Paddling the Shoshone Section of the Colorado River
A bit of history on the area, Shoshone is the name of the hydraulic power plant located along the Colorado River. Built in 1909, it has been providing power to Colorado for over 110 years! The name "Shoshone" comes from sosoni, a Shoshone word for high-growing grasses. Some neighboring tribes called the Shoshone "Grass House People," based on their traditional homes made from sosoni. The Shoshone North American Indian group occupied the territory from what is now southeastern California across central and eastern Nevada and northwestern Utah into southern Idaho and western Wyoming.
The Shoshone section starts directly downriver from the Shoshone power plant. There is a small parking lot and boat ramp paddlers can use to put-in on the river. This is a popular section for tourists to raft down the Glenwood Canyon. The Glenwood Springs area is roughly 10 miles west from the put-in, so super close. There are lots of family friendly summer activities to do in the Glenwood Springs area. It’s funny to see the looks of people when you walk up to the river just carrying your Hala Rado!
There is no warm-up for Shoshone, it throws you right in the fire; the first rapid is aptly named Baptism! The river is not super wide and can be technical, so there is little room fom error. I learned this the hard way on my first lap. After Baptism there are a couple smaller features, then you enter Pinball which has multiple rocks to avoid as you navigate the river.
Next up is The Wall, which features a big arcing S move in the river. This is the longest, most sustained rapid section on Shoshone. You start out in placid water entering at the lip of the rapid. There are basically two entry points you can take depending on your risk tolerance. Either way, once you enter the rapids there is a hard right turn followed by a big wave train; you then move slightly left and exit out of the rapid.
The river offers up fun class three sections with some eddy’s mixed in so you can catch your breath. After a break in the rapids, comes Refill then Tombstone, mostly likely named after a rock which looks like a big tombstone. There’s a quick move at the top of Refill then you can more or less shoot down river right past Tombstone. After a short break is Maneater!
The approach is a steep drop into the rapids with the Maneater wave roughly 25 meters downriver. The ideal line is slightly to the right of the main rapid but I got pushed straight at it; I was looking right at the wave, rode it down to the bottom, looked up three-four feet over my head then rode my Hala Rado down the back-end being pushed to the front of my board, amazingly staying on! I quickly got to my feet and paddled forward through the rest of the rapids before glancing back. I looked back to see how the raft in our crew was doing just in time to see the bottom of the raft as Maneater flipped it! Everyone was okay as they were able to right-side the raft quickly. I snagged a paddle and one flip-flop floating downstream.
After Maneater there is a half mile of mostly flat water to the take out where we loaded up the raft and SUPs for another lap!
Sadly, this summer the Grizzly Creek fire in Glenwood Canyon burned over 32,000 acres, including areas near the Shoshone power plant. Luckily the power plant was unharmed. PaddleXaminer got an up-close look at the area along the way to Zion National Park this fall. Some areas were spared, while others were not so lucky. It was a bit eerie to see the charred trees still standing among the darkened landscape; mother nature is resilient though and will bounce back.