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Back to back adventures in the Pyranha Fusion – Selway River and Sea Kayaking in the San Juan Islands

Fusion with baker

Over the past two weeks I have been on two very different adventures and seen so much variety from my Pyranha Fusion – 47 miles of the Selway River in Idaho and the tides, currents, and coastline of the San Juan Islands in western Washington. I ended up doing these two trips back to back because I had a wedding to attend on Orcas Island in the San Juans, and right before the wedding I picked up a cancellation permit on the Selway River. The Selway River is one of the most difficult rivers to get on during the permitted season because there is only one launch allowed each day, so my boyfriend and I couldn’t say no to a permit even thought it was low water and last minute. Plus I have a Fusion, which is a great boat for multi-day adventures.


The Selway River crosses the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the largest areas of land designated as wilderness in the Lower 48. My boyfriend and I planned for a 5-day float, packed up all of our gear and set off. The Fusion is vastly easier to pack than a normal creek boat because of the hatch (which is bone dry inside), so you can just throw all your gear inside and put the lid back on and you are ready to go.


Even though the boat is long, it was still really easy to paddle and manoeuvre. We even loaded it down with good food and wine, and I had no trouble getting in down the low water channels. Luckily it rained the first few days, which gave us a little bump in the flow through the bony top section, but also turned the river brown for about 12 hours.



The river grew in size every few miles as tributaries joined, but at Moose Creek, about half way, the river nearly doubled in size. Most of the larger rapids occur after this confluence. The rapids were steep and bony, but still really fun and very beautiful. It’s great living in Idaho and having these rivers and wilderness right out your back door. From the take-out it was only a 2.5-hour drive home where I could unload and re-pack for the San Juans.

Puzzel Creek boof

I decided to go on a sea kayaking trip to the San Juan Islands because one of my best childhood friends was getting married on a beach on Orcas Island, and I wanted to try out my Fusion on the ocean. I was allowed to camp right at the wedding site, so I figured I should just pack up my dress, tent, and sleeping bag and paddle my Fusion from Anacortes on Fidalgo Island (a distance of about 12-15 miles).

5 Launch

I am not at all experienced in sea kayaking, but after getting out there and doing it I encourage all whitewater paddlers to go on a sea kayaking adventure. Learning about the tides, weather, and navigation is fun and interesting. The San Juan Islands have notoriously strong currents as the tide comes in and out through all of the channels between the islands. A solo trip on the ocean, where you have to cross open water and navigate is pretty intense, especially when the wind the currents get going. It was a full moon, so I also had to plan around and paddle in big tides. A few of the big crossings were over two miles long and took up to two hours just to make it from one island to the next.


The intimidating thing about the tides is if they are strong enough they can prevent you from making it to where you are going or suck you out into the Strait of Georgia or Strait of Juan de Fuca. When I left Orcas Island I tried to paddle around the north end of Cypress Island to the east. I didn’t make it because I left too late and had to cross the ebbing current and ended up having to head south and paddle around the south side of the island to get back to Fidalgo Island. The islands are beautiful, there are seals, porpoises, and whales, and you can see the Cascades and the Olympic mountains, which means there is also a lot of ferry traffic going back and forth from Anacortes to the Islands. Ferries are absolutely terrifying! They are huge, fast, and can’t stop. I avoided the ferry traffic on my way out, but the distance back to Fidalgo Island is shorter if you cross the ferries. On my return trip I decided I could make it across the channel between the 2pm and 3pm ferry departing from Anacortes and hit the slack tide at 2:18 at the same time. The crossing took longer than an hour and I ended up in the middle of the ferry lane at 3pm with the flood tide starting up. I let the 3pm departing ferry cross in front of me and then I sprinted as fast as I could against the current to get out of the way of the inbound ferry returning from the islands. I made it, but it was really scary watching a huge ferry come at you from across the strait, not knowing exactly what path it is taking, and feeling helpless trying to paddle into a flood current. If I ever do that again, and I will because it was really fun and I have a boat that I can use for sea kayaking, I will never cross the ferry traffic again!