Lower Dirty Devil Bikerafting Flash Tour!
This post was originally published on Doom’s blog April 12, 2011. Four Corners Guides now runs Dirty Devil Bikerafting tours, along with bikerafting on nearby Lake Powell. Want to read more Storytime with Doom tales, check out, "Foolz Tour: Aka Desert Therapy." Want to join us on a trip to this area, visit our Bikerafting Home Page or email us.
Seventeen years ago I passed over this very bridge for the first time. I was on my first bike tour, solo, green as could be, riding a 1980's Derosa that was about two cm too small for me with borrowed touring bags, a retro fit fanny pack with a shoulder strap and my bed roll attached.
I was sun burnt, thirsty, and completely hooked by my experience. This was also my first glimpse into the desolate and mysterious reaches of Southern Utah, a place that i now consider my backyard.
It's early April in Southern Colorado and it's snowing like a mother out.... My first inclination is to, think snow, as they say... But I’ve been watching the Dirty Devil River levels lately. My new packraft (with custom bike tie downs) is ready for a test run, and my ears have been sand free for way too long.
The Go Go Gadget Boat
The southern stretch of the Dirty Devil runs from Poison Springs Road, about 20 river miles to its confluence with the Colorado River (now the begging of Lake Powell). This is a rarely run river due to its normally low water levels and remote location. As this is a solo mission I’ll be parking at the take out, and riding my mountain bike with all necessary gear to be out on the water for two days and one night. It’s a 26-mile pavement climb to the beginning of Poison Springs Road, a 16-mile ride down a wash full of sand dunes and swamps.
After one little hike-a-bike at the bottom of the road I was treated to a killer view of the Dirty Devil drainage.
It took about an hour to transform from bike mode to float mode… plenty of time to nurse a cold beer and get psyched up to launch into the canyon. Once you push off here you're in it, with no way out but the planned exit, which is a day away under all the best conditions. I took my non-USCG approved PFD (a 29'r tube.... more volume right?).
I love how deceptive the light on the river is here. It looks like a big ass river, but it’s about six inches deep across this whole area. And it looks so crisp and clear, but "she's a dirty devil!” I had to get out and drag my boat for a while at the end of the day after the sun went down. This was a very cold and unhappy situation, one that I was hoping not to repeat the next morning when the temp would be just above freezing.
I knew from the moment I passed over that bridge 17 years ago that I wanted to see the rest of that canyon some day. It only took 17 years.
The muck at the take out was honestly not as bad as I'd expected. I only sank up to my knees, and kept my footwear!! Sweet. Until about 10 years ago this was all under the waters of Lake Powell, hmmmm…
- 180-130 cfs
- Day 1: 42-mile ride to the put in. 26-mile pavement climb, 16-miles of dirt road downhill, the road is VERY sandy. The ride took a solid three hours. I addled for six hours the first day.
- Day 2: paddled for four hours, hiked a slot canyon for two hours, and paddled another four or so hours, and was on the road back to Durango by 6p.m.
- Two days, one night, zero people
This would be a much more reasonable trip if done over three days and two nights, but I wanted to know if it was possible to do it in two days. It was, but it wasn't a very leisurely tour. Also I wouldn't attempt this with much less water that the average of 150 cfs that I experienced, unless of course you like dragging your boat.
I did the upper section last year in May with and average of 50 cfs, and it was great but we dragged our boats for half the distance (which is really f'in hard).
Note: I went to Alpacka HQ with a cut out pattern of my bike frame and had custom tie downs located where my top tube, chainstay and fork hit the boat. I use toe straps to crank the frame down, and small bungees to strap the wheels on top. It’s a super solid system, and a huge improvement over using bungees and the stock pack attachments locations on my old boat. (Now we use the very effective Titan or Voile straps.)