Posted by: evanstafford | April 23, 2010

Old Man or Sickbird Spring Break Part II: Arizona Standard – Agua Fria

Austin in a Saguaro wonderland under bluebird skies: photo ES

Strong AZ sun came pouring into the living room early. While the bros were snoring, I was up checking the flows in my boxers. I kept thinking to myself  “stick to the classics, stick to the classics!” Well, the most classic run in Arizona that I’d heard of was the Aqua Fria and it appeared to be running. I woke up the team and Cody sleepily confirmed that the flow was optimal and that he would help with the shuttle if we needed it.

Randy in the first big drop, a good one into strong seam: photo Austin Woody

Run-out to the first drop: Photo ES

Boof 3 of 48: photo Austin Woody

Woody killing one: photo ES

With the shuttle help in mind we headed straight for the put-in. Cody was going to be teaching a disabled veteran how to kayak during the afternoon. As noble a cause as any kayaker can take on, and I can only imagine how good it must feel to paddle after coming home broken from the war. Luckily Cody would be free in the evening, which is when, he informed us, we would most likely be taking out. The run is only 20 minutes outside of Phoenix so it would be no problem for him to swoop us up if  need be. We found a muddy medium looking flow and decided to go for it.

In Arizona paddling circles the Aqua Fria is the standard training ground for aspiring creekers, however it has a strong reputation for benighting paddlers.  Cody and his younger brother used to just giver and ended up spending a number of nights shivering in their board shorts after even the most minor of epics. With 17 miles of fairly demanding whitewater, even one swim plus a late start could see you sleeping by the river under the star filled desert sky.

Pretty stompin hole with a tight exit, Austin had to dig to make it to out: photo ES

Randy ready to run some safety: photo ES

Nice place: photo ES

Getting hungry on the scout: photo ES

Austin givener: photo ES

...and pullin' over for a maybe little too lazy lunch: photo ES

I'm just chillin like Bob Dylan: photo ES

The Agua Fria is truly a classic, as it has a number of great rapids in the IV+ range, a few harder drops solidly in the V range, about 48 six foot boofs and breathtaking saguaro filled scenery. We put on at about 11a.m. thinking we’d be fine. Halfway through the meat of the run we took a long lunch break in the sun. About three quarters of the way through the  run we were watching a beautiful sunset develop, hoping that the take-out was around the next ridge. By the time we crossed under the I-17 bridge, actually nearing the take-out, it was pitch black and we had to paddle the last few willow infested tree dodging rapids in complete darkness.

Randal boofs 44 of 48: photo ES

Stacked pool drop = good times: photo ES

45 of 48: photo ES

Sneak version of boof 46 of 48: photo ES

48 of 48: photo ES

Somehow we lost Randy as he took out at the highway bridge, army crawled through some guys yard, then somehow convinced the same guy in front of his house to give him a ride (with his kayak!) to the take-out bridge in the middle of town where we reunited with him. Of course we couldn’t really hitch hike very easily back to the put-in in the dark and plus it was getting late and cold and we were dead tired… so we called Cody. He dutifully left our beautiful shuttle bunny and some cold margaritas waiting while he picked us up and ran our shuttle for only the smallest of rewards; he would have some one to paddle with the next day, as everything was STILL running! Part III on its way soon. Read Part I HERE.

Sun starting to go down but we needed a stretch, thinking it was getting at least close: photo ES

How much further? I don know? Me neither: photo ES



  1. […] Uncategorized « Long Clear Night, Long Bluebird Day – Poland Creek 24-48 hrs. Old Man or Sickbird Spring Break Part II: Arizona Standard – Agua Fria […]

  2. Very nice!

  3. Sounds like a sweet run! Great TR. If I go, we are camping at the put in to put on by 8am though- none of these late starts and long lunches knowing you might have to spend the night in the snow or sleet…sheesh! 🙂

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