Thursday, April 20, 2017

Williamson River: Kirk, OR



Stream: The Williamson River exits the Klamath Marsh within view of the put in bridge with a tannin color that is unique for Oregon. 

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 The first hundred yards are bouncy class III+ before braiding around an island (right channel was clear in 2017).  The water pools in the braided channel, slowly gliding over what is marsh for most of the year(s).  While the beer colored water is too dark to see more than an inch or two into, dipping a paddle you can often feel the grass hiding just out of sight, and in places the tips of grass blades are visible dancing beneath the surface.  

Photo: Priscilla Macy

About the time you might start to wonder if you could have mistakenly put in on the wrong stream, boulders start poking up through the grass and along the banks. 

Pleasant floating
Photo: Priscilla Macy

After a couple riffles the whitewater begins at a class III-IV rapid that bends to the left.  For the next two miles the river incises into a formation of Basaltic Andesite from the Winema Volcanic Field.  The first horizon line is at a set of ledges the locals call Root Beer Falls.  We always found landing zones deep enough to boof into on the run, but there are many shallow spots in the landings too so scout thoroughly.  

                                                           The larger tier of Root Beer Falls.
There are rocks at surface level and just below in some spots, not only on this drop but throughout the run.  The line shown below worked well for this ledge.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

More fun rapids exist below Root Beer Falls. All the rapids are easy to scout (and I'd recommend taking a look at them all your first time down) from shore and there are large pools above and below many of the rapids that collect foam, bubbles and any potential free-floating gear.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

When you make it to the fun ramp pictured below you have reached the beginning of The Brewery, a set of four horizon lines separated by pools providing a whitewater finale for the run. These drops are more involved than anything else on the run.  Most paddlers doing the run will be interested in one or two, possibly even a third.  However if you are knocking down all 4 in a day you are probably a heavy hitter. 

 The fun ramp marking the entrance to The Brewery.
It's easy to walk up for laps on this one, and it has the most favorable fun:stress ratio of any drop on the run
Photo: Priscilla Macy

The rest of The Brewery is a step up from what has been seen earlier on in the trip.  Long pools separate these hazardous, complex rapids.  Be sure to scout thoroughly and make good decisions.  Scouting is still easy on these rapids, portaging a little more challenging but always an available option.  Three of the four I can confirm have been run, a 20' falls with a questionable pool depth is the exception.

Cheers to all the probes out there
*A few feet to the left of Emile off the horizon line ended up being the preferred route*

A few easy read and run sliding rapids below The Brewery deliver you to a beautiful high desert landscape with moving flat water and excellent camping potential.  This area is established in the climbing community.  Crack a beer (or root beer) and celebrate your journey through the Williamson Gorge, once you pass the last riverside cliff you are either...

A) Done.  If you figured out access via the arterial roads its just a short walk up to where vehicles can be left.

B) Almost Done.  If you chose the less complicated shuttle route, there is about 1 mile of flatwater between the last cliff wall and Williamson Campground. 

Photo: Priscilla Macy

Flows:  This section of river only flows in healthy snow years when the Klamath Marsh Fills up.  When that happens it can run for a week to a month.  We found 400 cfs to be a nice flow, with plenty of room to go higher.  A group ran it later in the week at 360 cfs and found the flows acceptable.
Access:  If you like logistics to be straight forward, take out in the day use area at Williamson Campground (42.6591, -121.8535) and put in where Kirk Rd crosses the Williamson River at the outlet to the Klamath Marsh (42.7407, -121.8341).  Most of the shuttle is done along Hwy 97.

If you are handy with a map and navigating unmarked roads, there are ways to cut out most of the flat water at the beginning and ending of the trip using arterial dirt roads on both sides of the river.

Click to enlarge, feel free to download


Trip Report

The Williamson has an intriguing description in the back of Soggy Sneakers, mentioning a run filled with unrunnable waterfalls and technical portages.  The description was from the 90s so I had some hope maybe those waterfalls would no longer be considered unrunnable.  Add to the obscurity of the river the issue that it rarely has enough water to paddle and I have reached over a decade of boating in Oregon and never checked it out.

Ben's birthday was coming up this Spring and he said he wanted to do a suffer-fest.  I liked the idea and tried thinking up a few ideas.  Last year we had done Box Canyon Creek (into the Chetco), so I didn't want to let him down this year with a run-of-the mill slog.

We considered going back into Gladiator Creek, but as the weekend approached the level was looking like it would be on the low side for that one.

I scrolled through the gauges on Pat Welches site and took note that the Williamson had water.  I mentioned it to the group and kept looking for other options.  However, the more I thought about it the more the Williamson seemed like a great option.  Of the last 10 years, the Williamson had only seen runnable flows during 4 of them and it was currently holding at what I thought would be a perfect first time flow of 400 cfs.  That was enough for Priscilla to be excited, a conference with Ben and rumors of this being a run Ben Stookesberry had once done before sold him, and Emile was down for whatever Ben wanted to do since it was his birthday... so all of a sudden it looked like we were headed to the Williamson.

