The wispy tendrils of ground fog had reluctantly released their tenuous grip on the wooded mountain slopes to the mid-morning sun as our small group of paddlers arrived at the Taylorville put-in. The road and pathway seethed with chaotic activity as enthusiastic paddlers parked cars, changed clothes, greeted friends and carried brightly colored boats, all while holding general road safety rules and courtesies in random regard.
Ed, Wayne, Rich and I, having paddled the Beaver on numerous previous occasions, were rather unimpressed by the melee, but the trip was a personal first descent for both Steve and Sam. Thier reaction was somewhat different as they stared about at the simmering confusion of the put-in.
A short walk ahead, at the end of a forest path over pine needle strewn bedrock, the class III/IV water of the Beaver river waited patiently for the onslaught of boaters to begin.
At the top of the path we made a quick right on the sloped surface of the exposed bedrock and stared down at the surging hole known as the Beaverator. Wayne has already put on and is one of several boaters located across the dark, tannin stained waters of the eddy, happily snapping pictures of Beaverator carnage.
A few years before, prior to embarking on our first descent of the Beaver, Ed, Neval and I had watched in abject horror as a boater was repeatedly pummeled by the sticky hole, disappearing beneath the surface with an odd appendage sticking up every so often but never for very long. Finally, the hapless soul disappeared altogether for perhaps thirty seconds, only to emerge battered and bloody a few yards downstream. Someone posted a similar incident on video and that paddler is quite famously referred to as the “Beaverator Kid”. I elected to portage the Beaverator that day and have done the same on every trip since. The reward does not seem to justify the consequence of a blown line.
Sam has elected to run the Beaverator and asks that I stand by to set safety. I send Steve downriver to scout the next big drop, grab my rope and wait anxiously on river right for Sam to make his run. He appears in a river left eddy, and then makes his cautious way across the main current to a smaller eddy just above the hole on river right, Hugging the river right bank, Sam punches through a diagonal wave that feeds into the hole, and much to the disappointment of the gathered crowd, runs safely down a small slide, well to the right and away from the churning maw of the hole.
The excitement over, I join Steve at the edge of the huge Taylorville slide. From the eddy above, the river pours over a small ledge and begins its frantic journey down an immense slab of bedrock, dropping maybe 30′ in 100 yards. The cascading torrent charges down the slope, funneling boaters toward the gaping orifice in the water lurking below. On river right, the naked expanse of rock extends from the water’s edge in a gentle slope for another 20′ before at last yielding to the vegetation of the forest.
It is on this dry bedrock slab that another crowd has assembled. Nature has created a convenient viewing platform for those wishing to observe the bravado of humans risking all against the power of the river. A steady stream of adrenalin fueled, kayak laden adventurers snakes back up the slope, some pausing occasionally to hug wives, husbands or friends and to regale each other with tales and pictures of their death-defying plunge.
In truth, while it does present an imposing visual spectacle, the great white slide is fairly straightforward and easily negotiated by an intermediate paddler. The relatively smooth expanse of bedrock beneath the slab feels similar to riding a sled down a snow covered hill, except of course, for the water constantly slamming at your face and body. The hole at the bottom of the slide can be slightly sticky, but most paddlers simply wash out once they flip.
As there is no decent carnage to witness and being tired of waiting, I ask Steve if he is ready to go. He assures me that he is, but does wish that he had a little saliva flowing. The slide has that effect on the uninitiated. We jump into our boats and join Sam, Rich and Eddie patiently waiting in th dark pool above the slide.
We gather in a group of paddlers just above the slide. The current has picked up a little and we have to paddle every now and then to maintain our place in line. Other boaters are joining the line from the right after having carried their boats up the slope upon completion of an earlier run. It’s a little confusing trying to figure out who goes next.
Eddie peels out 1st and disappears over the horizon line quickly followed by Rich. We can’t see the bottom of the slide so we have no way of knowing if any of the intrepid paddlers have negotiated the drop successfully. Never one to be bashful, Steve follows Rich to the edge of the precipice and beyond. He’s on his own now.
