Thursday, November 3, 2016

Standing Waves

As a canoeist, I was fascinated by the standing waves in the Whirlpool Rapids.  These are waves that develop in a river even when there are no rocks, and the water is very deep as it is here.  How many rivers do you know that are 40-50 feet deep?  The Whirlpool Rapids are Class 6 rapids, on a scale of 1-6, considered unrunnable.

The waves develop where the river channel is narrow enough that the water gets forced to speed up, and a wave, almost like a vibration in the water, gets set up.  You can see the waves developing at the start of the rapids on the left hand of this picture.

In this picture a little further down the channel, you can easily see three standing waves.  You may not be able to judge the scale easily, but the difference between the crest and the trough with these waves was up to 15 or 20 feet.  Here are a series of pictures I took just standing still and looking straight out at the river, all in less than two minutes.

Experienced whitewater canoeists I know can comfortably handle a Class 2 rapids, and will occasionally run a Class 3 if there are no dangerous rocks or logs.  But I've never heard of anyone trying higher levels without drowning!  The problem is not the crest of the wave, but the trough.  You rise up over the crest in your canoe, kayak or raft, and plunge down into the trough.  If it's too deep, you just keep on plunging!  There's also no recovery point here.  Kayakers like to play in Class 2 and 3 rapids for training, but they might have 100 yards of rapids, and then wash out into a calm pool of water.  Here you'd be likely to wash out into Lake Ontario, 10 miles downstream!

As you can tell, I was really impressed by the White Water Walk right down beside the river!


16 comments:

  1. I don't know anything about running rapids. If we encounter them we portage around them. I think I'm too chicken to try rapids. I wonder if some kayakers dream of going down these?! There's always some nut wanting to try the impossible ;) These are great shots of the standing waves (didn't know that term before reading this).
    Wendy

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  2. Wow those are some serious waves! No way I'd get out there in a boat.

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  3. Whoa they don't look as big as you describe but I know images don't always give a true size. awesome.

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  4. Here in NZ, Grade 6 is considered unrunnable too. I found 5 rivers that have grade 5 runs, 2 are in the South Island, 3 up here in the North Island , and there are runs from lower grades as well. Some would be runs in rafts with guides, i.e pay to go trips.And there are usually calmer larger pool areas at the bottom of sets of rapids.It is so easy to get trapped and not survive. Love your photos and explanations.

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  5. That really is an active river and I can't believe how deep it is. My son works rivers up in Maine and those rivers are so shallow compared to that one you shared.

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  6. Scares me to death. I did Class 2 in a canoe and decided that was thrill enough.

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  7. Impressive, somewhat reminiscent of parts of the Colorado or several rivers in British Columbia -- except it's right in the middle of civilization.

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  8. Wow! That is amazing to see. Your photos captured these waves beautifully.

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  9. Terrific shots! You'd be dead if you fell in there.

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  10. Wow excellent series. Very impressive water for sure. thanks
    MB

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  11. I'd enjoy seeing this from the safety of the riverbank, definitely not from inside a canoe!

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  12. Wow those waves are very impressive. I don't think I'll be taking my kayak in there any times soon!!!!

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  13. We have standing waves at the Skookcumchuck Rapids on the Sunshine Coast here in BC. It is a narrow passage between the ocean and an inlet. When the tides are running at the fastest, standing waves form. Kayakers with the small whitewater kayaks go out and ride them like surfers. I've seen a video of those same rapids swallowing a huge tug and barge. - Margy

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