One of the more physically challenging things for a river guide to do is taking the time to load and unload the raft every day on a multi-day trip. Especially during the summer in desert southwest as the temperatures rise dramatically as soon as the sun peaks over the rim in the morning.
Securing all the equipment can take an hour or more each morning. At times I would wonder to myself if it was worth it every day to be so meticulous and “rig to flip” as we would often say.
And after over 40 years of rafting without a flip you would think I would be questioning the effort it takes even more. On the more challenging white water runs it seems obvious that it is worth the effort.
Even on the smaller rivers and streams the commitment to “rig to flip” is a wise rule to keep.
Muddy Creek in the San Rafael Swell area of central Utah is no exception.
“Muddy” is a small stream that usually doesn’t have enough water to float unless there was a better than normal snowpack in the nearby mountains and runoff is strong. Most people hike this section of Muddy Creek as it is not usually a floatable stream.
Compared to other streams in the desert southwest, Muddy can almost be considered a beginner run in many ways with just a few challenging sections that I would consider intermediate.
During a float down Muddy this last season, I “broke” the Rig to Flip rule and took my phone out of my waterproof ammo can and was taking some pictures while floating down the narrowest section of Muddy called “The Chute.”
Not paying attention to what was coming I hit a slightly submerged rock and came to an abrupt halt.
Fortunately, I didn’t fall out of my kayak and was able to quickly recover without losing my phone or anything else in my kayak. It was a very close call.
In a section not much further down that had a sharp bend in the creek and a large boulder splitting the rapid after the turn, I pulled over to watch others in my group come through.
It was a busy day on the creek with a lot of people floating the stream and a stand-up paddler came crashing down just after I pulled over and wrapped on the boulder, blocking the preferred left-side run.
Five others came through after the SUP and three out of five kayakers flipped after hitting the trapped SUP board against the boulder.
Most of them lost personal items that they hadn’t tied in, not expecting to have any issues like flipping.
I view rigging to flip like I view insurance and the importance of creating legal entities in business and investing.
You can’t go back and change things once a negative situation happens. You can only prepare for the worst, and then go about your activities with an expectation that everything will go well, with the peace of mind that you are prepared and you’re ready if something bad does happen.
In Grand Canyon, Badger Creek Rapid is the first rapid which is approximately eight miles from the starting point at Lees Ferry.
I have great respect for Badger Rapid, as an excellent reminder of the potential for both and exhilarating ride and challenge in Grand Canyon.
In 1982, our first non-commercial trip as a family, one of my brothers flipped in Badger. This rapid has a nasty hole at the top that can be a bit deceptive if you’re not looking for it in advance.
One of my cousins hit his knee on a submerged rock when he fell out of the boat and spent the rest of the trip with a very sore knee that made it difficult to hike.
On my fifth Grand Canyon trip in 2010 we had one boat flip and another boat almost flip and throw everyone out. It was like 1982 all over again only there were a lot more people in the water this time.
On the 2010 trip, Badger didn't cause any injuries luckily. We just had a lot of people cold and shaken up. But it did claim a few hats, shoes, and some other personal items because the two boats that had trouble had not “rigged to flip” when it came to their personal gear.
Just like a good insurance policy, we hope we never have to use it. But if we do, we are so glad we are prepared.
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