Into the Heart of Darkness

Virgin rapids will soon be a thing of the past on Colorado’s Gunnison River, thanks in part to the fearless exploits of a trio of Colorado kayakers. The 12-mile stretch of Class V-VI whitewater that courses through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has long been a badge of courage for elite paddlers, dropping up to 230 feet per mile between soaring, mile-plus-high walls. Scattered throughout its length are several “unrunnable” sections, including a mile-long portage and monster rapids, one of which took the life of world-class kayaker Chuck Kern in 1997. Local paddlers Tom Janney, Christian Cook and Rolf Kelly are slowly chipping away at its puzzle by running rapids never before run. We spoke with Tom Janney to get the Black Canyon lowdown.

Read: Into the Heart of Darkness | The Paddling Life