A beautiful trip anytime of the year, but especially beautiful on a clear sunny New Year's day when, other than a pair of Bald Eagles, you have the river completely to yourselves. A trip filled with stunning scenery, towering sandstone cliffs, rock outcropping and majestic pines. during the summer months this area is plagued with jets skis, duck boats, and tour boats and it is difficult to enjoy the scenery in solitude. But early mornings, late evenings and off season it is possible to paddle this section in quiet solitude.
We put in at the Upham Woods launch, turned left and paddled clockwise around Blackhawk Island and then onto the main channel towards Witches Gulch. To reach Coldwater Canyon, Witches Gulch, you must paddle upstream, but this section is between dams so there is not too much current. The cliffs and rock formations are spectacular and non stop, but this also means that there are very few flat places to get out, and although most of it is state land it is not open to the public. Unfortunately we ran into ice just 100 yards before our goal, but as is true in many adventures. the journey was more important than the destination. During the summer these side canyons are great places to explore and relax as they are too small for many of the tour boats. Turning around, the trip back is much faster because now you are going down river, so you can just sit back and enjoy the scenery. Soon you will be entering "the Narrows" so called because the river, which just upstream a mile or so is 4000 feet wide is only 50 feet wide here, so the current picks up dramatically and the water is always turbulent. There are massive cliffs on each side so waves tend to bounce back and forth off the walls so it is best to stay alert in this section. Just after the narrows you will see a sandy area on your right, this is the south end of Blackhawk Island, follow this around to the right and you will see the Upham wood launch ahead on your left. If there is a lot of boat traffic you may want to avoid the Narrows by going back the same way you came, around the North side of the island
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The water in the Narrows is always turbulent and worse so when there is a lot of boat traffic. waves bounce back and forth off the cliff walls creating weird wave patterns, best to be cautious