Chase for the Salmon Speed Record

Tyler Bradt shows the GPS mileage spoils of 24 hours of pain. Read more on Bradt, Serrasolses and the Wells brothers record speed run here. Image via McKinsey & Company

Turns out that Aniol Serrasolses, Tyler Bradt and Todd and Brendan Wells just barely squeaked by in setting the new 24-hour distance paddling record June 3-4 by clocking 287.5 miles on a high-water run linking the Middle Fork, Main and Lower Salmon rivers. Though their record is still pending approval from Guinness, just a few days prior on May 30, a group of rafters set the mark of 282 miles on the same stretch of river.

Just two-and-a-half days earlier, Idaho rafters Jon Barker, Ian Faurot and Shane Moser floated the raging waters of the Salmon system 282 miles in a 24-hour time period, besting the previous record of 273.5 miles in 24 hours, set by Andy Corra of Durango, Colo., in 2010 during the Yukon River Quest. They did so by rowing an 18-foot cataraft and taking turns behind the oars.

“I have been doing this type of 24-hour trip highlighting the Salmon and its tributaries for 25 years,” says Barker, a longtime raft guide for Idaho’s Barker River Expeditions. “If there was a recognized record of 273.5 miles, then certainly our 282 eclipsed that on May 30-31. It’s kind of cool that a rowing attempt and a kayaking attempt on the Salmon both broke 274 miles within 52 hours of each other. It’s a pretty crazy new best distance for both.”

As for monitoring their progress, Barker says they ran from exact USGS mileage coordinates on the Middle Fork and Main/Lower Salmon rivers, running from 3:55 p.m. on May 30 to 3:55 p.m. on May 31. Far from commandeering the limelight, they’re in it for the rush more than any record.

“I’ve been highlighting the Salmon drainages for 25 years,” says Barker, who has made several 24-hour attempts on the Salmon of between 200 and 250 miles—one of which, with teammate Clancy Reece, inspired the book Anything Worth Doing. “We always stay in the background and just sort of do these things. I know that’s odd, but we’re unsure about publicity. We would have only told friends about this one, but the fact that we bettered some 274-mile mark and a second group did it on the Salmon two days later is a pretty neat story.”

While their record was short lived–with Bradt, Serrasolses and the Wells brothers kayaking 287.5 miles on slightly higher flows barely two days later—-Barker tips his water-logged hat to the new record-setters.

“Absolute credit to that kayaking team,” he says. “They’re the fastest. Maybe ours qualifies as the farthest distance for rowing in 24 hours—though I tend to cringe at the ‘R’ word.”

But wait, there’s more. While not a record attempt per se, on May 10-11, Idaho kayakers Kyle Smith, Sam Wells and Mike Bond also entered the floating fray by paddling 300 miles of the Salmon River system in a 32.5-hour push. On flows about 15,000 cfs less than Bradt’s and Barker’s, they put on the Middle Fork’s Marsh Creek and finished at the Snake River on the Oregon border, 25 miles south of Asotin, Wash.

“Initially, when we started rolling this mission around, we thought that making 300 miles in 24 hours would be possible,” says Smith. “But as we got closer to our window of free time, we knew there was no way we would catch the flow window we needed. At our 24-hour mark, we were about 40-50 miles short of what those other kayakers hit. But their experiences were spot on: Crazy moon, incredibly black around Riggins, and psychedelic describes it perfectly.

“Hopefully, some day we’ll be in the right place again with the right flow to chalk up a few extra miles onto that record,” Smith adds. “It’s so awesome that the other group of kayakers was able to be in the right place at the right time with right flow, and had an awesome crew.”

Barker also looks fondly back at enjoying the “amazing experience” with his rowing crew, adding that, “if a mid-50s chronic asthmatic had not taken one up one of the three spots, who knows how far we could of gone?”

Related stories:
Kayakers Set New 24-Hour Distance Paddling Record on Idaho’s Salmon River.
— High Water on the Middle Fork Salmon
— Grand Canyon Speed Descent Record Falls (Again)
— Marcin Gienieczko and the Great Guinness Hoax
— Todd Wells on record high water on the Little White Salmon
Brandon Nelson’s 24-Hour Flatwater Distance Record

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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