Sunday, April 19, 2009

Opal creek and South santiam

A video of us running the south santiam and Opal creek.  Nate had a scary moment on the log below Big Fluffy, I never thought it was a serious hazard, but I know differently now, luckily he was able to swim free of his boat.  Even after he swam his boat stayed lodged for about 30 seconds until he pulled it free.  It was creepy because the water is so clear I could see him grasping for the log just feet away from me, luckily he was able to rescue himself and we are all thankful for it.   So just reiterating that logs are always a hazard.   Bobby and I ran Opal gorge afterwords which was really cool. 
     A few point,
                  I don't know how long this has been the case but the log in Henline is gone. We went left and it was one of my favorite lines I have taken in a long time.   All the boulder gardens looked pretty intimidating, but they all went right where the main current goes, usually center.  If you go in below a thousand run Mystery almost on the left wall.  Or take the right channel.  The undertaker portage is an involved one on the right with its own things to worry about.  We were gazing longingly at the left side route as we groveled on the right.  The sneak at Fishladder falls goes but beware that you must angle left to avoid the wall below that has the majority of water flowing under it.  We snuck, then portaged the slot immediately below.   A really fun run.  We ran at about 800 cfs but it felt higher than when I was there last at 850, maybe we got a bit of snowmelt? 
         South Santiam was better than I thought.  Crawdad is interesting and Tomco is a really cool high speed drop.  I seal launched in between the first and second drop cause it looked fun, but the full rapid looks like the way to go next time.
          Here is the video.
        Here is the video.
Opal creek and South Santiam from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

White Salmon River: Green Truss

 Photo: Clinton Begley


Stream: The Green Truss section of the White Salmon is an incredible resource for paddlers in the Pacific Northwest.  When most of the other creek boating options dry up, this section of the river still offers a half dozen miles of quality class IV-V whitewater with easy access.  For paddlers in the area, this is often their first exposure to serious whitewater.  

***I have run the Green Truss between 1.5' and 3.5', and this description will reflect that.  As flows surpass 4' the run becomes more consistently class V.***

The put in is just downstream of the Green Truss bridge, adhere to the signs letting you know where, and where not to park and loiter.  It would be all too easy to loose this access point.  There is a steep trail downstream on river right of the bridge.  Many people use ropes to lower their boats down the side of the hill, yet many have also made it down without ropes.  Make good decisions here, there has been at least one person and probably more who have fallen off this cliff. 

There is a nice flat stretch at the start where first timers collect themselves and people often choose to warm up with some stretching and bracing/rolling in the calm water before the whitewater kicks off in earnest.

After paddling over the first horizon line, the action is sustained down to Big Brother.  If you have not done the run before and are figuring it out for yourself, it's worth taking a shore scout if you can't see the entirety of a rapid in this stretch.  Not all of the lines are intuitive or with the main flow.

This fun stretch of IV-IV+ whitewater ends with the Meatball and then Bob's Falls.  The Meatball is a large round boulder blocking downstream view in the second ledge of a two part rapid.  Left or right both work if free of wood, left is more common.  Scout if you don't know the line.

A pool separates Meatball from the next rapid, Bob's Falls.  This one can be run right or left, I have only seen people mess up the left line.  The right seems to be a "closer to danger, further from harm" option.  For first timers, or for the less confident it's nice to have a rope set up on the right.  Just downstream is a ledge most easily run on the right with a slightly delayed left stroke.

It's best to avoid the center of Bob's Falls.
Photo: Brandon Bloomquist

Below Bob's is a class three rapid (stay away from the left wall) and then you are in the pool above Big Brother.  Scout and portage left.  There are two hazards with running the standard boof flake line on the right.  The first is the obvious cave, the second is a shelf in the landing if paddlers fall off the left of the flake.  

This is a good place to be off the flake, though I personally like to be a half boat-width further left.
Photo: Priscilla Macy                                                             Paddler: David Formulo

At low flows boaters routinely paddle out of the cave, but safety should be set.    This can be done by climbing up to the cave from the bottom on river right and clipping into some webbing that is installed there.  Keep in mind even if its a warm day, that cave is a cold place to be.  If you have ten boaters, all scouting thoroughly and running the falls one at a time, the person setting safety at the cave is going to get cold.  Be a team player and tap them out if they have been there for awhile.  At high water, this cave has taken a life.

If  boaters are not interested in setting up thorough safety, a 75' throw bag does reach the cave from the viewing zone on river left. 

