Arkansas River Guide, by Thomas G. Rampton
[amazon-product]0963479911[/amazon-product]Review by Ed Quillen
Outdoor recreation – August 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine
Arkansas River Guide – Granite to Cañon City, Colorado
by Thomas G. Rampton
Published in 1996 by Blacktail Enterprises
What? Another guidebook to the world’s most popular stretch of whitewater, the upper Arkansas River?
Well, yes. And it’s probably necessary, since the last detailed guide, Frank Staub’s The Upper Arkansas River: Rapids, History & Nature, Mile by Mile, appeared in 1988, almost a decade ago.
A lot can change in eight years, especially river access. Of Stone Bridge just below Brown’s Canyon, Staub wrote, “At levels above 4,500 cfs there isn’t enough room to float beneath it. But be aware that because of the ill will of the landowners you’ll be breaking the law if you portage to save your life. Taking out at Stone Bridge will also make you a trespasser.”
Rampton writes that “Established by AHRA in 1995, this area provides needed access to this part of the river. There’s a one-way loop, lots of room for loading below, and for parking above. The stone bridge itself, built in 1908, is just upstream. At very high water, you can’t float under it, but a portage route is on the right.”
So, in a sense, this is an update of Staub’s work, but it covers less. Rampton offers little in the way of general history, flora, or wildlife, since “there are plenty of field guides available.”
Rampton does explain the river corridor’s geology, but mostly he focuses on the river channel — access points and rough water, with reasonable but not over-detailed guidance for the river-runner in raft or kayak.
As he points out, water levels make a world of difference, as do the skill and experience of the rower. And so, the guidance often goes like this, for Badger Creek Rapid: “A large rock came down the creek during a flash flood over a decade ago and is now in the middle of the rapid. It isn’t hard to miss, but best you get the job done. Left is better. Usually a lot better, depending on water level. At low water, once you miss the big rock you have to decide which of several channels you want to take. At really low water, you may not have much choice….”
Rampton organizes the book geographically, working down the river in sections from Granite and the Numbers to Cañon City and the Royal Gorge. He notes both highway miles (useful in emergencies) and river miles (His zero is the Granite bridge, whereas Staub’s is the Pan-Ark Lodge bridge, 6.4 miles upstream.)
At the rear is a geologic history to augment the rock lore in the text. Then there are maps, marked every half mile and noting access points and rapids.
Arkansas River Guide is of a convenient size to serve as a travel companion, and even though it’s not on water-proof paper, it’s on slick stock that will stand some wear, if not a dunking. The photos are generally well done, and serve well to illustrate the text.
My complaints are minor — some sporadic proofreading problems, and the phrase “Collegiate Range” when it’s properly “Collegiate Peaks” that are in the Sawatch Range.
Rampton writes with experience and authority, along with sufficient humility to respect the river’s willful ways and the advice of those more familiar with some river segments. That makes it fairly good reading even if, like me, you prefer to let commercial guides make the decisions on the river.
And he plans to keep it up-to-date on the Internet. Check out his site at http://rmii.com/~tgr .
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