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As we were paddling, we noticed many birds, ducks and were carefully scanning the cliffs for Bighorn sheep that scale the steep paths to take drinks in the river. As we progressed north approximately 2 miles, we entered Black Canyon. Sheer cliffs extending 200 feet vertically were on both sides of us.
We could see the gauger's former house and the catwalk on which he "commuted" each day to his "office". He had to precariously walk on swaying planks and carry himself across the river using a handcart. His "office" was a small hut perched about 50 ft up the wall. Many years ago, prior to 1934 and the completion of the Hoover Dam, this section of the Colorado River consisted of torrential rapids. The gauger's job was to monitor the silt and sand depths for the steamships that traveled upstream bringing supplies to Las Vegas. There are also sections of this route that still have ringbolts that were hammered into the cliff rock to slip chains into to help pull the steamships upstream by hand and animal labor. The next time you complain about your commute to work, just think about the gauger and his "commute" and how dangerous his trip was.
From the gauger's station, the club reversed direction and started paddling downstream. We took many breaks along the way on the many beaches and sandbars along the river. We talked, laughed, threw footballs and frisbees, and really came to enjoy our surroundings and each other. We were in an entirely different world from which the club members face every day. Everyone there deals with crowds, lights, traffic, and noise of Las Vegas on a daily basis. Getting away like this, even if only for 6 hours, felt to us like stepping into the Outback or the Alaska Wildernesss.
We reluctantly turned back to Willow Beach, where we reloaded the canoes on Helen's trailer and drove home with visions of the past and plans of returning soon. What a great day we had and it was so nice to forget the stress of living in a big city. We are always looking for new members to join our club (free-except small canoe rental fee).
Bring your own hat, sunglasses, water, food, snacks, water shoes or sneakers, sunscreen, and light jacket for early morning. Best times of year are Fall, Winter, and Spring. Summer temps reach 120 in Black Canyon.
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