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Leon Werdinger Flies With His S-Cat

Outdoor photographer and river guide Leon Werdinger sent us these shots of his S-cat from a commercial shoot he did for Cascade Designs. Cascade Designs is a premier manufacturer of outdoor equipment including dry bags. And if you want to test a dry bag’s performance, the S-cat’s wet ride is the perfect test boat!

Leon hired a Super Cub to fly a paddling buddy, day gear, photo equipment and 2 S-cats to a remote put-in on “some river in Northeastern Oregon”. They spent ten hours paddling and setting up product shots amidst this superb backdrop of lush mountains and fast moving water.

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Kevin Jury on the Gunnison

In the Spring of ’02, we paddled the Gunnison Gorge with a group of paddlers from the Midwest and Colorado. The most challenging part of running Gunny Gorge is carrying the boats down the 1.1 mile Chukar Trail to the river. We started by placing two deflated boats on a boat cart. (see the photo of TK and Larry Rice.) That worked great on the flat sections at the begining of the trail. As the trail narrowed and steapened, the cart seemed to flip every time we rolled over a pebble. In the end, we ditched the cart and carried the boats down, one at a time, using the paddles as handles.

A majority of the Gunnison River consists of flat water sections slicing through the steep, rocky canyon. The flat water sections were always welcome after navigating tricky rapids.

The paddling photos are of: TK and Larry Rice carting 2 SOARs down the Chukar Trail, Abby Hernandez and me picking our way down one of the many technical rapids in the Gorge, and Bob Donner looking downstream as Larry Heinz performs a quick draw stroke.

Kevin Jury, Wheaton IL

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Cerutti in the Yukon

We were introduced to the wonderful SOAR canoes in 1999 when we met Frank James on the Noatak River in the Brooks Range, Alaska. The next year he lent us his SOAR 16 to paddle on Beaver Creek, north of Fairbanks. In 2001, we purchased our first SOAR and travelled down the Alatna River in the Brooks Range : We dragged our SOAR over (and into) rocks as water level was really low at the start and we where amazed with the strength of these boats. We were also glad to have a canoe that floats on both sides as we managed to capsize. Believe us, it requires great skill to flip a SOAR as these canoes are really stable and hard to tip over!! 😉 In 2002, we became outfitters and moved from Europe to Faro, Yukon, a little village well situated along the Pelly River, not too far from the South Macmillian River and the Ross River, not to mention the mighty Yukon River. From this place of endless beauty, we offer guided tours and rentals of both SOAR and traditional hard shell canoes. If you enjoy both hiking and canoeing, Faro is the place : the Dena Cho trail is a 3 -4 day hike (40-50 miles) from Faro to Ross River offering exceptional scenery and breathtaking views. Then you can return to Faro by canoe (SOAR or hard shell) on the Pelly River in 2 – 3 days. We have a cozy and comfy bed and breakfast in Faro, and for those seeking true solitude we offer a wilderness cabin for rent that is 200 kms from the closest town. Please come for a visit in this wilderness paradise. Thanks for a great boat! Michel Cerutti & Yasmine Djabri.

Web Address:

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Brett Prentice Down Under

G’day Larry

I’m sending you some shots taken on the Tully River, which is dam controlled, so it’s Class 3-4 depending on the power stations output. During the monsoon when one particular undammed creek upstream receives a big downpour, it’s all class 5-6 and way too crazy for commercial rafting. I’ve worked on the river for 9 years as a videographer, and in that time, I’ve seen some amazing things. We had a great day paddling the SOARcat through the many chutes and falls of the river. Even during the calm sections, you can see how beautful it is. The Tully is full of amazing tropical wildlife and giant trees. Enjoy the shots

Brett Prentice, Western Thailand (he won’t say where!)
(formerly of Highton, Victoria Austalai

