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My Experience Capsizing on the Ark: A Flipping Good Time

Colorado Whitewater Rafting

A Revitalizing Experience in the Arkansas River

By: Rebecca Dowd 

During one of the most epic rafting seasons, our goal was to get on the river at every possible opportunity. After running the Blue River at 1,800 CFS (just about as splashy as the Blue gets), we were ready for the next challenge.

Taking in the serene landscape before paddle into the beautiful canyon

Myself, Luke, Claire and Andrew headed down to Buena Vista to do the Browns Canyon Express trip with AVA. This includes a long stretch of class III rapids, and after you pass the take out for the Browns half-day trip you head into the 2 largest rapids of the day.


1. Getting Dialed In

After we finished the class III rapids, we were ready to push our limits in Siedel’s Suck-hole – arguable the most difficult rapid in Browns Canyon. Our guide Jozi got to know us the entire first section and as a boat we worked together to fine tuned our paddling. It was dialed in, so Jozi was willing to let us push the limits on these next two rapids.

Just after our boat entered Browns Canyon

She asked us if we wanted to take the more conservative line or go straight into Seidel’s Suck-hole, and we were stoked she trusted us enough to hit it straight on. We jumped at the chance to paddle our hearts out and fight our way through this notorious rapid.

Paddling through Zoom Flume – class III rapid towards the beginning of the canyon

2. Hitting the Biggest Wave

Jozi gave us all the information leading up to our approach. She told us we were a light boat and taking the aggressive line gave us a 50/50 chance of flipping. We were more eager than ever and craving the adrenaline.

Lining up the raft before hitting a rapid

Jozi set us up perfectly and commanded our paddling. Her voice grew louder and we dug our paddles in harder. We hit it straight on like we wanted, and as the nose of our boat shot up in the air trying to make it over the biggest wave, Jozi told us to lean-in, and we all thought we might make it over the other side.  In a split second the rapid had another idea.

3. The Flip

Siedel’s sucked us down  as we were approaching the top of the wave and our raft snapped backwards. Andrew went out first and shot under the upside-down raft and was cruising down river immediately. Luke and Jozi found themselves under the boat. Jozi battled the rapid from underneath the boat and made sure everyone made it out okay- losing a tennis shoe along the way. Luke took a deep breath and pushed himself out from under the boat to find me and Claire.

Claire and I flipped backwards off the raft and back into Seiedel’s Suck-hole where the rapid pulled us down, and flipped us around. What may have been 2 seconds was feeling like an eternity. Our PFDs did their job and helped us snap out of the rapid. Once we saw each other, we locked eyes and made sure we were going to get out of the rapid together. We grabbed on to each others PFDs, and took a second to assess our surroundings.

We kept our feet up, but the river was moving us down stream pretty quickly. The guides from the other boats told us to swim to shore, so we flipped on our belly’s and swam as hard as we could up onto the rocks. The other guides made their way over to let us know that Andrew was in another raft, and congratulate us on an epic black-flip in Siedel’s suck-hole. I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude, and as the adrenaline continued to pump through my body- I relived the flip in my head and felt humbled and re-energized at the same time. I wanted another shot at Siedel’s, but for now I was excited to take on the last rapid with our crew.

4. The Aftermath

We saw Jozi across the river flipping the boat back over, and getting ready to cross the Ark to pick us up. Once our crew was back together in the boat, we took a second to reminisce on our adventure. We each told our story, and Andrew shared that the boat he swam to got a front row seat to to our back-flip in Siedel’s. Right before we hit the rapid their guide saw we were taking the tough line and he whipped their boat around, so they could see our small boat trip to take on Siedel’s head on. He told their raft, “you all are going to want to see this,” as we took, what felt like, the adventure of a lifetime through Siedel’s.

We will never know if we looked as cool as we felt, but we sure are ready to give it another shot.

Our Crew: Luke, Rebecca, Guide – Jozi, Claire, and Andrew