A Guide to River Obstructions

 By: Nomad Rick
As you probably know, most rivers do not just flow unimpeded. There are obstructions that force the water to flow out and around them. These obstructions can be rocks, sandbars, trees and just about anything that can stand up to the force of the water. When kayaking a river, obstructions are your friends.

Obstructions in a river provide you with plenty of opportunities to do things. The first thing you have to deal with is which way to go. There isn't any correct answer, but you will often see different conditions on either side of the obstruction. Sometimes, you can even hear one side is more aggressive then the other.

Obstructions, however, also provide rest opportunities. A sizeable obstruction, such as a boulder, will create a relatively calm piece of water behind it. As the water flows around the obstruction, it does not immediately whip back together on the downside. This area is known as the eddie. It represents a good resting place if you are on long rapids and getting tired. You will still have to paddle a bit, but you can take a second to gather your wits and look to see if your paddle partner is still with you.

While eddies are good places to take a break, it is important to understand the difference between an eddie and a hole. Both have to do with obstructions, but a hole is not a place to rest. A hole is exactly what it sounds like - a churning mass of water that sucks and throws things around. They are fun to play with if you are experience, but not if you think you are coming around an obstacle to a restful eddie.

The way to tell the difference between a potential eddie and hole is to look for water going OVER the obstacle. If this occurs, a hole may be waiting on the other side. The specific answer depends on how much water is going over the obstacle. The more water, the more likely you will find a hole at your destination.

Holes can be fun places to work on your skills. That being said, you should probably have a pretty well developed set before having a go at them. Holes are essentially churning, contrasting currents filled with air. This makes them unpredictable. Unpredictable can be fun and dangerous at the same time, so take care.

When you get right down to it, obstructions are pretty much what make rivers fun. Understand what to look for and you can have a blast.
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