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Tim Andera Dives in Japan

I am a Marine stationed in Okinawa Japan. I bought a S16 from you several years ago. I have been very busy for some time and haven’t gotten a chance to e-mail you. I wanted to let you know that we really enjoy it. My twin sons and I dive and snorkel off the S16 any chance we get. There’s a great reef just off of Okinawa. The SOAR 16 works very well, and is very stable. We have had it unintentionally in some very large waves coming back over the reef at night. I am finally sending you some photos of the motor mount I made. I made a frame work that sits in the bottom along the floor and tube junction and then some brackets for the motor, a 3.3 hp Mercury. Thanks a lot.
Tim Andera, USMC, Okinawa Japan

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Peter Goetz on The Testa River

The Tetsa River is a fun day trip and play spot located an hour north of Fort Nelson on the Alaska Highway in northeast British Columbia. It’s a great class II / III section for practicing skills and learning what SOARs can do.

Peter Goetz, British Columbia Parks

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Michael Hent’z 400 Mile Klamath Journey


This spring of 2002, I endeavored to travel the true length of the great Klamath River. The idea is easy, although few might attempt it, no-one had within historical knowledge. The River is embattled and in bitter dispute, conflicting philosophies and activities continue, whatever the case, our “western” actions have truly threatened the very fabric of its fertility. The previous year (2001) had seen great political and cultural turmoil, a recision of certain water rights to upper basin irrigated agriculturalists, in purported favor of a few relatively unknown and elusive aquatic fish species, apparently catalyzed the debate. Tribulation and conflict followed, covered in remarkable fashion by the mainstream media; instantaneously the remote and valuable Klamath River became a matter of public debate, a decision to be decided particularly by those who probably had the least direct knowledge of the nature of this waterway.

I endeavored this journey to document the condition of the river corridor, this attempt was two fold in conception: 1) To document the natural systems of this river artery and 2) to document those alterations and impairments which affect the functioning and natural systems of the river system.

This was not my first effort within the Klamath, I feel I can state a certain dedication to the region, it is this personal history which precipitated this effort. A feeling of obligation had set in, through personally & professional directed exposure to the grandeur of the Mountains, and its drainage’s, over the last decade and some.

This respect I have gained, has become deepened by a growing appreciation & gratitude for the native inhabitants of the watershed. As a group they were a settled people, who had deep abiding allegiance to the region, which in turn, spawned the very culture, which to a great extent, have been suppressed into vanishment and desperation.

As it unfortunately happened, the following fall of my spring navigation, there occurred in the lower Klamath corridor a spiritually and biologically catastrophic event… The loss of life of a great migration of adult returning salmonids. The number is gruesome, it cheapens the loss of life to number it.

If for every minute of everyday you lamented the loss of life a single salmon, it would require a penitence of nearly a full lunar cycle… But penitence alone will not solve the tangible and philosophical roots of this injudicious alteration and mismanagement of the regions natural legacy.

So it was that this spring I endeavored to plan the trip down the river; a 400 mile venture is however not easily accomplished, and requires a certain level of planning to accomplish. One of the most important aspects required in order to bring this idea into reality became the availability of a craft which would successfully aid in my attempt. No simple boat however would suffice, and without a sufficient craft, this journey was without hope. As limited funds are seemingly a prerequisite of many a high integrity voyage, I set out to find both the craft, and the manufacturer who would sponsor such an outlandish mission. SOAR (somewhere on a river), it now turns out, was the correct and most beneficent sponsor of this excursion to solicit. SOAR whole heartedly engaged my visionary spirit, supplying both craft and many implements, which were essential in facilitating my journey down the length of maybe the last great river of the western U.S..

