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Kayaking Waterfalls: Bad Idea or Calculated Risk?

Revisiting the old taboo on waterfall hucking


 

 

Yesterday, Canoe & Kayak asked the question that's on everybody's mind: "Waterfalls: Forbidden Fruit or Calculated Risk?"

Was on everybody's mind, I should say.

Leading up to their 40th anniversary issue, the magazine reposted this piece from February, 1979, which broaches the subject of running falls with so much trepidation you can practically feel the editors quivering:

The following article is bound to be viewed as controversial at best and irresponsible or reckless at worst.

The story, by Wick Walker, gives a rough how-to on this once taboo subject, guiding the would-be waterfall runner from scouting the drop to the boat's angle of entry. Two first-person accounts serve as enticements/warnings, one of a 15-foot ledge in Pilchuck Creek, Washington, and the other of a 31-foot plunge over Illgen Falls on Baptism River in northern Minnesota.

The latter, which writer "Fearless" Fred Young scouted for seven years before attempting, is now routine enough a run to be conquered by a number of YouTube daredevils.

The current record drop is 186 feet, set by Tyler Bradt over Palouse Falls in Washington, in April 2009.

This article, meant as a quaint nod to simpler times when a magazine covering a two-story drop practically required a brown paper bag, highlights the lack of similar discussion accompanying modern waterfall jumping porn. (Admit it, you loved this and this and this, you dirty, dirty reader.)

So consider the question open: do all these sponsored, gorgeously shot films of epic drops trivialize the dangers of shorter falls? It's a complicated one, with some sad data in the "maybe" column.

via Canoe & Kayak.

 

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Pro kayaker Steve Fisher does some 3-D filming in the rivers of northern Minnesota. Courtesy Red Bull

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