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White Lightning  and Animas Amazons on the Piedra River

In one of our first down river practices on the Animas Cody kept mentioning Piedra louder and louder as we charged down our comfortable town run. Piedra this weekend! It's running! You know you want to go.. Piedra! Piedra! Hearing only epic stories from others after days on the Piedra my stomach churned a little but was very excited about the thought of it.

Next thing I know, it's 5:30 am in the City Market parking lot and we're ready to roll! Being a bit more on the cautious side I ask if we have a wrap kit? Repair kit? First Aid? Between the lot of us we have enough gear to manage so I settle into the truck and we head on our way.

Representing Durango as the Animas Amazons, the newly created women'swhitewaterraft team, we are sponsored by Jacks Plastic Welding. For this training mission we used some boats Jack has sogenerouslybeen letting us borrow. We had a red Fatboy 10 ft, and a custom Jacks 13' boat we had been using for practice as a 6 person team, let's call it White Lightning. We also used Cody's personal Jacks Pack Cat that a couple of the girl's R2'd.

" A crew came down yesterday with chainsaws to cut out a lot of the strainers" one of the girl's says. Apparently this river is notorious for strainers especially in the spring when everything from the winter flushes down in the melting snow. When we are about to put in a guy stops us and says he went down yesterday and it was great! He warns that in the first rapid some boats went right and left but definitely to go right. Thankful for advice from someone who just went down we were off!

On the water and Annie, Seamus and I are in a boat and we are all amazed at the beauty of the mountain river with tall ponderosas looming and cliff walls starting to narrow in . After passing a couple of creeks the water rises throughout the morning and the mountain creek turns feels stronger at every turn.

We passed a group camped out and come to find out they are the ones taking trees out of the river. They had been on the first part of the river most of the day before and will finish the rest today. We continue on an get to the first scoutable feature where there is a big strainer across the river with a shoot to the left. The entrance looked pretty questionable with the strainer so we decided to portage.

Back on the water, we were ready for Lone Pine, the first bigger rapid, and we kept thinking it was around every corner. Wait no, this has to be it! Then before we knew it we were in it! So much fun and we were doing great! With Cody and Mia in the lead they headed right and we followed but not soon enough. A huge strainer covered the entirety of the rapid with only a small sneak far right. Back paddle!!! Too late....right into one of the branches we went deflating our little vessel. "High Side!!!!"

About ready to jump on the tree or get sucked under the massive tree we were able to push and spin off. We made it to shore in a tiny spot without taking on too much water in the tube. But WhiteLightning had about a 12" gash in the tube.Thank god Cody grabbed some Tear Aid from 4 Corners Riversports the day before. Tear Aid 101 began. Tear Aid type B is designed for PVC use only and is one of the best "emergency" peel and stick patches on the market. It'sdurable, flexible, airtight, watertight and UV resistant.Without it we would have been in big trouble.With a combination of various surgeons, sun, a towel...yes a towel, and hot pink duct tape we were able to repair our gash for the rest of the journey. And with a little pumping along the way of course, White Lightning made it down the infamousmudslidedrops and eye of the needle!

Thanks Jack for letting us use your boat as it has great maneuverability and it super light weight!!

-Kelly Bulkley

Amazons can sometimes be seen congregating along the river near Durango Colorado.

Good thing the tear did not go through the baffle too.

Hot pink dcut tape covers the Tear aid patch in White Lightning's side on the Piedra River.

See the specifications on White Lightning here

A Note from Jack:

White lightning is a custom built boat, but we do have all the patterns necessary to make it again and in multiple colors. This boat will be doing a self support Middle fork of the Salmon trip as a R2 support boat this summer.

If you are interested in the price, visit our The Custom Self Bailing Whitewater Raft Table. We keep all the designs and prices here as well as 3D viewing software for looking at the computer models.

We like using Tear Aid because it is relatively easy to remove, and a more permanent welded patch can be put in its place.

I requested this story in the interest of river safety. The Piedra is a formidable river, and stariners are the most difficult things to navigate around. The reason why they can be so dangerous is because the majority of the current can flow underneath, and this can allow a raft to wrap around the tree. I am so gratefull for the people who take on the dangerous task of clearing the river of these kind of obstructions. Cutting a tree out of the river requires skill and is extreemly dangerous in its own right. So please be carefull out there. Stay warm, and take lots of snacks.

There are many more river stories located on this page of our web site , or by clcking the paddle with the name River Running. Thanks for reading this.





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