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When Hurricane Norbert doused the Phoenix area with up to five inches of rain, I was somewhat disappointed with myself that I didn’t throw my new Fluid kayak in the truck and drive two hours to chase the water. But 6,000 cfs of street runoff in the nation’s fifth largest city didn’t seem like a whitewater paradise. When my own neighborhood flash floods, I honor the obligation and ride the wave, but this time, I decided to leave the ghetto boating to the locals.
Lucky for me, a shot at redemption was at hand. A second pulse of Norbert moisture hit southwestern Utah, sending the Virgin River to flood stage just as my friend Bill Barron pedaled his way toward Zion on his bike campaign for U.S. Congress. Bill’s platform supports a tax on carbon at its source, thus forcing industry to invest in renewables, and maybe slow the acceleration of climate change. We stopped and saw Bill at a Zion campaign event. And we rode the fruits of a wild climate.
For good paddling, the Virgin was way too high and silty and full of floating logs, but North Creek looked just about right. Fed by a famous canyon known as The Subway, North Creek tumbles toward the Virgin through a quaint desert valley lined by colorful bluffs and deep green cottonwoods. This was the section we hoped to paddle, before the water was gone. In true Southwest fashion, the 1,000 cfs we spotted on our first pass dropped to 200 cfs by the time we returned an hour later.
Once on the water, Josh and I were pleasantly surprised by the flow. It was higher than it looked, almost perfect for a first descent. Was it a first? Probably not, but until one of you southern Utah paddlers tells me otherwise, we’re claiming it! In any case, it was new to us, a new and unexpected drop lurking around every corner.