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By Justin Owen

Christmas gifts are definitely arriving early in the southeast this year, especially if one of your wishes was torrential rainfall! Since arrived back at Rock Island there had been no major water to speak of. The releases were short and usually started at daybreak or before. Getting up at 4:30 each morning to catch 2 hour releases sure made me wish for at least some water to extend generation schedules. This week I definitely got more than I could have asked for.

The front we had been waiting for finally moved in, and by the next morning nearly three inches of rain left us wondering what would actually be low enough to run. As usual, I headed to Rock Island to start my day while levels stabilized. Upon arriving I found two of my favorite people there (Clay and Stephen Wright) to be equally as stoked about the recent rain. As always Clay was on the horn to every region remotely close checking up on gauges. Fortunately for me, one of his favorite runs was at a beefy 35 inches but expected to fall by afternoon… The Bear. Thoughts of getting on this run at high water for the first time was enough to make the butterflies start flapping, but I was so excited that I hardly noticed. The decision was made that they were heading south and I somehow convinced them to let me tag along (which wasn’t very hard). We were supposed to meet up with Peter Benedict (from Colorodo Rocky Mountain School or CRMS), EJ, Dane, and Nick. Due to a Garmin error, we were forced to put on before the last three made it to the putin.

Upon arrival the gauge had dropped to around 17 inches, and from the beginning I found myself with a confidence inspiring crew. It was a good thing because this creek has some big drops. Fishbowl, Stairway to Heaven, and others made for one of the most memorable days of my life. It goes back to the equation we all know: great people + great water = an unbelievable time… and that is exactly how it went down. Wood issues slowed us down a little bit, and encouraged a jump portage of "Big Bang" but did not put a damper on the experience. As we lost light we were forced to walk the last little bit of runout, where we ran into the rest of our group, and were able to recollect on this awesome day together.
Also, A big thanks to Stephen Wright for taking the time to shoot these amazing pics, not only a world class boater but an excellent photographer as well!

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