The sun slowly rises over the sandstone cliffs that surround our Tepui tent. The windows are open. The air is cool, but it feels like a perfect day to be camping in the desert.
We are at the transition. The place where the mighty river turns into the placid reservoir. A place that would be submerged at high water. We’re here to see the canyons, to feel the sun on our backs, to raft an almost unknown river and bike. We’re here to do some bikerafting.
And to make Hayduke proud.
Bikerafting? Yea, it’s a thing.
The only downside to running rivers is that they only go downhill. This usually means that you have to set up a shuttle to get from the take out back to the put in. Bikerafting is essentially eliminating the shuttle part by using a bicycle to do the uphill part. You ride to the put-in with your boat strapped to your bike. Inflate your boat and strap your bike to the boat. Float the river.
Of course, one of the key components to this whole thing is the ability to strap your boat to your bike. This is made possible by a packraft. Packrafts have been around for a while but have soared in popularity the past few years. Fueled by companies such as Alpacka Rafts and Kokopelli, the trend has exploded. The boats weigh as little as 5 pounds and can be rolled up tight enough to make them easy to pack.
The combination of bikes and tiny, packable rafts makes floating the ephemeral desert rivers a possibility. Most rivers in Southern Utah are only called such because they are the only water around and would barely get a mention in wetter climes. The lightweight of packrafts and their high volume chambers allows them to float in almost no water. Mid shin is usually enough to let you float through without scraping.
The bikes make it easier to get to places that aren’t easily accessible by automobile. Put the two together and you’ve got yourself a great way to explore the far reaches of Utah’s canyon country. Places that are worth going to because people haven’t heard of them. Places that are still wild, still empty, still secret.
We make it back to camp with just enough time to pull up the chairs, pop our favorite adult beverages and watch as the sun slowly drops behind the bluffs all accompanied by the faint trickling of the river.
Photos and words by Moose.