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A Great AridnessClimate Change and the Future of the American Southwest$
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William deBuys

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199778928.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 June 2021

Lava Falls: The Blood of Oasis Civilization

Lava Falls: The Blood of Oasis Civilization

Chapter:
5 Lava Falls: The Blood of Oasis Civilization
Source:
A Great Aridness
Author(s):

William deBuys

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199778928.003.0010

Rightly or wrongly, everything challenging on a whitewater river in North America gets compared to the booming rapid that culminates, in space, time, and difficulty, a river trip through the Grand Canyon. Say “Lava” to anyone who has tasted whitewater, and the association to Lava Falls Rapid is automatic. A friend who guides trips on some of Alaska’s wildest rivers bristles when she hears the name Lava North applied to the most sphincter-tightening, life-or-death rapid on the mighty Alsek River. “It shows how Grand Canyon–centric the rafting world is,” she says. Advocates for other rivers say much the same. Still, Lava is king, and the Colorado River, for which Lava is a mere riffle in its eons of canyon carving, is the most mythic of river kingdoms. If you have a weakness for wild rivers, eventually you float the Colorado, and eventually you make your way to the Grand Canyon and to Lava. The drop at Lava Falls is thirteen feet almost immediately, followed by fourteen more in a few hundred yards. At most water levels, Lava earns a difficulty rating of ten, on a scale of ten. It confronts you at mile 179 on the 226-mile voyage from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek, an incomparable outdoor adventure. The trip has the shape of a well-crafted novel. It establishes its themes in the red-rock stillness of Marble Canyon. It tests its characters in the churning whitewater of the Inner Gorge. Then Lava comes exactly where a novelist would place the climax, about four-fifths of the way through the saga. All the way down the river, you have had Lava in the back of your mind. Everything that precedes it feels like lead-up. Everything that follows is coda, resolution, release, perhaps recovery. The crux of the tale, the defining moment, resides in the hurricane waters of Lava Falls. By the time our small flotilla got there, we’d courted disaster at Crystal, dodged the rock horns of Horn Creek Rapid, ridden the roller coaster of Granite, and thrashed and crashed our way through scores of other rapids.

Keywords:   Alsek River, Colorado River Basin, Gila River, Hoover Dam, Lees Ferry, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Owens Valley, Pariah River, Rio Conchos, Salt River

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