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Steamboat Magazine

Whitewater Kayaking with Barry Smith

02/20/2015 04:33PM ● By Christina Freeman

Always smiling when he's doing what he loves: talking about, or being on the river.

Barry Smith has been exploring rivers and canyons his whole life. A long-time Steamboat Springs resident, Smith moved here in 1980 and founded Mountain Sports Kayak School. 

First off, what should you wear for kayaking in spring?

Dress as you would to go skiing. Personally I like long underwear, windproof pants and a dry top, adding wool socks and booties. Dress for the water temperature, not the weather outside.

What advice do you have for a beginner on where to go?

An excellent place to practice is the junction of Walton Creek and the Yampa River, where the  water is flat. From there you can ease into the Yampa. Fetcher Pond is another still spot and it's easy to get to.  Consider a class at the Old Town Hot Springs, where we teach you to roll in the pool.

Options for a more advanced kayaker?

A great spot is the class III (IV when river is high, ipper Elk River from Box Canyon to the Home Ranch.The farther downstream you go on the Yampa River, the faster it gets. Big waves can be found at the C and D holes, near Bud Werner Memorial Library and the Depot.

Is there anything you should consider before setting off downstream?

It's a good idea to scout the river from the road where possible. This is especially true of the Elk, where we sometimes come across logs. Know ahead of time where you are planning to get out and make sure you will recognize it.

Don't set off without?

A guide when the water is high. Safety equipment; I always have at least a throw rope and a first aid kit.