Fritz and Susy Zuch enjoy what many kayakers would call the perfect lifestyle.
The Zuchs live next to the Methow (MET-how) river in Washington State; one of America’s premier kayaking rivers. They own four Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayaks. They also own their own business so, as Fritz says, “When the river’s perfect and the weather’s fine, we go kayaking.”
Their four-kayak flotilla
You’ll often find Fritz and Susy running the Class II – III sections of the Methow, each in their own Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak. Their favorite 18-mile run takes them four or five hours.
Or you may see their mini-flotilla shoot by — Fritz, Susy, their kids, or friends — each in their own Sea Eagle. “We look like a whitewater kayaking company with our four matching 330’s,” says Fritz.
Class I – III rapids
The Methow, named after the Methow Indian Tribe, flows southeast from its headwaters in the northern Cascade Range. It twists and turns through the mountains and valleys of Washington State and empties into the mighty Columbia River. Fritz gives a local kayaker’s perspective. “The Methow starts as a Class I – II river then changes to a Class II – III. At Black Canyon, it becomes a Class III – IV river. That’s where the whitewater companies run their businesses. As you go east, the river gets wilder and wilder as it’s squeezed into a series of steep canyons. When it hits the Columbia, it widens and slows.”
The river’s flow varies through the season, says Fritz, because, “The Methow is fed largely by glacial and snowpack melt.” The Methow’s popular “Kayak Season” — five to seven weeks when the river runs fast — from about mid-to-late June to early-to-late July. But you’ll see dedicated kayakers on the Methow from May through August.
The river’s flow is measured in CFS, or cubic feet per second. 10,000 CFS is ideal in the Methow. “Above that, the water’s so stirred up you can’t see obstacles easily,” Fritz reports. “And below 1,000 CFS, you’re scraping bottom.” “There are several websites that continually report the CFS,” says Fritz. “We use the U.S. Geological Survey’s site, http://www.usgs.gov/.”
What’s the Zuch’s attraction to boating? “For us,” says Fritz, “it’s the beauty of the river and surroundings. There’s something soothing about being on the river. Throw in some rapids, and you’ve got an adrenaline rush, too.”
“Dude, that’s awesome!”
Fritz and Susy pumped a bit more adrenaline than they bargained for recently. They put in at a beautiful, sandy beach in a lazy section of the river they hadn’t run before. Launching after a relaxing picnic, they soon heard rapids ahead.
The Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) had placed abutments on both sides of the river, narrowing it significantly and creating a chute. “There was no turning back,” says Fritz. “Susy lined up perfectly and I followed” through the chute. “We popped through the chute,” says Fritz. “We found a place to pull out and decided we wanted to go back and do it again!”
The Zuchs later learned from local 20-something adventure kayakers that the areas’s called the D.O.T. Chute. “You went down the D.O.T. Chute in an IK (inflatable kayak)? Dude, that’s awesome!”
Kayak Season has passed for now but the Zuchs aren’t done boating by a long shot. Besides their four 330’s, they also own a larger Sea Eagle SE9 they use for fishing, and have their eye on a Sea Eagle Sport Runabout.
Nearby alpine and sub-alpine lakes await them. “And there’s absolutely great Salmon and Steelhead fishing in the Columbia,” Fritz tells us. And after all — when you live on the Methow River, Kayak Season’s never that far away.