Have you ever rafted a big river? The Flathead River washes swiftly over its rocks, carrying remnants of winter run-off and draining rainfall off the land. In places, the river seems deceptively lazy where only swirls of current hint of its power. In narrow passages, it churns and chortles with life.
Paul, an experienced Flathead kayaker, rafter, and now paddle-boarder, offered to take us downriver from camp to Columbia Falls. Of course we said yes!
|Ready or not!|
W inflated two of our three kayaks. He, Jonathan, Paul, and I carried them to the end of the road, down a sandy trail, and along the rocky shore to a little beach where we launched into the river. The current caught us … and we were off.
When you’re in the flow, travel seems easy and tranquil. Only the riverbanks, whizzing past us, confirmed our speed. We avoided the rapids on this first trip downriver. Paul also warned of another danger.
“See those trees on the sides?” he pointed to harmless-looking firs with heads or roots dropped into the water along the shoreline. “Four people have drowned this year, three of them with lifejackets on. Most drownings happen in the water swooshing under such trees.
"Two-thirds of the tree is under the surface, and as a boat is swept sideways into it by the strong current, the occupants get knocked overboard. People get trapped underwater, snagged by branches and held down by the hydraulic pressure. Avoid tree snags anywhere you see them.”
|Gravel bars in the Flathead River|
Pulling up on a gravel bar, we consumed the sweet nectarines, chocolate peanut butter cups, and milk puddings I’d packed. Nothing tastes as good as a light feast in open air! A few drops of rain splattered us but the sun came out as we pushed our boats back into the stream.
At Columbia Falls, we pulled into shore between two boats, one a raft filled with teen and twenty-something boys drinking beer.
“They obviously don’t know the etiquette of the docks.” Paul noted. “Get into shore. Get out of the boat, and move out of the way so others can pull in!”
Nope, these youngsters had no clue or maybe they just didn’t care. Paul’s wife Kathy gave us a ride home in their pickup after W deflated the kayaks.
|Floating the Flathead|
I walked to the river the next day, admiring the view. Rafters and fishermen drifted quickly along on the green-blue water. Respect for the dangers of the ride makes it a safe adventure. It’s like the rest life: if we avoid the places those with experience warn about, we’re more likely to enjoy the journey and arrive safely at our destination.
*A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 27:12
*Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love. Psalm 109:26
Paul wrote: We were afflicted in every way?—disputes without and fears within. But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us. 2 Corinthians 7:5-6
Moravian Prayer: Your steadfast love gives us victory over fear and defeat. You console us when we need your guidance and insight. Preserve us, in your love. Amen.