Wind On the River
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
Although Arizona has the most beautiful weather of all the states, we do get weather from time to time that can be hazardous and annoying for the unprepared river traveler. During the spring time, cold fronts come through and although the general weather report may look perfect at 70-80 degrees and sunny, if one peers a little deeper that cold front may be bringing 20-30 mph winds. Windy.com, and wunderground.com is a great place to forecast future weather before your trip. Go specifically to the hour by hour, or 10 day forecast. First a glimpse 5 days out and then as one gets 2 days out, the wind reports can be down to the hour. Disclaimer~Nothing is 100% accurate, always be prepared. Wind is the hardest weather animal to pinpoint exactly, so always be prepared and have a plan what to do just in case you find yourself in Heavy Winds. With a cool head, and patience wind should not be life threatening. We do cancel all day trips with wind over 20mph with a full refund FYI.
What to do if caught on the water in the wind:
#1. Always, always, always wear your life vest while on the water, wind or no wind! By wearing your life vest at all times, you are way out ahead of danger. No human should be without one on a running body of water. The Colorado river is 50 -65 degrees and life threateningly cold for great swimmers without a lifevest. People that Choose to go without a life preserver on the Colorado river are not "cool", they are downright foolish and flirting with their own life and others. No one person need die on the river, don't fool yourself thinking you will not drown because you think you are a good swimmer and decide to go without a life vest. People die every year on the Colorado River, for the simple reason No Life Vest. It is totally preventable, and tragic. Wear your life vest
#2. Check the weather report. windy.com (Marble Canyon, AZ)~wunderground.com https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/us/az/marble-canyon
#3. Good Gear and Grub X 2. When you are paddling on any body of water you should be ready for hypothermia. Bring an extra set of clothes and a dry bag just in case of a capsize for you or others you might come across that are not prepared. Besides the obvious shock of 50 degree water, when you emerge in the wind you will get colder fast rendering you helpless and a liability. If you are properly prepared you take care of yourself. If you are not prepared you are a liability to yourself and others, sucking up their resources. Be the Hero, not the Zero. Food keeps your system running strong, electrolytes keep your heart in check. Water and hydration is a part of that body balance, always bring 3L or more.
#4 Practice safe downstream travel in wind. There is a lot of traffic on the Colorado River these days. The safest place to be is near shore, if you capsize it will be a short swim if near shore. Although capsizing is rare, the #1 reason for capsize is a wake and poor orientation of a kayak to the wake. When encountering wakes, point into the wake so you go right over them. People that capsize, capsize because they are parallel to wakes. When one side of your kayak is lifted up, and if you lean away to avoid the wake, you can flip yourself over. When in doubt, paddle. Paddling keeps your weight over the boat if you get caught broadside accidentally. If you want to avoid any chance of capsizing, get an inflatable, they do not capsize.
#5 Patience, Planning and a Level Head. If you have properly prepared for the above 4 things and still a Monsoon storm rolls in and you find yourself in the crosshairs of a monster? Pull over on shore. It is safe on a beach on shore. Pull out your rain gear and Sit back and enjoy the energy. You are in no danger on shore, yes the wind will howl, and the rain can pelt you but rain events are usually short, and wind will die down and you can get back out there. Panic is not a helpful emotion, don't exercise it, calm your anxiety and asses the situation. Assess yourself, am I really in danger? or just inconvenienced? Sit back and relax on shore, notice the ions of Sahara like sand dunes that have collected and compressed to make such grand walls. Rejoice in the bacteria that has captured the iron and manganese to bring such a brilliant patina for you this day. Breathe deep and smile you are alive! When the energy comes down again as it will, you can get back on the water and make some miles. Repeat this calm, cool, collected approach as many times as the conditions require until you arrive back at Lee's Ferry.
If you have a true medical emergency on the river, such as a seizure, heart attack, etc. Call 911. Never call 911 unless it is a true emergency. If your phone does not work, wave two hands overhead to a passing boat. This is the international sign of distress, most people will stop and help if they can.