Book Review By Evan J. Stafford
NorthWoods Whitewater is more than just a guidebook. It is a piece of kayaking lore that until now has
remained anonymous in the overarching popular kayak culture, but it has been for many years and will
remain to be for decades to come a crucial component of kayaking’s heart and soul. They even have their
own terminology up there where boaters are kayakists, where there are boulderbed rapids and where
the Upper Peninsula is nothing more than the U.P. Where they ski their rivers in the winter and where
above all they love their North Woods Whitewater.
|Joerg Steinbach: Photo by John Linn
The story of this guidebook is half heartwarming half tragic and is all kayaking. It begins with an
unpublished manuscript as most books do. This hand typed manuscript however was and is the book, the
North Woods bible, that priceless source of boating beta that every aspiring paddler requires. For $20
Jim Rada would send you a loose-leaf xeroxed guide to over sixty whitewater runs in Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Ontario and Michigan. Jim’s deft yet sometimes lengthy prose became legendary and has been a staple of
the Midwest’s boating community since word first spread of this underground masterpiece.
|Tim Hebrink: Photo by Doug Nelson
It appears that Jim never let a river description get in the way of his story telling. This guidebook
is adorned with wild tales of both adventure and misadventure. In Colorado we have CRC (Colorado Rivers
and Creeks). In the Upper Midwest they have NorthWoods Whitewater. I don’t think the value of the
photo-copied original classic can be overestimated. Jim Rada suffered a heart attack while running
the Triple Drop on the Presque Isle River and not did survive. When Jim met this tragic and untimely
death his river community banded together to produce NorthWoods Whitewater in it’s current, work of art type
form. Complete with color maps, a unique and professional layout, and beautiful full color photography
this published version is a true tribute to the man whose written words inspired a generation of North Woods paddlers.
|Doug Demerest : Photo by Steve Stratman
“…You should not expect a guidebook to show you the way. Even the best of guidebooks is only a Zen-like finger
pointing. You must do the paddling, scouting, eddy hopping, sweeper dodging, portaging and enjoying. I
will give you advice and a sense of what the rivers are like.” Jim Rada
To order your own copy of NorthWoods Whitewater go to www.sangfroidpress.com/northwoods.htm.