Friday, December 8, 2017

Willamette Valley Whitewater Festival

The PDXkayaker film fest was cancelled this year, so some locals grabbed the ball and shifted the film fest to Ninkasi Headquarters in Eugene with the blessing of Next Adventure.  The event will take place in late February or early March, entries are due by February 20th.

Details at the event Facebook Page

2017 Film Fest Trailer


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Taylor Creek

Photo: Priscilla Macy


Stream: This is a small stream near Merlin, OR in the Rogue Valley.  The nature of the run is tight and adventurous.  The stream-bed is quality class IV, but there is wood in inconvenient, potentially dangerous locations.  Low flows make the run manky, high flows make it hazardous.  If I lived in the area and it was wood free I would run it all the time, with the current wood configuration I felt it was worth doing once.  It's possible to either see the next eddy or scout in most spots, just don't be too aggressive.

A log above, a fun chute below, vertical wall; a typical scene on Taylor Creek.
Photo: Priscilla Macy
Flows:  There is no online gauge, a unit gage at the take out exists on river left though.
Anything below "0" units is not recommended, but the stream is passable down to -3".   

I don't know what high water is indicated by on this gage, but you don't want high water.

Note: The "0" unit starts where the concrete goes from angled to vertical near the bottom of the pillar.

The WF Cow Creek gage can be used to get a ballpark sense of the situation.  

500 cfs at noon and dropping was low (-3") VIDEO
700 cfs at noon and dropping was also low (-1") *trip report found on this page*
900 cfs at noon and fairly stable looked perfect (bridge gage not noted)

Access:  From Merlin, OR drive about 8.5 miles WNW on Galice Rd until you reach the bridge over Taylor Creek at the take out (this is also where the gage is).

Drive up Taylor Creek using the NF-25 road on river left (visible and obvious from the take out) about 3 miles to the sign for the Taylor Creek trailhead.

Walk about 50 yards on the trail, but when the trail bends back to the left, leave it and follow the lesser used path going straight towards the creek.  It takes about 5 minutes to reach the creek.

Trip Report

Taylor Creek is a would-be go-to run near Merlin, in southern Oregon.  We ran it the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2017.

A couple of years earlier, Priscilla had been paddling Jump-Off Joe Creek with her brothers.  While signing the waiver required to run that creek, the RV Park host told her about one of the local gems of the area.  He said it was fun and ledgey class IV in a gorge, and got her really excited about it.  We tried to run it the following year, but the water was too low.

This year we had our eyes on Hurdgygurdy, but Priscilla's hip was bothering her and she wasn't up for hiking so we thought we would check out Taylor Creek, the run the RV Host had told her about.

We met up with Willie Illingsworth in Merlin, and drove to the take out hoping for healthy flows from all the rain.  The storms had been dropping most of their precipitation in the Coast Range, but we hoped enough had landed in the Rogue Valley for good flows.  Instead, flows looked low (-1" on the gauge).

We knew it had been run lower (at -3"), so without any other good options for the day in the near vicinity we drove to the put in to check out the run that Priscilla had been wanting to do for a couple years.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

From the Taylor Creek trailhead, we left the main trail within 50 yards and followed the more direct, less developed path straight towards the creek.  We put on to a low floatable flow, and made it to the first rapid in a matter of a couple minutes.  It's a quick scout on the left, and we all made it through without issue but it was apparent we were not going to have padding on this trip.

The first part of the run has a gorge character, we had read about "class 6 eddies above wood" which had us a bit on edge.  There was in fact a good bit of wood on the run so it was important to be diligent of blind corners, but nothing felt harder than class IV. 

The gorge was unique, and we were happy to be there.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The second half of the run has lots of boulder gardens that could be eddy hopped at this flow, but would be a bit blind as the levels rose.  Willie was doing 90% of the probing, his role at the sharp end resulted in a couple rolls in manky water, but helped us move along at a nice pace.

These boulder gardens lasted longer than I was expecting, and were engaging.  We found ourselves wishing for more water and less wood, but it was a neat place and there were more smiles than frowns.   One of the rapids had a cable running the length of the rapid, we did a partial portage on the left and ran the second half.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

More rapids continued until eventually the stream eased to class I-II and we floated past some houses, pleased to not have to portage at all in this final stretch before reaching the bridge.

