As I stood and poured the water out of my kayak, watching the river careen around a blind corner downstream, I felt alone and scared. My buddy had been in the lead and didn’t see me get sucked back into the hydraulic where the pounding water imploded my skirt, filling the boat with water.
I didn’t really want to get back in; my hands were shaking, but I knew he was waiting anxiously below and I launched off the rock and entered the maelstrom again. Waves broke over my head and I had to gasp for air; all I could do was react; time and again boulders seemed to emerge from the depths directly in my path. When we reached the bottom, I grasped a thorny branch sticking out from the bank and held on, out of breath. My partner let out a triumphant whoop. Somehow he had enjoyed himself; was he insane? I reassured myself that I would never have to endure that again, because no-one could ever pay me enough.
Strangely enough, I did return, and now the Ogden River is all I daydream about on hot summer days. It still gets my heart thumping, but the fear is gone, replaced by awe at the beauty of the canyon and the exhilaration of accelerating with the green water into the froth of the next rapid.
In and around Ogden there are sections of river for every skill level. If you’re just beginning, you’ll want to take some classes first and be able to roll your kayak in a pool before you attempt all but the easiest rivers. Find someone more experienced to go with you, and give one of the following sections of river a try.
Weber River – Henefer to Taggart – Class II
A very popular beginners run just thirty minutes up Weber Canyon that flows almost year round. It starts off in farmland but you’ll quickly enter the infamous ‘Rock Garden,’ known for wrapping rafts and canoes. Many a beginner has taken a harrowing swim here after bashing sideways into a boulder. After the Rock Garden, there are a few widely spaced pool/drop rapids with interspersed with flat water then river goes under the freeway where there are dozens of cement bridge abutments waiting like ghosts in the half light just dying to eat your kayak for lunch.
In the past several years, Ogden and Riverdale both constructed custom man-made rapids on the Weber River. Many kayakers simply spend the day at one of those kayak parks playing in the water features, but you can enjoy both kayak parks and run a stretch of scenic river in one day by putting in at the Riverdale Wave and floating a few miles downstream to the Ogden Kayak Park. This section offers a unique mix of urban scenery and quiet stretches of natural river that takes you back in time as you float behind historic Fort Buenaventura. Watch out though, this seemingly quiet section of water is full of low hanging branches and downed trees that have caused many near-death experiences.
Ogden River – Rainbow Gardens to Washington Blvd or Pineview Dam to the Indian Trailhead– Class III.
Once you’re beginning to feel confident with your kayaking abilities on class II water and you’re wondering how to step things up a notch, the Ogden River has two sections perfectly suited for that task. If you put in at Pineview Resevoir you’ll wind down the canyon and experience a few serious class III rapids hemmed in by the tight banks. Or, you can put in at Rainbow Gardens at the mouth of Ogden Canyon and float a couple miles downstream along the bike trail where there are some great class III rapids. This river usually runs in the middle of the summer after the reservoir fills but for the rest of the year is just a trickle.
Ogden River – Ogden Narrows – Class IV
For experienced kayakers, Ogden is lucky to have class IV water flowing right into town. Put in a mile up Ogden Canyon at the Indian Trailhead, float under a green bridge, and then all hell will break loose. Poison Ivy has a long turbulent lead-in and a river-wide ledge-hole followed by a continuous stretch of boogie water that tries to push you into ‘The Demon’, a large mid-river boulder. After that things quiet down and you can enjoy the scenic waterfall as you float out of the Canyon.
Weber River – Scrambled Eggs Bend – Class IV
The next major canyon to the south of Ogden Canyon contains the Weber River. A couple of miles up the canyon, the river leaves the road and sweeps around a hairpin turn with cliffs on both sides of the river. This is affectionately known as ‘Scrambled Eggs’ bend, or ‘The Eggs’. During spring runoff, this section of river really starts cranking. The river screams into the bend through a long boulder garden then takes a short breather before pounding down three river-wide ledges. A brutal beat-down in this section of river is possible, so scout thoroughly.
You’d think that when the best snow on earth melts we’d have the best whitewater on earth. Well, not quite, but Ogden is more fortunate than most cities to have such great kayaking so close to town. You can almost forget that this is the second driest state in the country. During the winter though, enjoy the snow, and don’t forget to come down to the Marshall White Center for a rousing game of kayak polo or some roll practice in the comfort of a heated pool.
If you’re the type who would prefer to play on non-moving water, nothing beats a leisurely paddle on one of Ogden’s nearby reservoirs; it is an experience you’ll remember for a long time. If you don’t own a kayak you can rent a kayak from the Weber State University Wilderness Recreation Center or from Canyon Sports in Riverdale. Be sure to get a life jacket, or personal flotation device, as well.
Just a few miles up Ogden Canyon is Pineview Reservoir. To avoid the motorboats you’ll want to hit the lake early on a weekday morning during the summer months or plan your excursion during the off-peak months like October, November, March, and April. A good spot to put on the water is Windsurfer Beach on the west side since there is a free parking area and beach there. From there, you can take a short paddle southwest along the shore toward the spillway where things are quiet, or you can opt for a longer trip north along the west side of the reservoir or maybe even a full circumnavigation of the lake if you want to make a day of it.
If you continue east past Pineview Reservoir you’ll come to Causey Reservoir. It is a beautiful lake with cliff walls and secluded canyons. Motorized boats are not allowed on Causey Reservoir so it might make for a more peaceful trip. Late in the summer, the water level of the lake drops and it can be tricky to get your boat to the water so plan your outing in the summer or spring. You can carry your boat down the embankment at the South side of the lake or scramble it down the rocks near the spillway. Explore the ‘fingers’ of the lake and take a lunch to eat on a secluded shore.
Nathan Packham moved to Ogden in 2002 from Denver, Colorado. He is co-founder of EddyFlower.com and has served on the Ogden High Adventure Paddlesport Committee and the Utah Whitewater Club Board of Directors.