By Matt Vogt
Having successfully navigated the inner gorge of Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River, we pulled over at a small spit of sand above the final rapid known as “Last Chance.” What started as a mellow celebratory lunch stop under bluebird skies quickly turned to a frantic sprint to our raft as dark clouds choked out the sun. In a matter of minutes, bowling ball-sized boulders rained down on us from above as a driving rain filled the canyon with a violent haze.
Once on board we headed downstream knowing we’d be safest upon exiting the cramped Schist gorge. Coming around a corner all forward progress was blocked by a rooster tailing plume of muddy water emanating from a small drainage on canyon left. The quickening current conspired to push us right into the violent vortex.
Twice we tried to skirt the waterfall on canyon right but could not break the river-wide eddy fence created by the large standing waves pushing across canyon left to right. We tucked into a small eddy and waited.
After what seemed like hours the rains began to dissipate enough to allow for a harrowing mud-spattered passage. We exited the canyon as blue skies returned – the only remnant of what had just transpired were small trickling tendrils of water dripping delicately from the canyon rim. In this day and age, the majority of our lives are spent in climate controlled comfort. It is good once in a while to be reminded of the natural order of things.
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