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How a defunct Vail dam brought luck to the Teva Games
The system which helps create this wave, in Gore Creek, is built into a concrete slab which was originally the base of a small dam.
Photo by Stevie Wall/Special to 

How a defunct Vail dam brought luck to the Teva Games

By Tom Boyd

June 3, 2008 —  When the Vail Town Council assembled this week to dedicate the new, much-improved kayak park in the heart of town, they probably didn’t know they have a failed 1968 construction project to thank – in part – for the state-of-the-art park which will host the Teva Mountain Games kayaking rodeo events this weekend.

One of the other guys they have to thank is Nick Turner, the pro-kayaker turned park designer who worked on the Gore Creek kayak park improvements this past fall, as well as the improved Avon whitewater park and the much-lauded Glenwood Springs kayak park.

Turner installed an inflatable bladder system into the water which can inflate or deflate to different sizes, thereby channelizing the water and creating an ideal kayaking wave – even at Gore Creek’s sometimes small stream flows.

In 2003, for example, the kayaking rodeo portion of Vail’s Teva Games were in danger of sinking. Rodeos pit kayakers against one another in freestyle moves executed within the confines of a single wave, hole, or feature on the river. When water levels dripped to a trickle, the Games’ staff installed pylons and barriers, awkwardly, into the river at the International Bridge, to channelize the flow.

“The Vail park has always been legitimate,” said Turner, who worked for River Restoration at the time of installation, “but Gore Creek is a small creek, so it’s hard to have that epic of a hole (there). But now (with the bladder system) it’ll keep the rodeo there in Vail instead of having to go to Avon or something.”

The International Bridge makes an ideal location for the rodeo, as climbing, biking, trail running, and other events all take place nearby.

Turner said that installing the pneumatic bladder system would have been near impossible without the fortuitous actions of a construction crew in 1968.

My father, Steve Boyd, was hired to build a dam at that location by the Town of Vail in the mid-to-late 60s. The Town was hoping to create a quaint duck pond in the center of town, and dad obliged. The following spring, however, nearby businesses discovered flooded basements, and the dam was removed.

All that remains of the project is a large concrete slab, visible beneath the water when it’s low or clear. That very slab, Turner said, was key to the creation of the inflatable bladder system.

“We cut channels into that concrete slab,” Turner said. “It wouldn’t have been doable without it.”

River levels are more than adequate to host a high-quality rodeo at the TEVA Games Saturday, June 7, as well as a kayak freestyle clinic June 6 at 4:30. As water levels drop, however, kayakers will be grateful – if not wholly aware – that the dam project of 1968 was swamped.



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