Fork August 17-21. Cost is $1895 per person, including guides, food, and one finished manuscript (which you’ll hopefully sell and recoup some of that cost).
I love the pinot noirs coming out of Oregon, especially my favorite, Cristom, which I raved about in The Boston Globe. I also love whitewater rafting. So when I heard that Rogue Wilderness Adventures was offering a new trip for nature-loving wine enthusiasts, I had to spread the word. Raft 34 miles through the Wild & Scenic Rogue River corridor, then spend the nights in historic lodges where, at dinner, you’ll be treated to a pairing of some of Oregon’s finest wines with gourmet, locally inspired cuisine. The 3 days/2 nights jaunt costs $989 per person and departs on September 5th, 2011.
Sobek Expeditions, founded by Richard Bangs and John Yost in 1973, almost single handedly put the sport of whitewater rafting on the map. They were the first outfitter to descend Chile’s Bio Bio River and Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, now considered classics. In 1991, Sobek merged with Mountain Travel to form one of the premier adventure companies in the world. Yet, Bang, author of Rivergods, a collection of essays on thirteen first descents, refuses to rest on his laurels. He always seems to put together one kick-ass trip each summer and this year is no different. Joining forces with George Wendt, owner of O.A.R.S., Bangs is returning to Bosnia, which he calls the last great authentic place.
In his own words: “The Bosnia we know from images of the war—the bombed and bullet-ridden buildings, the scars from the 1,200-day siege of Sarajevo—has kept from view a Bosnia we don’t know, a place where nature has been bighearted with its gifts. The country hosts one of the two greatest tracks of primeval forests in Europe, unmatched biodiversity, daunting mountain faces yet to be climbed, deep gorges yet to be traversed, wild rivers with water so pure you can cup your hand to drink, some of the highest concentrations of wildlife, and perhaps the last highland tribes of semi-nomadic people on the continent. In many ways, Bosnia today has what the rest of the world has lost. We rafted there last summer—and what we discovered was a stitch of river stretches so unspoiled, so stunning, so exquisite and exciting, that we could not resist returning.” The date is August 25-September 1, 2011, and the price is $2990 per person. Call Carrie at 800-346-6277, ext. 4786 to reserve a space.