Monday, June 29, 2009

Rafts you will not see often during Colorado Whitewater Rafting

You may come across two other types of rafts during a Colorado Whitewater Rafting expedition that are not used often called J-Rigs, Sweep boats, and Dories. 'J-rigs' are giant rafts that are very specialized passenger and gear haulers. J-rigs are constructed of huge pontoons and are often motorized. They're used by many of the commercial rafting companies in the Grand Canyon. Sweep boats are named for the two huge oars used to steer them. They're basically very large self bailers, but the oars extend out both ends of the craft, and steer the boat like rudders rather than extending out the sides to row as a normal self bailer does.

Sweep boats (or "sweeps") are commonly used by commercial outfitters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon (you'll rarely see them on other rivers). Their advantage is that they carry huge loads of camping gear and food for Colorado Whitewater Rafting expeditions that last longer than a few days.

Due to the huge displacement and surface area exposed to the current, they are the fastest non-motorized craft on the river. Their disadvantage is that they have no brakes! Trust that if you see one, the guide holding those big oars is both very courageous and very skilled!

While certainly not a raft, you may encounter wooden or fiberglass boats called Dories on the river. These craft seem to be more popular on certain rivers. While they may be more fragile, they are certainly maneuverable.

They seemingly can stop on a dime in significant current, giving their ‘driver’ time to adjust course, mid-rapid. And they are a pretty sporty ride! But on rocky rivers or later in the season at lower water levels a Dorie can be a liability.

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