The Grand Time

Tom's Journal

May 26 2007 - Day 11

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And then we were twelve. After a night of much-needed sleep under the stars, Lars and I were joined by Kathy, Ruth, Kyle, Dave, James, Lisa, Courtney, Noel, Lor, Josh for the classic and very popular run through Westwater Canyon. Westwater is at the lower end of a certain valley, at a time like this what would this valley be called? The Grand Valley.

This canyon has a special place in my heart not only for its stark and unique type of scenery, but also because my father, Joe M. Lacy, and three of his friends were the first to kayak all of its rapids in 1962.

Amazingly, they figured life jackets would impair their ability to swim, so they didn’t use any. They also used no helmets and none of them knew how to roll a kayak, meaning if they tipped over, they would be swimming (if they were lucky).

Fortunately they all made through without mishap and I got to spend another forty years with him. You can read about their trek in a book called “Whitewater Lost and Found” by Mike Milligan available at

Nowadays you must acquire a permit to float Westwater, which I had done two months ago. After the Ranger checked our equipment and my paperwork, we departed at 11 am, which is apparently becoming a standard.

Before the action begins, there are seven miles of flat water. Josh, Lor and I were in kayaks, and I was appreciative because those two are not only expert boaters but they also know this stretch much better than I do.

The rapids are in the inner gorge of the canyon where the hardest rock is found. In this instance it takes the form of Vishnu Schist, which is black and has a waxy look to it. Because of its hardness, it is much more difficult for the river’s water to erode than the sandstone at both ends of the canyon.

Once it starts, the white water action is almost continuous. The crux comes at a rapid called “Skull” because there is a large hole created by a rock shaped like a skull. Just downstream from the rock, the river makes a 90 degree turn to the left.

The current pounds into a cliff that forms the right shore and splits the river’s flow, with half going to the left and on downstream; the flow going to the right enters a gigantic debris-laden whirlpool that swirls in a large void known as “The Room of Doom”.

I always breathe a little easier after passing by the “Room” and this day was no exception. All or our crafts, three rafts and three kayaks, successfully made the run starting on the right and moving left to miss the Skull rock and the “Rock of Shock” on the right shore.

It was not yet time for high-fives as the river at this level had some more fun in store for us. The huge white waves were thrilling for those on the rafts and the swirls and boils provided me with never-ending challenges in my little kayak. Soon the white water ended as it began and we floated flat water out to the Cisco boat launch on schedule. I, for one, was relieved and once again very tired.

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Mile by Mile Photos

May 26 2007 - Day 11
Mile 313 through Mile 328

May 16 2007 - Day 1May 17 2007 - Day 2May 18 2007 - Day 3May 19 2007 - Day 4May 20 2007 - Day 5May 21 2007 - Day 6May 22 2007 - Day 7May 23 2007 - Day 8May 24 2007 - Day 9May 25 2007 - Day 10May 26 2007 - Day 11May 27, 2007 - Day 12May 28, 2007 - Day 13May 29, 2007 - Day 14May 30, 2007 - Day 15May 31, 2007 - Day 16June 1, 2007 - Day 17June 2 - 11, Day 18 - 27June 12, 2007 - Day 28June 13, 2007 - Day 29June 14, 2007 - Day 30June 15, 2007 - Day 31June 16, 2007 - Day 32June 17, 2007 - Day 33June 18, 2007 - Day 34June 19, 2007 - Day 35June 20, 2007 - Day 36June 21, 2007 - Day 37June 22, 2007 - Day 38June 23, 2007 - Day 39June 24, 2007 - Day 40June 25, 2007 - Day 41June 26, 2007 - Day 42June 27, 2007 - Day 43June 28, 2007 - Day 44June 29 2007 - Day 45June 30, 2007 - Day 46July 1 - 13, Day 47 - 58July 15, 2007 - Day 59
The last day; The river’s end