Chris Kelly returns from canoeing the Colorado River

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | 8:32 p.m. CDT; updated 3:11 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — When Chris Kelly was asked to describe his canoeing trip through the Grand Canyon portion of the Colorado River, one word seemed to keep coming up.

“Spectacular,” Kelly said. “It was really fantastic. It was the trip of a lifetime.”

Kelly was a member of a group of 16 friends who set out to float the 226-mile stretch of river that runs through the canyon. The trip began on Oct. 5 and lasted a total of 18 days.

During the trip, the group made several stops alongside the river to hike through several side canyons. On one stop the group saw two bighorn sheep butting their heads together in combat, a rare sight that Kelly said left many members of the goup in awe.

Fellow Columbian, and longtime friend, Brian Dollar had similar feelings about the experience.

“It was just really spectacular,” Dollar said. “The Grand Canyon is totally unique with its scenery and the canyon. It has a lot of big whitewater and huge rapids. It was really a lot of fun.”

Although the trip was an enjoyable one, it was not without its challenges. Prior to the trip Kelly, 61, admitted that he was nervous that his age would make this trip particularly taxing.

Kelly knew this was going to be the largest river that he had ever canoed. The portion of the river that the group was on measured between 7,000 and 12,000 cubic feet per second, which is a measurement used to estimate the volume of rivers. That is nearly 15 times the CFS of an average river.

Kelly said his canoe flipped over 5 times during the trip, a larger number than he is accustomed to.

Dollar said the river contained at least 25 huge rapids, but that the challenge was part of what made the trip so much fun.

“Almost every day there was more than one really hard rapid,” Dollar said. “But the river was awesome. It was just fantastic.”

The group was able to handle the rapids while avoiding any significant injuries, but Kelly said that everyone was exhausted after the trip was over.

“I was very satisfied to have been able to do it, but we were all very tired,” Kelly said. “I actually lost 10 pounds on the trip, which is kind of a good thing.”

Kelly and Dollar both said that the dry Arizona air proved to be problematic. Kelly said that several members of the group were using Super Glue to try to close the cracks on their hands and feet. But overall Kelly and Dollar agreed that the weather was exceptional.

“Usually it’s extremely hot or in the winter it’s very cold,” Dollar said. “But we really lucked out. All but a few days were perfect, in the 70s and 80s and clear skies. It’s very rare to have weather as great as we did.”

Dollar has several other boating trips planned in the near future including one to the Big Bend River in January. Kelly, however, says he is going to have to take a break from his hobby and focus his attention on the political front. Kelly is a candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives in the 24th District and is now planning to focus on his campaign.

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