Friday, March 24, 2017

Tire Creek

Photo: Nick Hymel                            Paddler: Ross George

Tire Creek is a silly little creek that flows into Dexter Reservoir about 30 miles SE of Eugene.

It caught Emile's attention because even though it is so small, it is well channelized through interesting bedrock features and finally one day Ben went and soloed it.  He swam in the first rapid so that caught all our attention since Ben doesn't swim very often.

Not long after Ben's trip, another opportunity presented itself when everything seemed too high, which meant Tire might be perfect.  We headed down and Ben made it through the put in rapid without swimming, while the rest of us put in below.  Downstream were a couple ledges and then the main event at the bridge, a series of small ledges leading into a ten foot drop that was hard to stick but not particularly challenging to roll up after.

We took out here, pleasantly surprised by this fun little slice of bedrock boating and headed up to Staley Creek.

Two carnage lines from Tire Creek are shown between 1:55 - 2:20 in this video by Nick.

Clean Lines, Good Times from IKNick on Vimeo.

I don't recommend traveling to run Tire Creek, but if you are a Eugene local you might get a kick out of sliding down it once or twice when everything else is blown out.

Logistics:  Just drive to the lowest bridge over Tire Creek, the best part is visible right there.  Figure out a place to put in a short way upstream, the further you go the more wood issues there are, but also there are some more drops to pick off up high.  The more water the better, we had 5-6k on this gauge.  I would look for a closer gauge to use in the future though.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Behind the scenes

Whitewater is the goal, but sometimes the off-water challenges are just as memorable and can be plenty enjoyable.

Last weekend we had a good mix of both, here are some clips from on the river and off, from Boulder Creek and the Little Luckiamute.

The whitewater
*mute the video if at work or near soft ears*

With Gusto from Difficult E on Vimeo.

Off-water obstacles

A mix of both.

Monday, February 27, 2017

NF Deep Creek > Deep Creek: an urban kayaking adventure

  -as told by Rob Cruser

The North Fork of Deep Creek/Deep Creek is not for everyone.  If you're reading this blog and have boated much with Jacob, you are probably familiar with the term, "Crusered."  If not, this means to be unwittingly dragged along on a dubious exploratory trip.  As any exploratory kayaker can tell you it takes a lot of digging through dirt before you find a gem, but for some reason us Cruser's enjoy the hiking, portaging, painfully low water and problem solving as much as the "goods".  We sometimes forget not everyone has this disease and invite them along.  When enough of them found out a "roadside put in" can still involve a 200' descent to the creek, and those "couple of portages" were last years conditions, or "good flows" mean it's safe (low) enough to walk across the creek if the portage looks better over there they coined the phrase "Crusered", hung up their exploratory hats and returned to the classics.  We have not stopped enjoying our little adventures, so hold the term with a bit of pride, because that willingness to suffer a little (or sometimes a lot) has meant we have been able to see a lot of cool places that we otherwise would have not.

After our wood-choked 3rd trip down the NF of Deep on February 19th, I was feeling a little "Crusered" because of the many portages.  Rod Kilner and I had done this run a couple of years ago (Jacob and I had first run it 8-9 years ago) and it was pretty clean, but now the first half is kind of a disaster.  After about 2 miles, we gave serious thought to hiking out as we were concerned about light, but stuck with it and were rewarded with a much cleaner second half and a euphoric trip through the unique and fun Peashooter Gorge.

Early on

The normal put-in on the North Fork is at the corner of Highway 212 and SE Richey Road in Boring.  There is a parking lot behind the Shell station that serves as the access for the Cazadero Trail, which runs next to the creek on river-right and then dead-ends after 3 miles.  If it looks like there is just enough water, that's probably good.  If it's gushing, I would wait for another day.  River left is flatter and easier, and you'll want to drop-in below a small tree that is very obvious and blocking.  

Acceptable flows at the put in

Shortly downstream there are some obvious branches that you'll need to crash through or otherwise avoid.  The Mountain View Golf Course is close on your left for 3/4 of a mile until First Ledge, a sloping 4-footer on a left-bend that can be run pretty much anywhere with split-rail fences on river right marking the approach.  

First Ledge from above.
Eddy-out on the right immediately after running this drop and climb up to the trail to scout a small island that has a bunch of trees perched on it.  There is a slim line on the left, but lots of shallow, inconveniently placed rocks and dire consequences for a missed line had us walking around this time.  1/4 mile further on, the river turns into a lake above the largest logjam on the creek.  If you're quick, there is a scramble up to the trail on the right.  If not, portage on the left.  Many, many wood situations followed in 2017 and it would be pointless to try to describe them all.  A certain comfort with judging when it will be possible to stay in your boat and when to walk will make the trip move along more quickly.  Many of these appeared to have been deposited this year, so perhaps the stream will return to a cleaner version after a couple high water events.