It may be mentioned that only two great rivers transgress the Cascades of the Western United States, these are the Columbia and the Klamath. The Columbia was first traveled by the Lewis and Clark party, as part of their investigation of the routes to the pacific ocean, under President Jefferson (potentially anticipating the Louisiana Purchase), they hoped a waterway would lead them from east of the rockies to the pacific, such a route could not be found, such a river had no real existence… They were working in part based upon cultural mythology. Were it not for the assistance of Native Americans of diverse tribes, there attempt would be lost to archeological record, and attested a failure. If by chance along my path to the ocean I had failed in death, it would have been attested a vain mistake of questionable validity…. However, I had both some skill and knowledge, and a specific craft worthy of the mission, this a SOAR-14 Inflatable Kayak, the most fundamental tool allowing for my attempt, now accomplished.


* The inflatability & deflatability of the SOAR-14 is a critical characteristic. For the Klamath River Navigation, it was required on a number of occasions, to portage sections of the most constricted unrunnable sections, as well as to portage around dams and other human constructs. In preparation for these occasions, I had brought an external frame pack, upon which I was able to affix my gear, including the deflated SOAR-14, and travel by foot around such features (in general it took 3 portage trips for each particular obstacle encountered). Also for shipping and transport, the boat rolls up efficiently, and stores well, which also is an important attribute.

* The “Self-Bailing” ability of the SOAR Inflatable Kayaks, is also and obviously critical. I found the floor to be excellent, and the self-bailing capability worthy. Even with approximately 100 pounds of gear and myself, the floor kept dry in flat water, and drained quickly in whitewater.

* The sturdy band of “grommets” running the length of the two top tubes, on the inside of the boat, created a perfect ability to “sew” gear to the craft with cam-straps. There is an adage in whitewater rafting, that is “rig to flip”, another adage brought on by a 30 day trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado, which I was lucky enough to be on was, “Gear and Ungear” (pronounced geara unt geara). The ability to store gear in the inside of the boat, and affix it to the craft with the aid of these dual grommet bands, was essential in my day to day existence as I lived from this boat. How important of a fact, and yet easily overlooked, for 40 days I lived on and from the boat as I traveled by river from the headwaters to the ocean, and my gear was transported with me, safely strapped into the SOAR-14.

* The material workmanship and strength of SOAR Inflatable Kayaks was required and put to the test on many occasions. It should be mentioned, that the SOAR I.K. series crafts are built just as professional / commercial whitewater rafts are. This strength and durability was critical, though I was supplied with a professional patch kit, in the advent of puncture or tear, none such occurred. At many times I marveled at the resilience of the craft, particularly when pushed full force into angular rocks, or at those times when it was necessary to drag the boat over, or “line” the boat fully loaded through angular sieves and constrictions in the channel. At the end of each day, it is also necessary to pull the boat up and out of the water, both the bottom of the boat, as well as the hand holds, held up under rigorous use. I felt at times badly at my mistreatment of the craft, and yet in the end, the boat remained in remarkably good condition, ready for many more trips over years of use. In the end I feel that with such a well made boat, you can be a bit rugged with your expectation of its capabilities, because it will hold up to tough use. The durability of the SOAR I.K. series boats ensures long life, and even more importantly, trustworthiness through even the most difficult and challenging river environments. This boat did not let me down, and I believe now, is capable of even the most treacherous river environments, let alone the general circumstances many of us find ourselves in while on the river.

* The comfort and maneuverability of the SOAR-14 should also be commended. Many long hours of each and every day, I paddled and navigated the boat down the river, and as I gained the “feel”, felt incredibly in command of this loaded down and heavy boat. Furthermore, my gearing, and the configuration of the boat, allowed me to change paddling positions, and stand up stabily, allowing me to both stretch out, and scout upcoming features with the aided visibility of being 6 feet above water line.

* Finally there is a certain aesthetic bond which I attach to things exceedingly functional, and therefore beautiful. On so many occasions, I felt a sense of privilege, to be taking such a worthy craft down the river, and looking upon it, a sense of thrill at the undertaking and its experiences. Many times I met individuals who doubted my success, or failed to understand its implications, but at those times, they would look upon this boat, myself and the gear, and their understanding would grow respectably. At last, this bond and this attraction I felt for the craft and its ability, created a sense of purpose and facilitated my motivation to continue. When you boat instills trust and confidence, its tangible purposes are then the more complimented and effective.

