Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A summer paddle on the Puntledge River

Getting ready for the next section on this perfect late summer day   (Darcy Wardrop photo)

It was good to have had our first stand-up river paddling  experience on the slower moving waters, big pools and easy  riffle rapids of the Salmon River before we tried the Puntledge River in Courtenay- about 40 minutes south of our hometown of Campbell River on Vancouver Island. The Puntledge, while rated easy for kayaks, rafts, canoes and is a popular summer float for inner tubes and air mattresses,  it was a little more challenging while trying to stay standing upright on the equivalent of a long ironing board- especially for us river running novices.

Although a shorter run than the section of the Salmon River that we'd done, the Puntledge was flowing much faster and had more 'technical' paddling than our previous outing.

Darcy Wardrop, running one of the more demanding sections- good balance required.   (pk photo)
The water is much deeper than it appears in the photo above. The water is so exceptionally clear that the boulders appear to be just beneath the surface when in fact they are several feet down.

Darcy W. contemplating the best line for the next section- note the leash ...

We were new enough to paddleboarding rivers in 2012 that that we both wore our leashes and only afterwards found out that this can be a real danger on a river. People have died finding that one out. The danger occurs when the tailing leash loop catches on some under or above water fixed obstruction in the river because of a capsize or simple bad luck. 
 You'd be suddenly stopped with the full force of the river current piling up against you- likely being forced underwater with only the time you can hold your breath to free yourself before it was too late. So, we are a little smarter about that one now. On the other hand, one doesn't want to lose one's board either- so perhaps a quick release leash or one with a weaker link that would break with a good yank.  Knee pads would be a good idea and helmets too, if the water had been faster or we had started further up.

We plunked in at Puntledge Park in Courtenay and then pulled out at the little marina and kayak shop on the right further down towards the ocean. It can be run from further up- just down from the Puntledge salmon hatchery at about the same grade of water, so maybe next time we'll do that.

A beautiful paddle and superb warm-water swimming  on a perfect late summer day. And it was just a short enjoyable mountain bike ride back to get my truck at the park. 
Paul Kendrick

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