After another 1 1/2 miles or so, the wood diminishes and you need to watch for the approach of the infamous Peashooter Gorge (3+ at low flows).  As the walls start showing a more sandstone/clay character, stay alert and eddy out on the right at a left-hand bend where the riverbed turns to bedrock.  There will be an obvious shelf on the right at lower levels that allow a scout of the lead-in ledge to Peashooter.  The initial drop can be run left or right, but right is easier and safer.  There is a nasty crack in the middle of this ledge that you really want to stay away from because a problem here would make for some serious unpleasantness as fast water with no eddies narrows down to the second, sometimes retentive ledge leading into Peashooter-proper.  After dropping over the second ledge, fasten your seatbelts as the creek narrows to a flume maybe 2-feet wider than boat-width that screams around the corner.  So fun!!!  Well, it's been fun so far, but whipping around the corner to find a tree in your way would not be so fun.  As the creek turns back to the right, you'll enter another slightly wider flume for Part II.  After our first run years ago, I told Jacob it felt like getting shot out of a peashooter, hence the name. 

Peashooter, from the shelf

The bedrock continues with shallow, low-angle slides and rapids for a bit then returns to it's normal self, with some scattered wood-issues.  Deep Creek comes in on the left, doubling the flow maybe 1/2 mile before the steep, slippery takeout on the left at the Highway 224 bridge.  It would also be possible to continue down to the Clackamas and take-out at Carver, but we haven't done that yet.  

With the exception of Peashooter Gorge, the rapids never exceed Class 2+ (at low flows), but Class IV judgment and experience in woody streams is recommended.  If you've ever been Crusered and had a smile on your face at the end of the day, you may share our genetic defect and find this run to be an interesting adventure.   

 - Rob

Flows:  The Beaver Creek @ Troutdale Gauge is the gauge we use to remotely estimate flows for this run and others in the area.  The photos on this report were taken on Feb 19, 2017, then looked runnable again on a walking trip Feb 23 the following week.  Both were similar flows on the low end of runnable.  Note that it spiked three different times on Feb 19, showing how finicky the flows are.  It take significant rain to bring it in, and under certain conditions could go from too high to too low in a short period of time relative to other streams in the area.  Visually assessing the level for yourself is really the only way to be sure about flows.  If they look safe, they probably are.  If the stream looks high, it probably is.  Make good decisions.


click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Oregon River Names

A link to an Oregonian article siting the sources of some of the names of rivers in Oregon caught my eye.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Champion Creek


Stream: Champion Creek is a tributary to Brice Creek (near Cottage Grove) that makes for a low-key adventure if you live in the area.

Put in below the run-out of Smith Falls (sieves to the extreme), walking down to creek level next to this cliff and stump.

There are many rapids on this run, with wood mixed in.  In 2016 we had 4 wood portages and 1 rapid portage.  There was more wood in play, but nothing out of the ordinary for a small Oregon stream.  The typical style was that of a handful of bouldery rapids, then a bedrock rapid.  I would rate one of the rapids near the end class V, the rest do not meet that classification.

Typical Champion Creek

There are plenty of blind corners, so frequent scouting for the next eddy and of course lines down to those eddies is commonplace.

In 2016 the wood situation was such that it was convenient to hop out at the halfway bridge and walk a couple hundred yards past a few log hazards.  Putting in above a short boulder garden followed by a 5-10' ledge with a nice boof on the left.


Hunter runs a pillowy ramp further down.

Just downstream of the above pictured rapid was an intimidating, but reasonably dealt with wood hazard.  Two in the group portaged, but wished they hadn't.


The whitewater continued below here, including the stand out rapid of the run.  This was a three part rapid in a gorge.  I would consider this gorge class V at the flows we had if all the drops are run.  There is a convenient option to portage along the road on river right if desired.

Ben runs the middle part of the rapid.

Not too far below this gorge rapid a large logjam was present in 2016.  It is easy to take out here, just above the lower bridge over Champion Creek.   It is also easy to continue through Lower Brice Creek.

Flows:  Flows the day we ran Champion Creek shown below.  We absolutely noticed the jump while we were paddling that day.  When we drove up in the morning both Brice and Champion were running at a low, but runnable flow.  By the time we hit Brice both had reached a level I would describe as "near swollen".

I only have the one data point, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt:  If I were to return I would look for the Row River abv Pitcher Creek gauge to read between 1,000-2,000 cfs if levels were stable or changing slowly.

Access:  Take I5 towards Cottage Grove.  Take exit 174, following Row River Rd/Shoreview Rd past Dorena Reservoir and Wildwood Falls.   The road you are driving on becomes "Brice Creek Rd" and about 23 miles after leaving I5 you will pass Cedar Creek Campground (shortly after crossing Brice Creek for the second time) which is the take out for Lower Brice and where I recommend taking out if you think you will have enough time to make it that far.

