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ELFing The Numbers

ELFing, Extremely Low Flow paddling, is a term coined by Jim Snyder, one of kayaking’s founding fathers. ELFing extends our boating season, and here on the Arkansas it is possible to boat year round. I managed to get out at least once every month last year. There’s a dedicated group of us that get out regularly, and usually a first timer is very happily surprised by how much fun can be had at 150 CFS (cubic feet per second) on a run that saw over 4,000 CFS this past June.

Good class 3ish creeking can be had from Pine Creek all the way to Buena Vista at 200 cfs and up, but when the rio drops below 200 on the Granite gauge, we usually run the most channelized section, hence the most fluid, using the put-in on river-left at Number 4 and taking out at the “miner’s campground” below Number 7. There river is not ‘pushy’ at these flows, but the run is a series of slots and boofs and often complex moves as you follow the channel…

Boating is a spiritual pursuit for many of us, and ELFing gives us a unique opportunity to experience a new aspect of the rio. At ELF flows we are paddling in the guts of the river’s channel. Large rocks that are covered at high or even medium flows now loom overhead. Most of the rocks on the Ark are rounded by the tumbling caused by glaciers and high water, but there are some large rocks that haven’t moved perhaps since being deposited by the last glaciers 10,000 years ago. Many of these are rounded on the upstream side but have fantastic shapes on the downstream side caused by flowing water. We get to see fluid shapes and dynamics expressed in granite. Each of these flow rocks is unique and many of the shapes take on magical and mystical properties for those of us who see life through that particular lens of inspiration.

Here are some pics that Dustin took on a recent beautiful fall outing at about 200 cfs. We’ve named one of the larger flow rocks the Goose. It has a lowered head and spreading wings. Just to the left of the crux of Number 5 is a beautiful double bowl. Another, I call the Chalice.

ELFing with good friends in such a beautiful valley is truly a day well spent.


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