As Boulder County was issuing flood warnings and advising people to stay home on Thursday, September 12, Fred Knapp, Forrest Noble, Dave Frank, and Korey Dausz grabbed their kayaks. Excited at the possibility of fast moving water and big rapids, the experienced kayakers and Boulder residents put in about a mile below Boulder Falls on Boulder Creek. And wouldn’t you know, they filmed it.
We caught up with a Knapp, Noble, and Dausz about the getting stuck in the “Widowmaker” (around 2 minutes 40 seconds), losing boats, paddling around debris, and of course, the video.
5280: OK, so whose idea was it?
Fred Knapp: I suppose it was Forrest’s idea. I called him the night before to paddle Black Rocks on Clear Creek and he suggested Boulder Creek because he had a meeting in the morning. I was just psyched for some September paddling, so anything sounded fine.
5280: How much higher and faster was the water than normal?
FK: The water was definitely higher than any of us had run it before. I was a little hesitant putting on up high but figured if I felt uncomfortable, I’d just take off and hitch down. Yet, when we arrived, I felt pretty good about. The more I paddled, the better I felt. Though I didn’t like all the tree branches.
5280: At any point did you think it was a bad idea?
Korey Dausz: I never thought it was a “bad” idea. When Fred disappeared around the corner where there was a low bridge, I became greatly concerned and my level of focus increased.
Forrest Noble: I never thought it was a bad idea that day. It was in the aftermath that we realized how big the flood was throughout the entire state. At the time, we just figured Boulder Creek was out of its banks and would be fun for the whole week to boat before and after work.
FK: Really it was fun until we came up on the pedestrian bridge below Fourmile. I think my fear only lasted 15 seconds when the branch I was hanging on broke. I was especially scared because I thought the bridge had collapsed and I could get pinned in trusses. Of course it was over for me after that. I got to shore very quickly.
5280: Forrest, you got stuck in the Widowmaker. Were you nervous you were going to drown?
FN: I have been stuck in the Widowmaker many, many times before and a few other holes that are just as bad or worse. [I] usually have the ability to stay calm and focused and get out of them. I wasn’t nervous, but very focused and exhausted by the ordeal. It’s pretty rare that I have to use the option to swim out of my boat.
5280: Fred and Forrest, you both lost your boats, any sign of them?
FK: I didn’t get my boat back yet, but I’m still slightly hopeful.
FN: I had two friends call me within about 30 minutes of each other to let me know they spotted my boat under the 28th Street Bridge above Gold Run. It was buried more than halfway in the mud and filled with rocks and silt—still no paddle.
5280: Does the video do the run justice?
KD: In my experience, it rarely does.
FN: It’s always cooler in person, just like a hockey game or football. You can feel the speed and the giant boulders rumble past you in your stomach. It’s also sort of nerve-wracking, being right there where the flooding is happening, since you don’t know what else is going to occur (i.e. landslides, more flooding). Big debris comes through every now and then to remind you. You kind of have to look upstream, like crossing the street, to make sure it’s clear before you pull out, so you don’t get whacked by a giant pine tree or a Wurlitzer.
—Video by Riley Frank.