3.5 miles upstream from Cedar Creek campground, veer right onto Champion Creek Rd.  This road quickly crosses Champion Creek, where you can leave a vehicle if you are short on time.

To get to the put in continue upstream about 2 miles (crossing Champion again at 0.9 miles) until you see this cliff and stump, a point from which you can scramble down to the creek.

Just upstream of this cliff is a set of class V-VI rapids beginning with Smith Falls, I recommend not putting onto Champion Creek above the cliff pictured above.

click to enlarge

Trip Report

Ben had been talking about Champion Creek for a few weeks, and certainly had his eye on it before that.  I had some beta that Champion was "a short III-IV run in a gorge with wood".  I wanted to run Upper Quartzville or Boulder Creek, but Ben had decided he was going to run Brice even if he had to go by himself.  I was surprised he was so excited about the run, but understood the drive to see something new so Emile and I agreed to join him.

I gave him a call as we got close to Eugene and got excited when he started describing the run as class V with some steep and sliding cascades that "might go".  By the time we got to Eugene the group had grown to almost 10 people.

In the parking lot Ben showed me a picture on his phone he had found on the internet that made me wonder how far up this creek we were planning on going.

Arriving at the take out for Lower Brice, Ben declared the stream low but runnable.  Heading upstream we saw that Champion Creek did indeed look intriguing, if woody.  By the time we got to the put in, half the group had decided this wasn't a run for them.   There was a falls at the put in that looked fun, but had a log in it and a sieve filled run-out.  We scrambled to the creek below that set of class V-VI whitewater, putting in just downstream of a waterfall emerging from under a boulder.

The run turned out to be pretty enjoyable.  Far from classic, but a good day on the water.  Lots of scouts for the next eddy and enjoyable rapids scattered between boogie sections.  Less than 5 portages even.  We did one extended portage along the road, feeling silly as we passed by a couple hundred yards of stream we should have run.  Part way through this extended portage along the road we crossed the halfway bridge.  Putting back in a couple hundred yards later (skipping a few log issues in one swoop) we encountered a fun boulder garden followed by the best boof of the run.

Emile runs a rapid above the halfway bridge on Champion Creek.

More engaging stream puzzles continued, most horizons were one person checks for wood.  One stand out gorge had three moves separated by moving pools.  People ran the second and third moves, skipping the first.  The first move was the only whitewater on the run I would call Class V.

And finally we made the last portage at road level, returning to river level just below the lowest bridge over Champion Creek.  We paddled another 200' to the confluence with Brice, tired and looking forward to some full bladed paddling.

Levels had been rising all day, and by the time we hit Brice Creek we had plenty of water resulting in some large holes.

 Ben and Hunter both ran Lower Trestle.

 Pogo was easier at these flows than when I had been there with less water.

Cheesegrater had a nasty hole with a log in it at the bottom, getting left to avoid it was easier said than done.  No swims but one surf.

 "Fun" had a large hole, but it flushed right and was easily cleared with appropriate boating technique.
Hunter sails over the hydraulic.

Ben, Hunter and Emile took advantage of the rising levels to paddle through a culvert part way down the run on river left.

Laura's was more than any of us were interested in, so we took the easy walk on the right.

 It looked like it would be fun to "see what happened" when you hit the bottom tier, but it also looked like a deep swim would be the inevitable result, and colliding with wood a real possibility.

We reached the foot bridge a few minutes later.  Champion Creek is an odd one to sum up.  It wasn't a suffer fest, wasn't sketchy or scary, had plenty of rapids with easy scouting and portaging options; though nothing really stood out about the run that would compel me to go back. Yet it was a good day of creeking and I enjoyed it.  

I'd say if you live in the area and like this style of run, by all means check it out.  Especially in conjunction with Brice Creek. 

On the flip side if you don't like this style of run, or are not with an efficient/cohesive team, it will probably be frustrating and I'd recommend against it.  


Monday, November 14, 2016

Thomas: from the top

I met Emile at the standard Thomas Creek take out around 9:15 and followed him up into the woods to one of the bridges above Thomas Creek Falls.  We left my vehicle and headed upstream, dropping off the scooter at a bridge part way through the run in case the trip ran too long and the light too short.  After a quick deliberation we decided to do all 7.5 miles we were interested in exploring, instead of the shorter and guaranteed to finish before dark lower 3 miles.  It was a lot of new stream to get through in one day, especially since we figured there would be wood but we are used to this type of boating and felt good about moving quickly in the low volume stream.

The shuttle takes some time but we eventually make it to our desired location and get down to stream level around 10am.   There are many tributaries downstream and despite healthy flows in the standard section, up this high Thomas is barely floatable.

