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Showing posts from November, 2012

Going to Extremes

Leavenworth, Washington

I first set foot on an inflatable raft in the '70s.  It was a product of military surplus, but designed specifically for white water rafting.  The bow was upturned to deflect and plow through waves, the fabric was neoprene reinforced by fabric and there were multiple chambers.  Built by Rubber Crafters in West Virginia, it was one of the best river running crafts being manufactured.

Forty years later, we have inflatable rafts that are lighter and even more durable, self-bailing floors, urethane coating embedded with abrasive substances for better grip, foot cups, rafts that have uplifted kicks in the bow and the stern - basically - all sorts of technological and design advances.  Catarafts, 'Creature' crafts and smaller, more maneuverable rafts are exploring and challenging white water rapids, and stretches of river, unimaginable twenty years ago.  What's "possible" is getting extended every season.

Life jackets are better …

History of Orion River Rafting - Part 9

Leavenworth, Washington

It was the beginning of a new decade. Michael, Paul and I were in our mid-twenties, essentially penniless, living hand-to-mouth. Each of us lived with our girlfriends in their rented houses or apartments. Michael's wife-to-be, Rosie, was somehow cajoled into allowing her second story two-bedroom apartment near Green Lake to become Orion's original Seattle headquarters.

At the time, I paid no attention to the Business section of the paper, but I was aware that America was suffering an economic malaise, or a hangover, from the oil shocks of the '70s. There was a question whether Americans would fork out perfectly good money for unnecessary luxuries like raft trips. Traffic was so light, it was possible to circumnavigate greater metropolitan Seattle in less than a half hour.

I distinctly remember the owner of Zig Zag River Runners, Jim Fielder, a quotable character with a mop of hair and a brushy beard, a six foot four philosopher lothario, state that …

Spring is the Best Time to Raft the Deschutes

The season on the Deschutes River in north central Oregon is year-round due to dams that lie upstream from the prime overnight stretch that Orion River Rafting utilizes for its multi-day river trips.  Unlike free-flowing and more notorious rivers around the West, the dam-managed Deschutes rarely fluctuates more than a foot or so in height throughout the year.  Consequently, while many rivers in the western United States may be overflowing their banks in May, the Deschutes River is, more likely than not, flowing higher from the spring melt, but in no danger of flooding.

May and June are prime months for river rafting the Deschutes because the weather in eastern Oregon (east of the mountain ranges) is drier and warmer than the maritime coast to the west.  Even so, the river is running higher than it will at any other time of the year, providing the maximum amount of excitement and adventure out of the numerous Class II+ to Class III+ white water rapids sprinkled throughout t…