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Maybe a dozen years ago, I decided that 200 cubic feet per second was the minimum water level for paddling Oak Creek. In a hard shell kayak, this still seems about right. It’s a diminutive stream for sure, but still worthwhile—more water than rock, anyway.
This season I had a revelation. Pack rafts draw less water than kayaks, they slide over rocks and logs easier, they fit into small eddies better, and if the river disappears completely, they are simple to portage. So, as I drove along Oak Creek at a winter base flow of 95 cfs, I tried to imagine myself out there, in a pack raft.
My first trip down was a total experiment. If it was turning out to be ridiculous, I’d chalk it up to research and go home. Three rapids into the run, I was having a blast! Pack rafting at 95 cfs was about the same as kayaking at 200 cfs. Low water boaters, there’s a new game in town.
It took some convincing to get McNaughton and Govi out there, but a promise of cold beer at Indian Gardens afterward worked its magic. At 200 pounds in the high performance Alpackalypse model, McNaughton needed more water. At 150 pounds in our Yak models, Govi and I were floating free. Paddlers, the Oak Creek season just got longer.