Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hagen Creek

Photo: Matt King


Stream: Following a spur road to a trail leading down a nose of land brings you to the creek just below an old log-deck, appreciated amongst kayakers as a catch-all for debris floating downstream that otherwise may have gotten stuck in the gorge.  

The whitewater starts right away in the form of some small ledges and slides.  They are not quiet large enough to warrant hopping out of your boat to scout, and you can go pretty much wherever, but it's nice to follow someone down the first time to get the cleanest lines.

Less than half a mile after putting in you reach Hagen Daaz, the first named drop which can be scouted right if you are showing yourself down.  There are a few line options, but the most common line down this 15 foot drop is to start center right, driving back to center over a smooth hump of water and down a bouncy ramp, avoiding a narrow hole in the top center of the falls.  

Jake Brown and Scott Michael accelerating out of Hagen Daaz.

Downstream the bedrock transitions into cobblestone and small boulders, when you pass to the right of a medium sized log pile on an island in the middle of the creek you are close Euphoria so grab the next eddy.  As the stream makes a hard left bend just below look for an eddy on the right at the base of a micro tributary.  Catch that eddy and watch out for bugger rocks trying to deflect you back into the current. 

Scout Euphoria on the right.  I find the crux of this two part rapid is the lead in and try to stay as close to the island in the middle of the channel as possible until I enter the first slide just to the left of an obvious rooster tail.  

The final ledge in Euphoria is proceeded by a small hole, I like to hit this hole center driving right and sliding down the right wall with right angle but other options exist.  There are some neat eddies to challenge yourself with in this rapid.

                            Alex Hymel approaching the final ledge in Euphoria, center driving right.
                                                                  Photo: Nick Hymel

There are two small ledges below here and before the confluence with the NW Fork Washougal, run both of them center-left.

As you approach the NW Fork Washougal an obvious horizon line presents itself just downstream of the confluence.  Stay right as you exit Hagen Creek and eddy out on the right to scout this powerful drop.  The standard line is to run the top slide on the right with left angle to make it back to center for the bottom drop, which is usually run through a seam threading between two powerful hydraulics.  At high flows I have seen some wild lines through here, but everyone who hits the seem blasts through into the pool below.  Too far right or left and the outcome is less certain.

Nate Merrill riding out Teakettle.
Photo: Lucas Reitmann

The only rapid of note between here and the finale is a benign looking rapid that has a weird chute down the left side.  It is best to scrape down the right side of the channel or you risk getting parked in a squirrely eddy.  This is another one when it's nice to follow someone as it doesn't look like much from above.

Once past there be ready to grab a shallow eddy on the left within the next five minutes.  The final drop would be easy to get blown into if you didn't know the run and were not paying attention.  Standard procedure is to get to the left bank at the end of a stretch of class II just as the river starts to bend ever so slightly back to the right.

Scout left along a convenient shelf and if you decide to portage you will find a crack leading to a seal launch over there as well.  The line is obvious, but intimidating.  While the second drop tends to command everyones attention, the top drop also demands respect.  The launch pad slopes left and more than a couple people have ended up behind the falls which is scary for everyone involved.  A couple of people have even gone too far right and landed in the disgusting crack over there.   That said, the drop is easy if you pick your markers carefully and take it seriously.  The second part, a narrow folding slot flips a lot of people but is not retentive and if you have a roll it's really not much to worry about.  

Kory Kellum between the two drops
Photo: Brandon Lake


Downstream of this drop it's splashy floating to the take out bridge.  If you don't get out of your boat the run can be done in under an hour.  If there is lots of scouting or swimming plan on 2-4.

If you have the time it's highly recommended to continue down to the Washougal and Mercentile take out.  Aside from one portage a short way below the take out for Hagen, the run is class IV and mostly read and run with a couple quick scouts if it's your first time.  

Flows:  Flows can be estimated, but you don't ever know what exactly you will have water-wise until you get to the take out and see the gauge.  

                                            The gauge at a friendly flow for Hagen.
                         Teakettle lacked it's usual power, but people have run the creek lower.
                                                                             Oct 16, 2016 

-10ish inches is a good, but lowish flow.  It has been run lower.
-15" is a healthy medium, 
-18" is getting high-ish once you reach the NF Washougal, but still not too high.  

 -The run has been done as high as 29/30" a number of times and possibly higher, this is the high end of runnable.  Not recommended unless you already know the creek and have incrementally stepped up to this level and can make class V decisions for yourself.

 Photo: Adam Edwards

Since you can't tell for sure what the water level will be until you get to the take out, boaters use nearby online gauges to let them know if it's worth driving up to Hagen.

Some people use the Washougal Gauge and look for over 3,000 cfs, others use the EF Lewis gauge and look for over 2,000 cfs.  