Photo: Priscilla Macy


Thursday, November 30, 2017

WF Cow Creek

Photo: Priscilla Macy / along the lower run


Stream: A brushy class II-IV stream only half an hour off I-5 near Glendale.  There are some quality rapids, unique scenery, and the shuttle is straight forward.  It's no classic, but its worth doing.  If you use the put in we did, you will get a bonus canyon that includes Dothan Falls.  

                                Priscilla Macy running Dothan Falls

From Dothan falls to the lower put in (at a bridge), the stream is brushy class II-III.  The stretch below the bridge is a more mature stream-bed with higher quality class III/IV, less brush and more to look at.  Everything was easily scout-able and portage-able at the low flows we had.

Flows:  From our scout in 2016, I think 1,000 cfs or just under is perfect.  Our flow was low, it was plenty of water to float but because the character is more river-esque than creek-like, the rapids were not quality at low water.  By the end of the day when we ran shuttle, flows looked ideal.  We had missed the bubble by a few hours.

Access:  From Riddle or Glendale, get on Cow Creek Rd and follow it 15-20 miles to the confluence with the WF Cow Creek.  Follow the WF Rd as it parallels WF Cow 3.8 miles and turn left on a road that leads to the take out bridge.  To get to the put in we used return to NF-25 and continue upstream 6.3 miles (crossing another put in option at a bridge at 4.5 miles) and veer right. 1.1 miles later stay left. 2.8 miles later you will reach a rock quarry which marks the put in.

If you would like to add more class II-III you can put in higher, or take out lower.

Notes:  If the flows are good, the water quality will be bad.


Trip Report

The WF of Cow Creek has been on our list for a couple years.  It stands out on maps despite the low gradient, due to narrow sections and satellite imagery showing plenty of bouldery rapids between longer stretches of little action.  We had driven along it a couple times heading in and out of the SF Coquille drainage.  Last year we drove along the headwaters on our way to Woodenrock Creek and because the road follows much of it we were able to scout enough to put it on the "lets do it someday" list.

We were heading from Albany down to Grants Pass for Thanksgiving, and this creek happens to be a pretty convenient option along that route.  Oddly enough, the week before the trip we got one last piece of inspiration from Sam Box, who sent us a couple intriguing photos his friends had taken at Dothan Falls during the summer.

Mmmmm, bedrock.

As the time grew closer to head South, the lack of rain in the Rogue Valley had us losing motivation for WF Cow.  It looked like it would be too low, so we made plans to head to The Gem on the SF Coquille instead.  On the drive down, we saw levels had started to rise.  We had a cutoff of 2k for The Gem, so when we stopped for gas in Roseburg and checked to see that the SF Coquille had hit that mark with no signs of slowing we decided to divert back to WF Cow, since they share a headwaters ridge we hoped WF Cow would continue to rise as well (it had been too low that morning).

We left I5 near Glendale and started paralleling Cow Creek, which was very low. However as we turned off onto the WF road, the further up the drainage we drove, the more water there seemed to be.  We had high hopes we would be able to float the creek, reaching our take out we decided it was going to be low but we could get down it and still have an enjoyable day.

Our planned take out, and a scene we ended up seeing plenty more of on the WF of Cow Creek.
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

We dropped off our motorized bike to do the 9 mile shuttle at the end of the day along with some snacks and headed to the put in.  We had not remembered where the gate was from our scouting trip (it had been open that day), but were pleased to find the spot we wanted to put in was below the gate anyway.

We find odd-ball runs usually have at least some sort of logistical challenge to reach the put-in, this was a stark exception to the rule.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

There was a brush island that required using the correct channel, and some class II-III before the walls rose briefly and the creek veered right.  Priscilla hopped out to scout and grab a photo of this fun one.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Just around the corner was Dothan Falls, the most anticipated rapid of the trip.  We were not sure it would be runnable as from the road it appeared to drop into the left wall, and the photos Sam's friend had taken only showed the lip.

