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PostPosted: 01 Jan 2013, 19:09 
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Joined: 04 Dec 2012, 16:57
Posts: 12
Location: Antalya, Turkey
In mid-November 2012 we paddled Alara gorge with a low water level. The gauge at the take-out bridge of the upper Alara ("Quelltopfstrecke", Ucansu section) showed 0,72 m which means about 10 cubes at the Kemer bridge and about 20 at Alarahan. Generally the gorge has not got easier. Due to new siphon rapids now it feels even more like an expedition. With that low level (it can get as low as half the flow in summer which is still runnable) five to ten rapids merit a portage. Already the first pool and drop rapids are sided with occasional small siphs. The little lake before the first rockslide from 2007 nowadays has gone. Approach very carefully. At least in low to medium levels the portage is a must.

The first rockslide in 2007 – this channel is not runnable anymore. | Photo: Matthias Breuel

Cross the small pool below and continue to carry the long class V+ rapid on the left. It takes less then ten minutes, with low levels the gaps between the undercut boulders are too small and usually stuck with wood.
In the last years after that you had free floating for the next 4 km. Now a new rockslide stops you after 300 m. The current goes straight under the rocks. Approach with great care! Carrying around on the left is fast and easy, you need to paddle the end of the rapid, nice boulder slalom, class 3+.

The new rockslide with fast water above - take care! | Photo: Karen Menzel

After the short portage the exit is nice and technical. | Photo: Karen Menzel

The huge rockslide from 2006 is announced 700 m before by a single-standing bridge pier. The huge springs on the left are dry in late summer. Carry around the road involves a huge portage. In low water level you can carry over the rocks on the left, the put-in from a slippery rock is a bit tricky. With more than 20 cubes only for experts. The rapid becomes a huge class 5 rapid in high water levels (no portage along the bank)!

The rockslide of 2006 – this portage is possible only in lower levels. | Photo: Karen Menzel

We were also able to take some GPS points this year. The narrow slot / waterfall is really hard to spot from the boat as the long canyon looks everywhere the same. This crucial rapid is at 36°46.762' N, 31°51.971' E, which is exactly 2 km after the big waterfall (dry in summer) high above the river on the right. With 10 to 15 cumecs it is a narrow slot with a 1,20 m drop. The pool below is calm and there's no hole. With increasing water level a waterfall builds up to 2 m height and there emerges a huge tow-back between the undercut cliffs. In very low water there is no drop at all, but the slot is so small that you might get pinned if not acting precise.

The narrow gap with low water level. | Photo: Karen Menzel

Scout this rapid everytime as log might block it. It is easier to get out on the right, but for the put-in you have to jump from a 5 m cliff and the landing is very close to the tow-back in higher water. To carry on the left side scramble up to the road (10 to 15 min).

The put-in from the cliff on river right. | Photo: Andi Strüwing

Note a nice class 4 rapid with a 1 m drop next to the cliff on the left 700 m after. Nice to run, but hard to set safety, portage is possible on the right. After that most of the hard rapids lie behind you.
Nevertheless in low water there is at least one more portage due to siphons and the waterfall/canyon towards the end. That rapid is extremely dangerous especially in low and medium level. In former years one used to portage on river left, taking out in the eddy right before the rapid. Backward-erosion has made this eddy dangerous and even impossible in low water. Now you have to take the very big eddy on the left before the right-hand bend. You even cannot see the rapid from there.

The view from the lip of the waterfall/canyon: Take out in the eddy of the left side of the photo. In low and medium water levels this rapid goes directly to the canyon. | Photo: Andi Strüwing

Pull your boats up on a ridge and climb down in between huge rocks. Not easy, beware of falling rocks. The put-in there between huge siphons which lie dry in low water. No real chance to put-in in here with higher levels. At this rapid a German rafter drowned in summer 2012. You can see the spot in the film. The drop right behind is runnable in all levels, but has a big undercut on the right. Take care with beginners.

In high water the waterfall looks runnable but still half a dozens siphons wait around the pool. At least the portage is a nice one then. | Photo: Gregor Sieber

In medium and high levels a waterfall, the rapids turns to an absolutely unrunnable canyon in low water. | Photo: Matthias Breuel

As a summary, the Alara gorge still is no easy deal. In autumn 2012 road constructions went on in the valley. Apparently it is possible to follow the left-hand track all way down from Kemer bridge to the Güzelbag road access even with a normal car now. A new road is bulldozed in the second half of the gorge including a new bridge. This part was absolutely virgin before and the new road reduces the feeling of remoteness the gorge was famous for. On the other hand access in emergency situations is a lot easier now and logistics get easier.
After all the listed danger spots it should be said that the the Great Alara gorge is one of the most beautiful "long runs" in this part of the world. Nearly 40 km of river adventure and nature (nearly) without any traces of civilisation. It is possible to paddle the gorge all year round, at least the second half. See this video for an impression of the second half. Some of the rapids run by raft gets very nasty in low water.
If you are interested in GPS points which cover most of the hard rapids (not all of them!), send me a PM.

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