More data points from people who run the creek would be useful in calibrating this gauge for the community.  Comment on this page or at the AW page if you care to help out.

Some data points:

Access:  The most straight forward route is to take Hwy 14 on the north side of the Columbia Gorge into Washougal and turn North onto Washougal River road (signed) at the stop light.  There is a gas station where you can fill up shortly after this turn, on the right.

Follow Washougal River Road just over 10 miles to the intersection with Canyon Creek Rd (another access option) at a small store called The Washougal River Mercantile or "The Mercantile" for short.  If you are paddling down the NW Fork Washougal you leave your car here.

If you are doing just Hagen continue the direction you were headed along Washougal River Rd half a mile and turn left on Skye Rd (the obvious steep and winding road).  Follow Skye Rd for 3.8 miles and turn right on Skamania Mines Rd.  There is a small, white road-sign but if you are not paying close attention it can and has been missed.  Stay right just after and follow Skamania Mines Rd down to a bridge over the NW Fork Washougal, this is the standard take out for Hagen where you can confirm the water level is appropriate.

To reach the put in continue the direction you were heading along Skamania Mines Rd for 1.4 miles and turn left (right is gated and leads to the put in for Wildboy Creek).   Take another left just after and follow that road for 1.2 miles (crossing the NW Fork Washougal at 0.8 miles) to a decommissioned spur road heading off to your left.  Park here.

Hike down this spur road, staying right at the Y.  Shortly after this intersection take the faint trail heading off to the left.  Follow this to a nose of land heading down to the creek at the put in (dropping down early will result in an extra portage around the log deck).

                                                       And a short video of the highlights.

Original Write-up

Hagen/NW Fork Washougal/Washougal/Bonus falls

Last week Matt King and I ran Hagen Gorge, met up with John below Teakettle, then ran the rest of the NW fork Washougal run.   We hooped and hollered down to Euphoria and hopped out for a quick scout, there is often so much energy when someone is seeing a run for the first time!  I had not scouted the lead in thoroughly last time and ended up hitting a rooster tail when I was farther right than I wanted. This time I didn't want to let that happen so I scouted the lead-in... It happened again.    Hitting the rooster isn't so bad, but it is an ugly way to run such a beautiful drop.  Since this trip I have kept out of the main current and closer to the island in the center of the lead in and had no more encounters with the rooster.
The good news was the log that has always been right below the second drop was gone. The bad news was there was another one in exactly the same spot that spanned the entire river! Doh!  We reconvened below Euphoria and dropped the last couple ledges before the NW fork confluence. Before this day, Teakettle was the only hole that had ever stopped and surfed me. I knew the mistake I made last time and remembered the drop, so with some butterflies in my stomach decided I didn't want to scout and psych myself out.  This time I was where I wanted to be and blasted through upright.   Matt came next and greased it as well!

 Below here was a small drop that messed with both of us, then we arrived at the double drop/crack. I had said if there was no snow I would consider it and the banks were dry so we started scouting. In the end we decided that even if you didn't have a good line you would flush so I gave it a go followed shortly by Matt.  In the videos I had seen of this drop it seemed people struggled to get left.   I overcorrected for this, then took a piss-poor stroke.  The result was as one would expect from a bad line.                                                                                                        

Matt said my boat came completely out of the water and pitoned the wall before landing upside down.  I rolled up no worse for wear with the conclusion that anyone who has a reliable roll and some cojones can run this intimidating drop. The hydraulic is powerful, but not the sort that would hold you.

2016 Note:  The community as a whole has gotten this drop more dialed and it seems now days there are usually a couple upright lines on every trip.

 Matt came next and landed against the wall on the top drop.

He worked his way off and had the best line on the bottom I had seen up to that point. He stayed dry and I could see him holding his paddle in a way that indicated he was waiting to brace, but it never happened and he just sailed through with his paddle out of the water. Below here it was a short ways until we met John, who was waiting at the next bridge (we were surprised and appreciative that a kayaker showed up early!), and continued downstream. We had fun with the seal launch around Bowey Falls, then headed downstream.   Not too far below Bowey is a series of small sliding ledges.   I came down pretty casually and got stuck in a little hole at the bottom. I was in there for a few seconds before working my way out.  We cruised down the rest of the run, too much fun. We got onto the main Washougal and Matt surfed the waves below the confluence for awhile. Eventually we made it to the surprise drop. Which is a little waterfall coming in on creek left that i easy to lap.  It is shallow but it wasn't a problem.

 John comes down
We each dropped down it every which way a few times before we made it to the take out and did shuttle.

                                                                                                                                                                     Matt surfing the hole below the falls just for fun


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