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Larry Laba Runs Gates of Ladore with Top Paddlers

When I first received a permit to run the Gate of Lodore section of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument, I thought I’d invite a bunch of friends to spend a few days of running SOARs down the river. Then, during Canoecopia, I learned that a planned trip to Mongolia by Larry Rice and Cliff Jacobson might be cancelled due to the pending war with Iraq. I was disappointed that Cliff would not be able to paddle a SOAR, because his recently published Wilderness Canoeing Expeditions book made no mention of SOARs, arguably one of the best wilderness expedition canoes.

That’s when I decided to change the focus of the trip to include Cliff Jacobson, Larry Rice and other ‘gods and goddesses’ of wilderness canoe expeditions. Among the elite paddlers (besides Cliff and Larry) that joined me on this trip were Wendy Grater, owner of Black Feather Expeditions (, Alan Kesselheim, author and contributing editor to many outdoor magazines, and Larry Bartlett, Alaska’s premier float hunting guide, Leon Werdinger, an outdoor photographer and long time river guide.

We were 12 in all, paddling a combination SOAR canoes, S12 solo, S14 solo and tandem, S16 tandem. The level of the Green was pretty low, but the Yampa brought in about 7000 cfs, and made the final day’s run through Split Mountain very exciting.

Of course we had a great trip. There were three well known writers on the trip. Each one will have an article in Canoe & Kayak Magazine in 2004 describing their version of the trip. I will let these guys do the writing. Watch for links to the articles on this website as well as additional photo essays.

Larry Laba
Owner / Founder

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Beth Johnsons’s Ultimate Noatak

Noatak Wild:

America’s “Ultimate” Wilderness River Adventure

This exciting June 29-July 28, 2003 “passage to the Interior” (translation of “Noatak” in Inupiat language) was a private trip I organized with three fellow Texans to float 436 miles of Alaska’s Noatak River from near its source deep in the Brooks Range’s vast grandeur to its mouth at Chukchi Sea tidewater on Alaska’s west coast.

Highlights of this “perfect” wilderness river trip:

· 30 days in the Land of the Midnight Sun above the Arctic Circle in what has been called the “ultimate mountains”—the world’s northernmost major range (shorter two- and three-week trips are possible with more expensive takeouts)
· Paddling through spectacular mountain scenery yet nestled into the gentle gradient of a low-elevation glacier-carved valley with easy Class I and II rapids
· Chance to paddle the Arctic but in a somewhat gentler environment than that of the North Slope
· Good gravel-bar camping and no portages (short ones if you put in by float-plane out of Bettles instead of wheeled plane out of Coldfoot)
· “a sparer, Arctic version of Africa’s Serengeti” as one Brooks Range expert put it–including caribou, musk oxen, wolf, Dall sheep, moose, grizzly
· Perhaps the finest array of flora anywhere in the far north
· Experiencing most Arctic habitats and distinct scenic variety: mountainous tundra, large basin, broad canyons, mixed boreal forests, coastal delta
· Iimmersion deep within the heart of one the world’s largest parkland areas and finest remaining vast wilderness areas—Gates of the Arctic National Park and Noatak National Preserve
· Untrammeled wildness: No roads, few other river travelers, only one village—weeks from the put-in. From early to mid-July we went 14 days without seeing anyone outside our party.
· Llongest designated Wild River segment and longest floatable mileage of American Arctic rivers
· Iincredible bush-plane put-in flight through spectacular snow-dusted Brooks Range peaks
· Takeout at Kotzebue, one of Alaska’s oldest and largest Inupiat Eskimo villages

One of my proudest accomplishments in 25 years of professional environmental advocacy had been serving on the Alaska Coalition’s staff to help pass the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (the 20th Century’s biggest American conservation legislation) that protected the two national park system units we paddled through and many other public lands. Yet prior to this trip I had never seen this magnificent swath of cherished Brooks Range wildland.

