Piedra River Wood Cutting Trip

As rafting season approaches, there’s a lot of preparation that needs to take place on the outfitter end. Guides have to prep boats after they’ve been stowed away for winter, and permits need to be finalized. There’s also some more intense preparations that have to take place on some rivers that you would have never thought of. The Piedra River runs through some of the most beautiful wilderness land in America. Running through the Weminuche Wilderness and San Juan National Forest, the Piedra winds through epic gorges and thick, untouched evergreen forest. While beautiful, this dense forest can pose a hazard for those on the river. Each new year brings newly fallen trees and logs from upriver washing down to join others in big logjams called “strainers.” Because of the remote nature of this river, there is no publicly funded maintenance to clear these hazards, like you would find on trails. That’s where Mild to Wild comes in.

As debris from the surrounding forest gets caught on rocks along the river’s bottom and banks, sometimes it fully obscures the path of the river and sometimes it continues to build up and create strainers. Strainers are bad news for anyone who happens to find themselves in the river as water will pass through but pin a swimmer against the pile of wood, and sometimes drag them below the surface. In order to ensure safety, these obstacles need to be cleared out.

Before we take guests out on the river. The Mild to Wild raft guides take a trip down the river to scout out potential hazards and deal with them. In April of 2017, a group of guides and a chain saw set out on the Piedra to cut some wood. While Spring is in full swing come April in much of the country, up at the high altitudes of the San Juan National Forest Winter is still holding on. This was apparent on this day, as light snow greeted the guides at the put in. While freezing temperatures and snow wouldn’t be the types of conditions that would make most people want to go have fun on the water, a river guide is a different breed. These guides relish the opportunity to experience the untouched wilderness at a time it is rarely seen. The tranquility of this dense alpine forest during a snowfall is an experience to be had, without any sound other than the trickling of the river and the occasional buzz of a chainsaw.

After a successful wood cutting trip out of the way, it’s only a few weeks before guests get to enjoy the Piedra. With hazards cleared, you can be sure that if you choose to experience this pristine and beautiful wilderness with safety assured!

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