A couple of paddlers jump in between us and I have to wait, uncertain as to the fate of those who have preceded me. Finally its clear and I’m off. I paddle slightly to the left center and look for the tongue of water beginning its descent down the slope. My bow jumps to the right and I feel the embrace of the recirculating current as I punch a small hole at the bottom of the tongue. The slide flattens out for a moment and then I’m on my way down.
My boat accelerates down the slope, caught up in the torrent of water paying homage to the law of gravity.  I have chosen to run the slide slightly down the river right side and work my paddle frantically in the shallow water in a vain attempt to ensure I stay there. The cascading water has its own agenda and I begin to slide inexorably to my left toward the center of the hole waiting below. My bow catches in a stream of deeper water channeling down from my left side and pushes the boat slightly back to the right. The hole rushes toward me as I lean forward and brace for the impact.
I slam into the hole a little  to the right just as planned, but I don’t hit it square. The curling wave lifts my bow and throws the boat back to the right. Not even a quick brace can save me from the ignominy of having to roll up in front of the spectators. I paddle out a little sheepishly, realizing that I am th only one of our group who has failed to make a clean run. Oh well, a little carnage is always a crowd pleaser.
Puffy white clouds floating in a deep blue sky are reflected on the placid surface of the water as we paddle across the pool to the next drop. It is truly beautiful here, with the verdant green of the forest interspaced with mottled grey-brown slabs of granite reaching down to drink from ebony waters at the river’s edge. The river flattens out in large, calm pools between the drops, allowing time to look about at the magnificence of the natural surroundings in which we are immersed. It is a scene similar to so many others that I have observed on countless rivers, sitting silently in my boat, paddle across my lap, absorbing the beauty around me. I never grow tired of it.
Ahead, a large island divides the river. We will paddle through the river right channel. The rocks push into the channel from both sides, creating a narrow canal, perhaps 10′ wide into which the river flows, picking up speed ans siphoning paddlers into the rapid waiting below. The canal ends abruptly with a small boof on the right or a large hole into a standing wave on the left. Below that is a shallow diagonal shoal extending from river left 3/4 of the way to the opposite bank. Past the shoal is a small eddy and then the river makes a sharp left turn and batters its way through a jumbled mass of rocks before settling into the serene waters of the pool below.
The rest of the group pulls up at the large rock on river right and gets out of their boats to scout the drop. The entry is blind  so it makes sense for first time paddlers to get a look at it before dropping in. I wait in my boat until they are at the top of the rock and then begin my run.
The water picks up speed as I enter the narrow chute between the two rock walls, drawing me inexorably downstream towards the confused mass of boiling whitewater below. I paddle a little to my left and lean forward as I plunge over the edge and down into the hole. The water rises up to smack me in the face as I punch the hole and I angle my bow right to run down the shoal. There are a couple of boater waiting in a large eddy on river right but I’ve seen a few boaters pinned on the large rock just below the eddy and want no part of that.
I drop off the end of the shoal, put my boat on its left edge and paddle into the eddy located behind the shoal. From there I pick my way through the boulder garden. I’m having a blast as I work my boat from edge to edge, taking advantage of the numerous pillows afforded by the jumble of rocks lurking below the surface. I pull into an eddy, jump out of my boat, grab my throw rope and clamber back upstream to watch the rest of the group run the drop.
Rich and Sam are next and both of them have huge smiles as the bounce their way through the boulder garden. I can’t see the beginning of the drop from my vantage point and have to wait until the boater has cleared the first hole before I can identify who is next. Its Steve. He has punched the hole and rides down the shoal to the right perfectly, but catches an edge trying to turn back to his left and starts to flip.
I watch helplessly as Steve works his low brace frantically, trying to remain upright. It starts to look as though he will be successful but another surge of water catches his boat and thwarts his efforts. Access denied, Steve sets up for his roll as his boat crosses the small eddy below the shoal. Unfortunately, Steve starts his roll just as he is dropping into the manky stuff below the eddy. Again, it looks as though he will remain upright, but the chaotic water has other ideas, Steve gets most of the way up, but then hits a pillow of water and is thrown back under.
I watch uselessly as the bottom of Steve,s boat bounces up and down through the rocks and know that he is taking quite a beating down there. Then he is out of his boat and slamming through the rocks at the bottom of the drop. I have chosen a poor spot to set safety as I cannot make a throw to Steve from where I am. I’m not sure a rope would be that much help anyway as it would probably just set up the swimmer for a horrific beating. I’m extremely concerned as I race down the bank to where Rich has pulled Steve into the pool below.