A quick scout revealed a nice flake that allowed us to avoid the left wall.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The creek eased off considerably below Dothan Falls, and there was much brush to deal with.  It was all passable, and  kept us engaged through the 2 miles of class II that followed down to a bridge (42.8469, -123.7525).  After that, occasional rapids and abundant brush carried us another 2 miles down to another bridge (42.8297, -123.7185) we had passed over during the shuttle which we felt might be a higher "bang for your buck" put-in option on a return trip.

One of the rapids between the bridges, a welcome break from the brush-bashing.

A short way below the mainline bridge passed over during the shuttle, and about 5 miles into the trip we stopped for a lunch break.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

I had heard from Yann Crist-Evans that the section below the bridge was a nice class IV high water option.

 Not too far below the mainline bridge, the stream started to mature.  The creek entered a beautiful canyon section, the brush eased up and the whitewater started to get better.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Large boulders started to make it tough to see downstream, we hopped out a couple times to scout out the best route.  While only class III-IV, there were places that were better to be than others.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

This ended up being the best part of the run, and would be a hoot at the right flow.  At low flows the rapids were not filled in, and while we had plenty of water to float, the character of the stream was more river-like and needs the boulders to be covered to bring the rapids to life.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The scenery is unique, and worth taking in.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

About 2 miles before our take out, Priscilla remembered that she had not left the keys for the bike lock at the take out, they were in fact back at the put in.  After trying to think up any other option, we resigned to stopping at this point and walking the 7 miles back to our vehicle.  Given it was Thanksgiving (we were planning to celebrate the holiday Saturday), we didn't see anyone else the whole time we were in the Cow Creek drainage.  The walk back up to the vehicle wasn't as big a bummer as we were anticipating, which we completed and returned to collect our things well before dark.  During our walk, we again noticed that the stream had more water the higher we went.  And when we reached our vehicle it was obvious the heavy showers throughout the day had brought the stream up, and we had missed the bubble by only a few hours.  Oh well, the whitewater might not have been as good at the low flow but it was still a neat canyon worth checking out.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lochsa River

We ran this on our way back from Montana as a way to break up the drive on our return to Oregon with a paddle.  The levels were low compared to videos and pictures we had seen, so no massive wave at Lochsa Falls and no Pipeline.  Yet there was still plenty enough water to have fun and consider it "in".  The run was pool drop III-IV and could be road-scouted from Hwy 12 or boat-scouted from the river.  

We skipped the first few miles as we were scootering the shuttle and still had an 8 hour drive that afternoon, camping along the Lochsa was decent and allowed us to take a different route back than the way we had come.  And get one last river in before heading home.

Complete Beta Here.

Flows: We had low water, but still plenty to enjoy the run.  At this level, I would compare it to the Clackamas River at similar flows, while maintaining a more consistent class III-IV nature than the Clackamas with steeper rapids.

Access:  The Lochsa is accessed off of Hwy 12, which connects Lewiston, ID and Missoula, MT.

We camped at the Knife's edge campground, which is boater friendly with boater changing stations.  The time of year we were there, a few of the spots were not available for camping as they were designated as daytime parking spots for boaters.

We took out at a foot bridge 3 miles upstream of this campground, and put in at a roadside pull out about 8 miles upstream from that bridge.  There are many other sections to choose from and other rivers to run in the area.

Notes:  At the campsite, we ended up eating dinner with a couple from Orofino.  As it turns out the women works at a scope manufacturer nearby, and built the turret that was used to fire this shot.


Friday, September 15, 2017

West Fork Hood

Photo: Rob Cruser


Iv'e never run the WF Hood at anything but low flows, so I will direct you here for better information on healthy flows.

Stream:    I have run this section a few times with my dad at around 4' on the Tucker gauge from snowmelt.  I like putting in at Lolo Pass, but for those who are adventure-adverse putting in at the Lake Branch confluence is convenient.

The section from Lolo Pass to the standard put in is class III-IV with some fun bedrock rapids and one ugly (class V-ish) bouldery rapid in a small gorge.  The ugly one has a semi-strenuous portage high on the left.

The run below the Lake Branch weaves in and out of gorges with numerous class III-IV rapids.  The most unique hazard is a fish ladder half way through the run.  This has been run, but it is highly recommended that you make the easy portage on the left.  Rumor is there used to be a ten foot waterfall here before the fish ladder was created (how did the fish ever make due before we got here?).

