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“Hang on,” Johnson advised as he throttled up to charge the first set of rapids. “Here we go.”
The big V-8 roared to life as the bow plunged into the first hole and then rebounded and punched through the rolling face of a standing six-footer, momentarily obliterating our forward view. Once the foam cleared, I recoiled at the sight of a VW-size boulder within inches of the gunwale.
“Those rocks are barkin’,” Johnson chuckled, referring to the deafening clash of water and granite. “Yep,” I answered, staring straight ahead, my knuckles now white as I braced for the next barking beast.
Skillful piloting is one thing, but it also takes a specialized boat to successfully dance on these rivers. They’re known as whitewater jet boats, hailing from several Western builders such as Duckworth Boats (duckworthboats.com), Hells Canyon Marine (hellscanyonmarine.com), Kingfisher (kingfisherboats.com), Rogue Jet (roguejet.com) and Weldcraft (weldcraftmarine.com), as well as BWC (whitewatercustoms.com).
Try running these rivers in any other kind of powerboat and you’ll be macerated in minutes. Yet, whitewater jet boats can blast through boiling rapids and need only scant inches of water to skim across riffles.
“The heart of the boat is the powertrain,” said Chuck Campbell, who handles marketing for BWC, based in Meridian, Idaho. The company builds jet boats ranging from 12 to 31 feet in length. “We equip nearly all of our bigger boats with the 6.2-liter LSA supercharged V-8,” Campbell said.
This is the Cadillac 374-cubic-inch Northstar marinized by Marine Power (marinepowerusa.com) and rated at 550 hp. There’s torque aplenty.