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There is a really amazing tradition in Colorado. Every New Years Day a gathering of the most passionate paddlers in the rocky mountain region converge on the Shoshone section of the Colorado River. This section has the most consistent flows of un-frozen whitewater in the state, It’s centrally located and has easy access being right off of I-70.


About December 1st emails, forum posts on different web sites and Facebook groups start the call to see who is in for the first paddle of the New Year. I’ve somehow become the head cheerleader for this day. It is something I’ve been doing for nearly 10 years and it never disappoints. It sounds crazy but it is one of my favorite days of the year. I didn’t start this tradition. I’ve heard of people meeting up nearly 5o years ago to do this same thing but in fiberglass boats with homemade gear. Ken Hoeve of Team JK has been participating for 25 years in kayaks and more recently on SUP. In fact he might be the first person to SUP Shoshone on NYD .


It’s more than just paddling. I’d say its only a third about time on the water. It is mostly about celebrating being a paddler and wanting to start the new year with your best friends doing what you love the most. This easy class III run at low winter flows is the perfect place to do it. The run is only 1.5 miles long offering some really fun rapids and a little flat water at the end. Some years like this year it’s relatively warm being near freezing or slightly above. Other years it’s in the single digits and offers a different danger than just the water alone. Ice shelves grow off every rock but it’s very unusual to have the river freeze across as it keeps moving pretty well.


In recent years the take out boat ramp has become a party of sorts. Jackson Kayak sales VP Marty Cronin and his amazing wife Sonia have been serving homemade Chili out of their custom camper sprinter van along with hot apple cider. This year the Colorado Whitewater Association joined in with serving hot chocolate. It’s pretty amazing to get out of an icy river and be greeted with hot food and drinks. Now most everyone hangs out at the take out for hours or more in puffy jackets getting stoked for the upcoming paddling season.


This year was special, two things effect how many people come to paddle, the high temperature for the day and ski conditions. This year we had a forecasted high of 38 degrees in the nearby town of Glenwood Springs and it hadn’t snowed recently. This made for a 28 degree temperature at the put in and 98+ paddlers turning out to celebrate. I was so happy to see such a huge group. I polled the crowd as we did a group picture at the put in. Over a quarter of the people were first timers.


On the water its a kaleidoscope of colorful boats and even some rafts in a monotone environment of white snow and blue water. Everyone slides into the river off the icy bank with a hoot and a splash. It’s a diverse group with the oldest person being in the mid 60’s and the youngest most likely a Kellogg family member at 7 or 8. There were more kids than ever this year. I remember not too long ago never seeing a kid. Then one year a father brought a teenaged son in a Dynamic Duo and since then kids have been a growing segment. The JK Team Kellogg Family lives in nearby Glenwood Springs and with 12 children have been a huge showing the last handful of years. Also we are seeing kids from the front range make the drive. Like Team JK Katie Fankhouser who’s parents don’t paddle and her mom Joyceline drove her 7+ hours across the state just so Katie could get on the water on New Years Day. Riley Frank is another hard charging Team JK kid from the Boulder area who managed to bum a ride last year and this year brought his parents to paddle. It made me really proud to have my wife Kathy and daughter Abby paddling with me this year too. I was even more happy to hear them both say it wasn’t near as miserable as they thought it would be and they were looking forward to next year, if it wasn’t too cold. It’s really interesting how many people go so far out of their way to come be a part of this amazing grassroots event


This just proves that kayaking is more than an activity. It’s a lifestyle, a joining force and something that improves peoples lives. Paddling transcends rivers or rapids. A kayak is a bridge between the human and natural worlds. We love sharing this experience even when it’s a better day to stay home near the fireplace.

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