The biggest boulder garden of the run is just down stream and can be boat scouted or shore scouted on the right.  Rapids continue down to the take out bridge, some portions being more interesting than others.  Either take out on the right and hike up to your vehicles below the bridge or check out Punchbowl Falls just downstream, which is a powerful ten foot plunge usually boofed on the left.

Nick going center at a low flow.

 If you run Punchbowl continue down to the confluence of the EF Hood.  Take out on the gravel bar on the right and walk the steep-ish trail up to the decommissioned road and back to your vehicle.

Flows:  If you are using the Tucker Gage 3.5' is the minimum my dad and I have been down on the Hood Gauge, it's mostly technical class II and III at that flow with a more interesting rapid every now and then.  Punchbowl is friendly at these flows.  4'+ is more reasonable and generally people shoot for about 5'-6' on that gauge.

 There is also a gauge on the WF itself now, it can be run as low as 250 cfs, but people generally shoot for 400 cfs and up.  500 cfs is close to minimum if you are using the Lolo Pass put in. 700 cfs is closer to medium.

Access:  Take Hwy 281 out of Hood River to the town of Dee.  A bridge crosses the stream in what used to be the middle of a town.  Cross this bridge and turn right on Punchbowl Rd.  Follow this road until it crosses a bridge.  Backtrack 100 feet and you will find a gravel parking area that is the take out (downstream of the bridge).  Some people may wish to spot their take out from the bridge or by walking down the road past the gate.

Amercian Whitewater has done good work for this location, in the future the take out may be improved and more obvious to spot.

The put in is accessed by returning towards Dee, but instead of crossing the bridge continue straight on Lost lake Rd.  Following it through farmland and then paralleling the WF Hood 5.4 miles to the standard put in.  For the Lolo Pass put in continue upstream 2.5 more miles, then turn left onto NF-18/Lolo Pass Rd and follow that a short way down to the put in bridge.

Notes:   The Green Point Creek drainage has seen some attention by locals, this stream enters the WF Hood in a gorge in the last 1/3rd of the run.  Here is a trip report from Ryan Scoot on the North Fork of that creek.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

North Umpqua: Lemolo's


Stream:  Starting at the outlet to Lemolo reservoir and ending at Lemolo Falls, this is more a novel approach to hiking the Lemolo Falls trail than an actual kayak run. 

Most of the summer the release from Lemolo reservoir is about 80 cfs, which is actually enough water to paddle the stream.  Furthermore it's a favorable level in that it drops the effort factor because the log portaging is easier at this flow and the rapids all still go well enough to be enjoyable.

  Photo: Priscilla Macy

The put in is at the base of the reservoir, there should be just enough water to float (we brought rock boats).
 Photo: Priscilla Macy

 There are a couple quick portages (easy at low flows) before your first bedrock ledge.  The rest of the run continues this way, a couple quick log portages and then an interesting, ledgey rapid.  These get larger as you move downstream, eventually peaking at this fun falls.

Sometimes it is easier to portage along the trail that runs along river right, we took this option twice in order to pass multiple log issues at once.  It's a bit of a puzzle getting downstream, a fun puzzle with the right attitude.  The run ends at Lemolo Falls, where a nice eddy exists on the right to take out of the river and take in the view.

This rapid is not far above Lemolo Falls, it's probably easiest (but not necessary) to leave boats here and walk the remainder of the trail to Lemolo.
 Photo: Richard O'Neill

 If you were to paddle to Lemolo Falls, be cautious below the above pictured rapid, Lemolo is not something you would want to take an unplanned run over.  There is a nice eddy on the right above the point of no return, fortunately.

 Take some time to appreciate where you are, then begin hiking out.  We found a nice point of egress about 1/4 mile above Lemolo Falls.  If you are adept at carrying a boat it takes less than 20 minutes, and if you are not adept you probably are not doing this type of run in the first place.  The initial pitch is straight up and can be done in about 5-10 minutes. The rest of the hike is pretty flat until you reach the road next to the canal where you can leave vehicles.  If you would rather hike on a trail, you can hike back upstream 1.5 miles to the trailhead.

