Whiterock Canyon

This weekend turned out to be another awesome weekend on the river. For some time, I'd planned to head to Glenwood Springs to take a playboating clinic from my friend and Instructor Trainer, Nick Wigston. During the off time, Mike Pogzeba and I had planned to do a river-boarding lesson from Shane Boling, my Ripboard Riverboard supplier. Mike bummed his knee on a dirt bike, Shane bummed his knee on something other than a Riverboard, and the fuel filter on my truck told me it wasn't a good time to make the 8.5hr trek to Glendwood Springs.

Luckily, Plan B was in the making. Students Josh Gerstner, Deborah DeMack and Susan Parkins were planning to paddle the Chama, County Line or some other fun and challenging local run. A few questions about Whiterock Canyon came up; length, class-rating, shuttle, etc. I've only paddled this section once, in 2006, with Scott Carpenter, at 3300cfs.  It's now running 850cfs, so I didn't have good answers to how long it would take, how difficult it may be, or if it even had enough water to paddle!

Earlier in the week, I met with the Girl Scout Camp Directors in Albuquerque, who asked me to develop a curriculum of classes, leading up to a 2-day trip on Whiterock Canyon, this time next summer. Plan B was starting to come together.....

I hinted to Josh that I may be in ABQ this weekend after all, and would consider joining up with them. Josh took the lead on organizing the Whiterock Canyon trip, and I invited a few other students, Lisa Spiller and Therese Dorwart. Therese, Susan & Lisa, more or less, live or work in the same neighborhoods, so I thought it would be a good time for them to meet, get to know each other, and plan their own trips later on.

Josh lives near the put-in for Whiterock Canyon, and coaxed his sister and co-worker into driving the shuttle for us. Buckman Road, near Camina la Tierra, is the most common access point.  Accessing at 502 Otawi Bridge is considered trespassing.  So, Mike, Lisa & Susan left their vehicles at Cochiti (Tetilla Peak Recreation Area), and I shuttled them to Josh's house, where we met up with Debora, Therese & Josh.

We put on the river at about 11:20. Deborah's Remix XP-9 and my XP-10 carried most of the gear. Lisa and Annette hauled the cooler and other important stuff in their inflatable kayak. Josh lead us thru each of the rapids, (several class II and two notable IIIs), and we reached Frijoles Canyon at about 2:20. We snacked a little along the way, but inclement weather had us pressing onward. We still had ~12 miles of flatwater to paddle through. 

The weather cleared and we made it to Cochiti by about 6:20. Afternoon winds were strong from the south, making the paddle across the lake a bit of a challenge. Bratwursts at Josh's house motivated me to paddle harder.

In all, we had an awesome day, and generally awesome weather. 850cfs is about as low as I'd consider paddling Whiterock, unless I can find reliable sources who've successfully paddled it lower. After Bandelier National Monument, the river gets wider and much shallower. Navigating through the sandbars was a bit of a challenge, but no portaging was required at that level, in a lightly loaded kayak.

Back at Josh's house, we unpacked the gear, while Josh grilled some awesome Brats. Deborah made hors d'oeuvres, and Mike and I talked about life...

I'd say Plan B worked out pretty darn well!  Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

Original crew:
Josh Gerstner
Deborah DeMack
Susan Parkins

Mike Pogzeba
Lisa Spiller & friend Annette
Therese Dorwart
Kelly Gossett


Thanks for the comment,

Thanks for the comment, Kelly.   I've heard different things about the Otawi access point since moving here a few years ago. Increasingly, and most recently, it's sounding like its a bad idea.In an ongoing effort to improve relationships with land owners, it would be helpful to get an official "ruling" either from the Otawi pueblo, BLM or New Mexico State Parks.Even if it's border-line legal, or offensive, one or two occurances could make it difficult for others in the future.Buckman isn't the most secure place either, due to it's remoteness. Having some sort of legal, agreed and limited access point at 502 would be great for everyone who enjoys this section of the river.

Alternate Access- whiterock

Actually it IS legal to launch at the Bridge IF you stay in the Highway right of way.  I don't know how wide the right of way is but for sure if you rappel off the bridge you are always on public land.  If you have a means of carrying a kayak you can take out at Frijoles canyon-  it is very easy with an inflatable kayak (& a pack frame) and it's only two miles to the visitor center.  I have done it several times & it makes the shuttle short & no flatwater paddling & wind on the lake is not a problem!  Kelly Kellstedt

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