We get to it and are pleased when we reach the first horizon line before the first log portage.  It ended up being one of the better drops, a fun ten foot ledge.

More twists, a few turns and we are at the next bedrock horizon.  Still no portages.

After our third bedrock rapid we reach our first portage, a quick one on the left.  Then more twists, more turns, more rapids.

We portage one rapid that would go better with water, we figure we have gone more than 2 miles and it's not noon yet, giving us hope we will make it through all 7.5 miles before dark.  Another portage, then half hour of read and run.  We decided to take a lunch break at the next log portage or scout, reaching noon before finding either of those we stop at that time.  We eat burritos and look for mushrooms.

We continue downstream, more of the same with one more portage and a neat class IV bedrock gorge.  We reach a bridge marking three miles to the take out, a small tributary enters on the left via a friendly looking double drop.  We hike up and plop off that, heading downstream with a couple smiles, wondering if the wood will pick up as the gradient dissipates.  More intermediate whitewater; Thomas Creek is getting larger now, definitely standard "creek size" at this point.  We reach another bridge and encounter a long stretch of easy floating with a couple tunnels of brush, yet avoid having to get out of our boats.

We both are glad we put in so high up as it's looking like we will get through this lower 3 miles in less than an hour.  We are on the lookout for a rapid Pete Giordano had showed me a picture of a number of years ago, a ten footer and a boulder garden.  Would it be runnable?  A sediment laden tributary enters Thomas Creek, turning the clear stream brown and makes the whitewater slightly harder to read.  The price of paper, wood houses and a strong Oregon economy I suppose, I'm just glad to be in a place I don't have access to most of the year.

Eventually we reach an island and go right, we wished we would have gone left but don't have to get out of our boats.  Just below the island is a boulder garden leading to a blind right turn.  We hop out at the top of the boulder garden and scan for the next eddy, finding it on the bottom left, guarded by a pile of boulders in the center of the river with a thin, but low consequence line to the left.

Arriving in that eddy we see that downstream the creek pinches off between two boulders, it looks like there is a boiling eddy on the left before another significant rapid that heads off around a blind corner to the left.  Should we spend time walking down the hummocky left bank?  No, having made many decisions like this together over the years we feel confident the pinch will be manageable and the eddy reachable.

Regrouping in the eddy below the pinch I scout left, Emile right.  He signals there are a couple small eddies along the left after the rapid bends left, I am already out of my boat so walk down to the eddy he plans to catch.

The eddy is not as easy to catch as we had thought and he slips out of the first one, I reach for him but he wants to try for the next one, slipping out of that one (barely an eddy at all) I decide it's time to intervene and grab his nose.  I head back to my boat, we switch rolls and he spots me while I take my turn getting into the eddy.

Video showing the exit from the eddy below the pinch, then turning the corner to the next eddy above what is now known as Pumpkin Spice.

Below us the stream funnels down into a narrow alleyway and over a small horizon line, could this be the drop Pete told me about?  It is, and it's enticing.  Both of us are in exploratory mode though (focused on downstream progress and a bit tired) and neither wants to probe.  Optimistic yet unsure about the landing zone, we take the high route along river left, confident the rapid will get run the next time someone does this stretch.

It is more challenging getting in our boats and exiting the pool below than we had anticipated, we must be getting tired.  A boof below rewards our efforts.

The challenge of the last few hundred yards is gone and another type of challenge awaits, an island with wood.  We follow the channel with more water and are able to duck under a couple logs without getting out of our boats, next time I will go right (actually next time I forget and go left again).

Just downstream we reach our take out bridge, it feels somehow wrong finishing a 7.5 mile exploratory trip at 2:30, we didn't even get an early start.

We run shuttle, happy to satisfy our curiosity about what lay in the upper reaches of Thomas Creek.  We have lots of daylight left so Emile introduces me to mushroom collecting, which I learn is different than mushroom hunting.  We cherry pick, waiting until we see the distinct orange color of the type we are seeking from our vehicle, then scooping up as many as we can find in a 50' radius from the road.  By the end of the shuttle Emile claims he has enough for 4 pizza's, I don't like the taste or texture of mushrooms so he goes home with all 4 pizza's worth.

We take a look at Thomas Creek Falls on the way out.  Emile says "he will if I will", but having already run this particular drop before, we end up not having the fire to get back in our gear and a serious mindset.

I am back home before dinner, and plan to take the next day off from boating.  But by morning the drop we left unrun is calling to me, and I head back to Thomas with another group to place the last piece of the whitewater puzzle.  I think maybe some day I'd like to run the lower flat water portions of Thomas Creek through the farmland and down to the South Santiam, with the goal of having seen all that Thomas has to offer.

Flows for the day

At the Hwy 226 bridge over Thomas on the drive up.

Put in Emile and I used:   44.6519, -122.3577