Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The skinny on the Pueblo Kayak park

Gazette TV writer Andy Wineke paid his first visit of the season to the Pueblo Whitewater Park Sunday and reported back:

The flows were a little under 600 -- that makes most of the holes on the shallow side, but it's a friendly level for beginners. Or, in my case, for experienced paddlers dipping their blades for the first time of the year.

I'm sad to say there hasn't been anything in the way of amenities added over the winter -- it's still change in your car and pee at the McDonald's across the bridge. There are more trees planted, but it's going to be a long and slow process before Pueblo is anywhere near as inviting as, say, the Golden whitewater park.

As for the rapids -- Number one is still my favorite. It's a biggish breaking wave. Drop in and it's stupid easy to spin all day long. Low-angle cartwheels are possible, but it's a shallow spot. No. 2 is easy and shallow at this level. Strictly spins and low-angle cartwheels here. No. 3 is about the same, with a little better hole on river left. No. 4 has a sweet wave/hole in the middle, but it's very, very hard to paddle into from the eddy. I caught it on the fly and was too tired to get back. No. 5 is a lot like 3. No. 6 about the same.

No. 7 deserves special mention. When the park opened last year, 7 was extremely sticky at almost all water levels. Dangerously sticky at high water. One paddler reported seeing some girls in an inflatable raft taking the beating of their lives in 7 at high water last spring. Even at low water -- like 600 -- you had to paddle out or swim out. If you flipped over, the hole would recirculate you all day. You'd never flush out.

Naturally, that's a bit more excitement than the fine people of Pueblo had in mind when they built a whitewater park, so early this spring, No. 7 was mellowed out by raising No. 8 a foot or two (No. 8 isn't so much a playhole as a wave train that finishes off the course).

I'm happy to report that No. 7 is now a pretty straightforward wave/hole like Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6. I think the danger is gone, although we'll have to see it at high water.

As for me, despite the long winter's rest, I can still cartwheel to my left, bungle it badly to my right, the handroll is still there and everything else still needs work. Fortunately, the season is just getting started.

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