Flows:  You want the North Umpqua below Lemolo Reservoir to have 80+ cfs, which it usually has during the time of year anyone would be desperate enough to check this one out.  If they are releasing a healthy flow I would be concerned about the wood situation (200 cfs would be fine).  

Access:  The turn off to Lemolo Reservoir is between Toketee Falls and Clearwater Lake off Hwy 138 (follow the signs to Lemolo Lake).  Follow this road (2610) about 5 miles to the dam creating Lemolo Reservoir.  You will return here and put in just below the dam.

To drop a vehicle off for shuttle, cross the dam and take the first left.  Follow this paved road next to the canal just over 1/2 mile and cross over the canal on a small bridge.  If you would rather hike out 1.5 miles on the trail leave your vehicle here at the trailhead.

If you would like to hike directly up to your vehicle at the end of the run, follow the dirt track next to the canal about 1.25 miles (you should pass three decommissioned bridges spanning the canal downstream of the trailhead).  Leave your vehicle here and note where you are along the canal in case you do not reach the dirt track right where you left your vehicle on the hike out.

Driving out along the canal at the end of the day.
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

* If you do not have a vehicle with clearance, you can use the paved road on the river-right side of the canal.*

Notes:   There is lots of nice camping in the area.

Trip Report
Between Two Lemolo's

It was the end of the summer (2016), and despite seeing inches of snow at elevation on this trip it had been over 80 degrees in the Willamette Valley last weekend.  Priscilla and I were headed down to Grants Pass so she could get her eyes mapped for Lasik surgery and we decided to do some kayaking on the way down as kayakers often do.

Snow in the Summer, and graffiti with taste.  

I'd had my eye on this stretch of the North Umpqua for a few years now but it's been on the back burner because of regulated flows and known wood obstacles.  We almost ran it last year when Lucas Reitmann suggested that stretch but had checked out another creek instead that required less driving.

This series of photos was where the heft of my research and interest came from.  Because they posted the dates they took the photos I was able to compare that to historic gauge data and thought the run looked possible at the 75 cfs reading those photos were taken at, a perfect late season adventure when nothing else was flowing.

We checked out the Narrows run of the North Umpqua on our way up, but skipped that section when a local at the take out appeared far too interested in our shuttle vehicle (a motorized bicycle).  After arriving at the dam creating Lemolo Reservoir we took a little time to figure out some of the logistics that couldn't be done from a map and shortly after had our shuttle set.

A quick walk down to the stream and we were floating downriver on what oddly felt like a fine flow (89 cfs).  A couple quick log portages and we passed a staff gauge reading 1.5'. 

Another quick hop out and in portage, and we were at the first horizon line, a fun bedrock ledge typical of the run.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

A couple more easily dealt with logs and we arrived at another gauge that had been damaged and will be decommissioned by the time this trip report is published.

Immediately downstream was another bedrock ledge that would have been good without a log spanning the line.  A bold paddler could execute a rail slide down the log.

The rest of the run was more of the same, interesting and clean bedrock rapids (all class IV in nature) separated by quick log portages and some log dodging.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

 The signature drop of the run was this waterfall that despite the low flow had two distinct line options.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

The next rapid we snuck via the scrapey right channel.  The landing over there is less than a paddle deep, we used two different techniques to keep our bows from dropping to vertical.

 Photo: Priscilla Macy

My favorite rapid ended up being one that I was going to portage until Priscilla decided she wanted to run it.  She made the narrow pinch look fun and straight forward so I had to follow.

This was the last rapid we ran on this trip and we left our boats on the trail a short way downstream.  On our walk down to check out Lemolo Falls we passed one more rapid I would like to run on a return trip.

The lip of Lemolo Falls
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

After checking out Lemolo Falls we walked back up along the trail to our boats and started the steep climb out.  It took me about 5 minutes to climb up past the first steep part (maybe 200 vertical feet) and another 10 to return and haul up Priscilla's boat (she was loosing her footing and was worried about taking a fall).  Less than 10 minutes of easy walking later we were back at the canal where we had left our shuttle bike. 

What should have been an easy shuttle became obnoxious when our bike got a flat and then my knee was acting up while I jogged the rest of the way but we got it done and headed up to a nice camp at Lemolo Reservoir.