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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Spokane River New Years rafting tradition continues

Rafters descend the Spokane River near Devil's Toenail Rapid with temperatures in the teens on New Years Day 2016. (Paul Delaney)
Rafters descend the Spokane River near Devil's Toenail Rapid with temperatures in the teens on New Years Day 2016. (Paul Delaney)

WATERSPORTS -- They call it "Only Fools Float on the First," an annual tradition upheld by hard-core members of the Northwest Whitewater Association and the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

For the record, there are still a few fools left.

"With the morning temperature hovering (‘er plunging) in and around the single digits it could have been easy to cancel the 2016 NWA Only Fools Float on the First Spokane River Float," said Paul Delaney.  But things started looking up on New Year's Day despite the bone-chilling cold.

"One by one floaters began to text, email and call and say they were still game to get the new boating season off on the right oar," he reported. "By the time we hit the water about 12:30 the sun warmed things up to about 16 degrees. This was MUCH better than 2011 when the mercury never made it past 5.

With the river running a pleasant 4,700 cfs, they kicked off the event with a champagne toast and finished with the traditional trip to Field House Pizza.

"Roughest part of the day was not the temps but dealing with our takeout at Plese Flats being closed to vehicle access," Delaney said. "Cat boats just do not track like skis or snowboards in 12 inches of powder so we got an unexpected workout.

Taking note of the conditions from the river to the mountains, the river runners are optimistic. Said Delaney:

"OK, we’ve done our part, so far Mother Nature is doing hers with every Pacific Northwest river basin at or above 100 percent snowpack just 10 days or so into winter. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, but so far it looks like a return to a good boating season in 2016."



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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