The Grand Canyon at 42,000 cfs
By Caleb George Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
GRAND CANYON – The river’s deafening roar against the marbled cliffs hammers my mind like a bad bottle of bourbon. My heart skips as the sound of the water crashes against every submerged boulder, its power scouring the rocks from the bottom of this ancient canyon.
Waves crash against the shore, their behavior more flagrant every hour. I feel cagy, watching camp disappear under the encroaching abyss now surging like ocean tide, but eventually, at 1 a.m., I crawl into my sleeping bag.
At 4 a.m., I check the boats – my eighth time. They’re dancing frantically at the end of their 20-foot bowlines, and the once-calm eddy circling under them has turned to a microburst of wood, garbage and foam.
I walk to the lower reaches of the 1,000-foot limestone rim towering over our camp and place my hand on its stony bosom. The rock vibrates beneath my palm, charged by the explosions of water upstream.
I lie back down and look to the stars, the canyon walls silhouetted above me. Weary, I try to collect my thoughts from the days prior. I remember the feeling of my boat falling out from under me, a 20-foot wave smashing my chest, the brown rapids surging with power. The world becomes dark and wet. In this moment, absorbing the chaos around me, I find peace.
High flow releases on the Colorado River
George led this high-water trip down the Grand Canyon from Nov. 18 – Dec. 7, 2012. The river level peaked at 42,000 cubic feet per second during that time – high compared to an average summer trip’s 8,000-12,000 cfs.
The high-flow release was part of a 16-year Bureau of Reclamation experimental program designed to mimic the natural flooding of the Colorado River through Glen and Grand canyons that occurred prior to the construction and operation of the Glen Canyon Dam, according to the USBR website.
The high water picks up sand stored in the river channel and re-deposits it downstream in sandbars and beaches. These sand features and associated backwater habitats can provide key fish and wildlife habitat, potentially reduce erosion of archaeological sites, restore and enhance riparian vegetation, increase the size of beaches, and enhance wilderness values along the river.
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– Eric Ladd