A VISIT WITH JIM SWEDBERG [Continued]

Jim puts his kayak in at Lees Ferry near Marble Canyon. He takes it out at Diamond Point on the Haulapi Indian Reservation. In order to take the boats out of the river at this point he must buy a permit from the Haulapi. This makes a run of 225 miles on the Colorado of which about 20 miles is heart pumping thrilling white water. Jim has traveled this adrenalin pumping route twice, both times in the October November time frame. But at this time of year the sun is low to the horizon so he only got 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight in the bottom of the Canyon. When the river turns westward he got a little more sun during the paddling hours.

This is a chilly trip besides the lack of direct sun the water temperature, Jim estimates, is around 35 – 38 degrees. The water for the river is released from the bottom of the dam on Lake Powell which is very deep. The kayak he uses on the Colorado is an 11 foot long fiberglass/Kevlar kayak called a VAMPIRE. It is faster in the straight line and moves better in the flat water which makes up most of the run.

Jim tells of the four major white water rapids he encountered Granite, Hermit, Crystal and Lava. Since this trip takes about14 to 21 days’ kayakers have to have an equipment raft traveling with them. The equipment rafts are loaded very heavy with food and gear for this length of trip. But because these rafts can carry so much weight they dined on fresh and frozen meals through out the trip, on his trips, this raft was piloted by Wayne Failing.

There are 30 to 40 named rapids that you must pay attention to and perhaps 80 to 100 little blips that provided Jim with lots of fun play time on them, however the BIG FOUR as he called them occupied about 4 days of the trip.

Granite has big fat waves and curves slightly to the right so the water piles up against the boulders on one side and eroded them smooth as the river drops and turns. This rapid can be seen from the south rim.

Hermit is next, here the river narrows but is straight. In Hermit there are 7 or 8 waves that are 15 to 20 feet high. In this narrow white water Jim felt like he was going 70 miles per hour.

These first two rapids appear fairly straight forward when viewed from above but you set up your approach to them carefully so as to not have any difficulties. The next two are much more technically demanding and here your approach is extremely critical.

Crystal, next, has some holes and you must have the strength and ability to avoid them. Here the canyon walls are close in giving a great sense of speed. Jim thought he was doing 100 miles per hour thru here.

As you continue on down river thru many small rapids you come upon a giant lava plug in the river. This is a towering structure that was the lava column of an ancient volcano of which the mountain has eroded away. Here boaters do their best to get right up to it in order to place a kiss for luck on it, because you are certainly going to need a bit of luck at the next rapid, Lava.

Lava is by far the largest of the rapids Jim encountered on the trip and after making it thru he was thankful that it was the last. The biggest adrenalin rush was saved for last. If you survive Lava, Jim says, you have it made...

Now you are faced with a flat water paddle to the takeout at Diamond Point.

These two trips thru the Canyon must have been really exciting as you could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he told of his run thru rapids. Jim is in the planning of another trip in April of 2006.

Next our conversation turned to the Indian River and the Hudson River Gorge, one of the premier white water rafting runs in New York State. This run is very popular for raft runs with one of the many rafting companies in the area. Jim does photography for a few of the rafting companies, catching shots of the rafters coming thru the white water. Jim kayaks in the Hudson River Gorge to a point called The Narrows where he stands on shore and shots the rafts and Kayaks coming thru.


Wayne Failing Middle Earth Expeditions photo by James Swedberg

Here in The Narrows is a wave that all aim for thus giving Jim some dramatic shots.


Kayaker Frank Shaw photo by James Swedberg


Kayaker Hank Rose photo by James Swedberg


Canoeist Bill Aiken photo by James Swedberg

Jim tells me that the white water run is about 15 miles in length and very cold in the spring with water temperatures about 33 degrees. However as the season progresses thru May it warms up to about 50 and in August a very pleasant upper 60s. During the spring runs you ware a wet suit to protect you from the chilling spray but the ride is violently exhilarating. There are several miles on the Indian River until it meets the Hudson River for the run thru the Gorge. The run on the Hudson is 12 miles to the take out just above North River on Route 28. The average drop in altitude is 30 feet per mile. But in places it is much steeper, as in Gidneys Rift where the drop is 80 feet per mile and there are also many stretches on the Hudson with drops of 60 feet per mile. When the water is running high as in the spring the white water constitutes about 75% of the run. When the water is running low the white water is about 50% of the run. So all in all it is quite a downhill run.

On the Indian and Hudson rivers Jim uses a WAVESPORT 2, he double dry bags his camera a FUJI FINEPIX S2 and it rides on his lap. If Jim and his kayak should ever unexpectedly part company the cameras bag is right handy for him to bring it out with him.

During the rafting season, which starts the first Friday in April and runs thru Columbus Day in October, Jim makes this run about 4 times a week. I asked if familiarity with the run causes him to have lapses of concentration. He said that on occasion that does happen but when it occurs he usually finds himself in some small difficulty like getting turned around, but in general he is always watching and looking for waves in the river to play on.

Before Jim went digital he used to shoot film on the river and then have to make a mad dash to Warrensburg for developing and contact sheets to show the rafters so they could order the photographs they wanted. At some point he decided that was a little to hectic and he was missing some of the rafters by the time he returned, so he then started giving his sales pitch on the buses that take the rafters back to their cars. Since he had a money back guarantee, that approach worked well and left him more time for side of the road Banjo pickin. Now he has gone digital and has a monitor in the back of the car to show the images on to the prospective clients. This works exceptionally well but since it takes time for everyone to look at the images and make up their minds he finds himself short on pickin time. But us listeners and the other players are always happy when can show up.

These impromptu get-togethers usually occur on Saturday evening because everyone needs to be in the area for another run on the river on Sunday. They usually play from as soon as they get a chance until about 8:30 leaving just enough time to make to the OAK BARREL RESTURANT for their Saturday prime rib special. For most of us, it just wouldn’t be Saturday Night in Indian Lake without that Prime Rib. The Oak Barrel has a fireplace made of stones that have chunks of Garnet in them. The area surrounding North River and Indian Lake is a Garnet mining center.

Well it has been a great morning spent in a warm kitchen with good friends and coffee but it is now time for lunch. We all head for the local eatery and enjoy more of our time together before we have to part company. The next time we lay eyes on one another Jim will either be carrying his kayak down to the put in or be on the side of the road or in a parking lot strumming on the old banjo. To tell you the truth I look forward to that with great anticipation.

I hope you have enjoyed, in small part, coming along to a friends house and I hope those of you who ever thought about kayaking the Grand Canyon will get to doing it. If you are not a kayaker you should contact one of the rafting companies and take the trip down the Indian and Hudson Rivers, I sure hope you can find a day to go white water rafting.

Remember to always pay attention to the world around you, you’ll be amazed at what you start to see. We’ll be off again to somewhere soon and I hope you’ll come along.



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