We were in Eugene a bit past 7 but didn't leave until about 8am.  We arrived at the take out by 10:30 with a couple stops along the way including a couple level check.  Levels looked perfect so we stashed the shuttle bike and headed up to the Klamath Marsh.

With the favorable start time and a sunset near 8PM we were in no hurry, making sure Ben got a birthday rock as is tradition.

Photo: Priscilla Macy

We were pretty excited about the tannin color of the water spilling out of the marsh at the put in, something I had never seen in Oregon before.  We slid into the water at the ultra-convenient put in and bounced down a hundred yards of III+ before the stream settled down at an island (we went right) and eased into moving flatwater.

Splashy water below the put in bridge, the gauge is located 20 yards downstream of that corner.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

This section was intriguing as it is usually grassland, so in a kayak you are floating in shallow water over beds of grass that are just below the surface and occasionally visible through the dark water.

Easy floating early on
Photo: Priscilla Macy

About the time we started to tire of the flat water boulders started appearing along the banks, eventually transitioning to bedrock banks and cliff walls.  After a couple class II rapids we stopped at a place Ben wanted to try and do some bouldering.  There were a lot of options, at the best one we ended up scaring a Goose out of a nest.  We felt bad, so after taking a couple photos headed downstream sheepishly.  Hoping we didn't scare the bird from returning to her eggs.

Photo: Ben Mckenzie

Not far downstream the rapids began, we were unsure what to expect and had our expectations set low.  After paddling a fun class III-IV rapid and another small ledge we figured we had probably got our fun in for the day and got ready for some portaging.  Just downstream was the first horizon line, which turned out to be what the locals call Root Beer Falls.  We felt like we had lucked out when we found a runnable line off the first 5 foot tier center-right, then were sure we had used up all our luck when we were also able to paddle the second, slightly larger tier of the falls. 

 Second tier of Root beer Falls.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

More whitewater continued downstream.  After a handful of fun rapids we found ourselves splashing around in foam wondering aloud whether this might not turn out to be such a bad run after all.

 Jacob Cruser
Ben Mckenzie                                                                 Emile Elliott 

Priscilla Macy

  At the other end of this foam pool we ate lunch while Ben tried some more bouldering. 
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Not long after finishing lunch we came to what turned out to be our favorite rapid, a fast ramp between two rooster tales at the entrance to The Brewery.  It was fun enough that we did a few laps, Emile and Ben even gave it a go backwards.

Priscilla, back for another round.

The next few horizon lines were the toughest of the run, of the 4 drops making up The Brewery; Priscilla, Emile and I ran 2 of them, Ben ran 3.  There was a 20' waterfall with a questionable pool depth that we all passed on.

Ben, birthday boofing

Below here were a couple read and run class III slides before we found ourselves gliding through a gorgeous high desert scene that would be a pretty incredible place to camp.  Before long the current disappeared and we had about half an hour of flat water paddling before reaching a bridge with a small rapid underneath.  Another 5-10 minutes and we reached the Williamson Campground, pretty excited about the quality of this adventure!

I motor-biked the shuttle while the gang fished for mussels.  A scenic stop at the Spring River and some neckin' occurred before a quick dinner at the Chalet in Chemult.

We had 400 cfs, which is a good flow and I would absolutely go back at that level.  I'd also love to see it with more water.  If I saw it was flowing around 500-600 cfs it would probably be one of those drop all other plans and head to the Williamson deals because of how rarely it sees that kind of water.

We ran the Williamson on April 15, 2017
The Williamson Gauge was showing a steady flow of about 400 cfs that day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Euchre Creek

Ben Mckenzie, Emile Elliott and I ran Euchre Creek January 23, 2017 with the Siletz gauge just under 4,000 cfs and dropping slowly.

The put in was roadside and there was a short warm up before a steep and bouldery three part rapid that we portage, though it had a line.

 Putting back in there was a fun ramp along the left wall, before entering a bouldery rapid leading up to an island that looked like it was worth a scout.

The island had a tricky, but doable line on the left, or a sneak channel on the right with pin potential.  This island rapid reminded me of the rapid called Island on the Little White Salmon River.

Below this island we were able to boat scout about a mile of class IV rapids, mostly bouldery but a couple ledges too, down to Euchre Falls (which is easily scouted on the shuttle, just upstream of the take out).  This 10 foot tall ramp could be run just about anywhere, we chose center-right.

The take out bridge was a couple hundred yards below Euchre Falls.

click photo to enlarge

                                                                   click photo to enlarge

After the first class V rapid, the rest of the run is IV-IV+.  I wish I would have run this creek when I first heard about it from Rick Cooley back in college.  I would have certainly run it a number of times on days when I only had a couple of classes.  The run is short (1.5 miles) and shuttle is easy. I jogged it when our scooter malfunctioned (again).

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.