The well maintained trail to the overlook of two tiered San Raphael Falls is about one mile, traversing small streams, and passing through vegetation so dense that one wonders if one is hiking through some sort of living green cave. Eventually we are afforded partial views of the upper falls. We estimate the smaller first drop - a sort of riverwide pourover - to be in the range of 100 ft high. The churning backwash at its base forms a hole at least 15 feet deep, but as devoted river junkies we speculate as to how one might run such a monster. Of course we have yet to behold of San Raphael in its entirety. When we arrive at the trail's end we are amazed at the vast quantity water which never reaches the bottom of the second, near 400 foot drop - it simply vaporizes on the way down. The impact of that water which actually survives the descent in liquid form is nothing short of stupendous; we are to a person mesmerized by the exploding jets and streamers of water and vapor rebounding from the falls' base - sometimes obliterating views of half of the lower drop. Transfixed by the sight, a sort of hallucinogenic quality creeps over us - after watching that bottom drop for a time the very walls of the canyon seem, in surges and pulses, to be moving upstream, to rebuild that rock which the racing torrent is relentlessly tearing away.
That we had just paddled some of this very same water within the hour at a rather pushy level is sobering enough. That the flows we are witnessing are but a small fraction of those of the rainy season fires our imaginations with a sense of awe that Niagara itself could never hope to match. If forced to compare San Raphael with anything in my prior experience I would say the falls remind me of nuclear explosion, with the mushroom cloud upside down. And in some respects that analogy is apt. We all speculate that any solid thing unfortunate enough to make the descent over this cascade would be dashed to atoms, including the paddle Bob had lost upstream earlier in the week.
Yacu Amu - Kayak Outfitter
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