Leading the 1982 Texas Women’s Yukon River Expedition 2,000 miles/76 days down Canada/Alaska’s Yukon River had whetted my appetite for something similar to the Yukon (multi-week trip on mostly easy flatwater) but more remote. And my impending fiftieth birthday offered a really good excuse for another really big adventure. So after 25 years of enjoying paddling more than 7,000 miles throughout North America and spending about 400 (including 50 solo) overnights on river trips, I was headed to the wild Arctic.

For this fly-in trip I needed an inside-the-bush-plane packable boat. Because the trip was long and very remote in windswept Arctic waters with negligible rescue, I wanted a boat that was a tough, trustworthy gear- and food-hauler that was stable and forgiving for an extra margin of safety in cold Arctic rapids or wind-driven waves–and preferably also dry and comfortable. And I don’t buy a different boat for each trip, so I wanted something versatile.

So I reached beyond decades of hard-shell canoe/kayak experience to scrutinize inflatables and collapsibles. After thorough research and test paddling, I chose a SOAR, and it did what I wanted. I paddled a SOAR 12 and Bill and Wayne Greer paddled S14s, each paddling solo with extra-long double-bladed sea kayak paddles (250 cm for me and 260 cm for the guys). Charlie Snider (unlike the rest of us, an expert whitewater paddler) used a collapsible skin-and-frame kayak. (Please feel free to refer anyone considering purchasing a SOAR to my boat-choice research and conclusions on my Web site.)

Previous multi-week solo flatwater trips in Canada and the Lower 48 that I’ve done in hard-shell canoes always had a slight added risk factor from capsize (because I was alone). I now have about 700 miles’ experience in the SOAR over more than 50 paddling days over a year’s time on 9 rivers in 5 states, and I know that for future solo trips I’ll consider paddling it even if the river is road-accessible and flatwater. That’s because even though the whitewater-excelling SOAR design is overkill for flatwater, SOAR’s far superior stability relative to hard-shells affords an extra margin of safety and much more carefree river-running, picture-taking—even sleeping in it in flooded swamps if you had to…. I dub it “Safe On Any River.”

If any SOAR enthusiasts exploring your Web site are considering a Noatak adventure, they’ll find that Noatak river-running information is scant, hard to obtain and vague, contradictory or inaccurate on everything from river mileage to number, class and location of rapids. So please feel free to refer anyone to my Web site for details on obtaining my 43-page Noatak pre-trip research report (including bibliography), upcoming Noatak River narrated photo CD and guidebook-journal, and trip-planning advice/research services for the Noatak and other rivers.

And for Yukon River fans, you might mention to folks trying to track down copies of my 1984 book Yukon Wild: The Adventures of Four Women Who Paddled 2,000 Miles Through America’s Last Frontier (Berkshire Traveller Press, but out of print since 1994) that I do have some remaining new copies in my possession that I’ll autograph (details on my Web site).

The following photographic tour of our Noatak trip is in roughly chronological order.

See you on the river!

Beth Johnson

copyright © Elizabeth Johnson, 2003

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Pat Friends on the Escalante


Patrick Stadler and 2 friends floated the Escalante in their S16 in late May of 2004 with a minimum of flow. Probably one of the hardest rivers to run in the US is the Escalante River in Southern Utah. The Escalante winds 80 miles through gorgeous red rock canyons until in flows into Reservoir Powell. There is hardly ever enough water to float all the way through, and often people are known to drag their boats much of the way.

“Low as #@!%#” is how Patrick described it. The river flows dropped during their 8 day journey, so they had to drag more at the end of the trip. Having 3 people and gear in their S16 made it a bit tight, but often the river was low enough that at least one person hiked the river.

The take out at Coyote Gulch is a long hike up a steep, sandy canyon trail. So if you want to run one of the most elusive rivers in the US, be prepared to be tested in this remote canyon setting