We had a June 17 launch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in 2004. It was my first time to row but I had kayaked the Middle Fork several times.
At the put in, some of the more experienced rowers heard some stories about a new rapid “Cramer Rapid” located somewhere close to the Cache Bar Take out. Seems like we were advised to run Cramer on the left. I did not pay much attention. I knew that first day’s run was difficult and was worried about it.
The trip was really one of the best ever, water was about right and weather was just about perfect. Last day’s run was perfect weather. Sun and blue sky. We hit the Main and as a first time rower, I started to relax. We had several kayaks and one open boater along.
The kayaks, open boater with one of our more experienced rowers in a oversized Jack’s Plastic custom built tubes were out in front and after a while they were out of sight.
I was floating along following another experienced rower in another Aire Jag Cat just enjoying the float. My passenger and I kept looking for Cramer and finally decided we must have ran it.
We rounded a bend and saw our kayakers on the right river shore literally jumping up and down waving their arms. We got close enought to hear them yell, “go right, the big cat ran left and almost flipped”
I slowed down and watched the Aire Cat in front of me slide down the right side and disappear out of sight. This got my attention.
My passenger stood up and announced “Dave you better get ready for your best pulls ever, if we go into that center hole, we are gonna die”. She was a very experienced rower and as she locked herself down with several grab lines, I knew we were going into something big.
I set up like my friend, bow left down stream and cautiously approached the point where he went over.
Jeez, there was a chute of water roaring down beside a hole about the size of a big semi truck, lucky for me, my bud’s set up angle shot me just to the right of it, immediately past the hole I started spinning the big Aire Cat bow to the right and pulled back with all my might as we were heading directly towards a pourover rock about the size of a pick up truck. I got lucky and we rode up on the reaction wave off the big rock and got surfed left maybe 20 feet on the foam across a second huge wave and hole, I remember thinking “oh shit, we missed the big stuff now this reactionary wave is gonna flip us backwards. I think I got in a forward push stroke and our big yellow Aire Leopard cat boat gave us one heck of a ride sideways and then slid over and down the foam and into the calm water below.
My passenger looked at me and smiled a big smile of relief as I kind of slumped on the oars and took a big breath of air. We did hi fives and I thought “Thanks to the Great Spirit” as that was one big drop for me.
Thanks to the advance warnings from our yakkers, all our party made Cramer up right – no flips.
Some of our experienced Grand Canyon rowers said that Cramer that day was as good or better than a lot of drops on the Grand Canyon.
The take out was just below and we celebrated our excitement as we loaded gear. What a way to end a trip on one of the most impressive rivers in the United States.
By Dave Reid