Steve is OK. I guess he is pretty tough, it is certainly not a spot to be taking a swim, but he’s ready for more. We pick up the pieces, empty his boat and wait as Eddie completes his run through the drop.
We paddle over to river left to run a little slot move located in the outflow of the left fork in the river, right at the end of the island where we went right through the last drop. We get out of our boats and portage up across another large slab of rock. The area is abounding with huge boulders everywhere.
The water here enters a slot from river left and drops maybe 6′ down a slide slated from left to right before slamming into yet another boulder on the right, forming a huge pillow. Its pretty narrow here, maybe 7 or 8′ wide and the pillow wants to throw your boat back against the boulder on river left before settling into the pool.
I tell everyone that the trick to running this drop is to lean heavily into the pillow, I know from 1st hand experience what happens if you do not. My first few times down, I tried to bank off the pillow by dropping my left edge and putting the bottom of my boat against it. While it seemed like a logical move to me at the time, the result was less than satisfying as I went flying back to my left and finished out the drop upside down, scraping along the narrow rock walls until I reached the pool. Not what I had planned but at least it made the spectators happy and I gained some valuable knowledge on how, or as in this case not, run up against pillows.
Sam and I go first, each of us running the drop cleanly. Steve is next. Undaunted by his recent swim, he has elected to try his hand at this drop also. He is at a distinct disadvantage paddling his Fuse, lighter boats tend to get thrown about quite a bit more and the hungry pillow is anxiously awaiting his arrival as he starts down the short slide.
Its pretty intimidating driving down a slide and looking up over your head into a huge pile of frenzied water for the first time, but Steve doesn’t hesitate. He plows into the pillow and is violently cast aside to finish his run upside down yet again. Steve rolls up with a smile on his face, saying maybe he should have leaned in a little harder. There just might be something wrong with that guy.
The next drop lies across yet another huge pool fo calm water and the group has gone ahead to scout it as I check with Wayne to make sure he is planning on staying with a group of friends. They are all gathered at the river left slot, having a great time photographing each other running the drop. He tells me he is OK and I paddle down to the rest of the group at the next drop.
There are several options for running this one. The easiest option is to run to the extreme river left and down a slide, punching a small diagonal hole at the bottom. The more adventuresome can make a 6′ boof off a flake of rock located in the right center. Immediately below the flake is a large rock, splitting the current into left and right channels. It is important to come off the flake ito the left channel as it is really manky, swift and shallow over on the right. The AW page says that there has been a lot of skin donated in the right channel and I have a scar from several stitches below my chin that can attest to that. Finally, you can run down a tongue all the way over on river right, deliberately setting yourself up for a trip through the right channel. Although a few paddlers opt for this route, it is generally avoided.
The others are out of their boats scouting so I line myself up for the boof as they watch. Starting from river right, I drive hard to my left over the flake of rock but slide off to my right a little early. Circumstances have now altered my plan and I am, unfortunately, headed for the right channel. The 90 gal displacement of my Super Hero handles it pretty well with just a quick brace here or there needed to stay upright. I hope the rest of the group doesn’t think that is the preferred line.
Sam comes next, going for the boof with the same result as I had. Miraculously, he too remains upright through the right slot. AS we watch, Eddie and Rich make clean runs off the flake into the left channel. Steve, in a rare show of good sense, has elected to run the river left slide and negotiates it perfectly.
We weave our way through slabs of rock and come to the last drop, a 6′ waterfall. There is quite a crowd waiting in an eddy above the fall so we take our turn in line. Its a blind landing from where we are so we have to wait until the previous paddler appears below the horizon line before proceeding. While the drop can be run almost anywhere, the hole below is stickier on the right side, so most people run it on the left with a left boat angle.
We all run down the left side, the entire group running it cleanly and then bounce our way through the remaining rocks below. Steve and Sam have completed their first run at Taylorville. We hang out for a while as Steve, Rich and Sam try out the play wave at the takeout, then carry our boats through goldenrod choked fields for another run.