Cultural note:  The paradigm of how to run Big Brother has changed over the years.  When I started paddling the Green Truss in 2007 the right side flake was the line, no question.  Every now and then you'd hear about someone probing the left side, but it was generally considered a stunt, and sometimes done out  at high water to avoid the cave on river-right.  Over the years things changed as more people started running left, after enough people had pulled that stunt boaters started realizing it was a cleaner line than it appeared and because it kept you away from the cave was appealing.  Somewhere around 2018 or so the tables turned and the left side line is now considered the line and the right side flake is starting to be considered the bold line.  Go figure.

Nate Warren, paddling what has become the most commonly used line at Big Brother.
Photo: Priscilla Macy                                                             Paddler: David Formulo

Immediately downstream of Big Brother is Little Brother.  My preferred approach is to run the left side with a left stroke pointed to 1 o' clock.  It is usually possible to portage Big Brother via a permanent rope fixed to the left wall and put back in for Little Brother.  If flows are high, a portage of Big Brother generally means walking around both Brothers along a trail on the left.

A couple short boulder gardens separate the Brothers from Double Drop, a notorious and challenging, yet generally forgiving rapid.  Scouting is possible on the left, but robs your speed.  The most commonly successful line is center left off the top drop with a delayed right stroke, followed by any sort of stroke off the bottom drop.  The bottom hole often flips people, and sometime surfs people.  There is a big pool below at summer flows though, so recovery is generally not a problem.  No matter how good you are, an upright line through Double Drop is not guaranteed.

Photo: Michael Freeman                                                            Paddler: Anna Herring

  The drop draining the pool below Double Drop is called Karen's Box, the left side is sticky but if you can hit your boof isn't a problem.  If flows are high enough to run right and you're concerned about the hole, it's not a bad idea to scrape down the right side your first time down.

 Below Karen's Box are a few more read and run class IV's before things ease up and the springs start gushing in.  The water temperature decreases over the next half mile and the flow increases.  After a bit of tame floating the whitewater slowly picks back up, when you notice the change in style of the rock and a small horizon line you have reached Cheese-grader.  There is an eddy on the right at the lip you can scout from.  There are loads of line options here, Iv'e seen a lot of tail-stands in the middle of the top ledge.  Mind the walls in this rapid. 

A center line off the main ledge in Cheese-grader.
Photo: Rob Cruser                                                            Paddler: Jacob Cruser

Splashy water leads to a pinch at Unavoidable, run center with speed.  There are some funky hydraulics that sometimes flip people, I hear those same hydraulics can make it tough to roll.  At low water there are some tricky eddies people like to challenge themselves with. 

More read and run leads to Zigzag Canyon.  If you are not with someone who knows the run, keep an eye downstream below Unavoidable.  Don't enter any rapids you can't see the bottom of.  A small rapid that splits around a center boulder is just above the lead in to Upper Zigzag, downstream the canyon looks a bit more ominous, get out on the right to scout before entering the class III lead in to Upper Zigzag.

Upper Zigzag is a long flume rapid, I find the first part to be the crux, this first part feeds directly into two ledges.  The first is run left, the second right.  There is a sieve along the left wall in the second ledge that must be avoided, but fortunately not very magnetic if you are in your boat.  Zigzag can be portaged with some effort along the right bank, rope is usually needed.

Blasting through the top part of Upper Zigzag.
Photo: Clinton Begley                                                            Paddler: Robert Delgado/Brendan Currie

A moving pool separates Upper Zigzag from Lower Zigzag, scout and portage left.  The portage requires using a fixed line to lower boats and then a walk along a steep bank to get down to them.  The line will be obvious from the scout (if it's not consider walking the rapid).  

Just downstream from Lower Zigzag a small creek comes in from the right (often dry by the end of the summer) at the put in for the Oreletta Section.  A run often done by those who want more than the Middle White Salmon offers, but less than the Truss does.

The next rapid downstream has a rocky island in the center that is to be avoided either left or right (right has more water).   The rest of the Oreletta down to BZ Falls is read and run, generally following the main current.  As you learn the run you will start figuring out the smoothest ways through the rapids, but they aren't really ever difficult enough to warrant a scout if you are coming down from the Truss.

The rapid to be alert for is called The Flume.  It is signaled by a flume of water coming in out of a man-made structure on the left (sometimes people don't notice if they are not looking closely).  The rapid itself is narrow and full of off-set waves that gets more exciting at the bottom.  It's not uncommon to see flips or airtime from first timers as they accelerate through the steep bottom part into the pool below the rapid.

Exiting this next pool is one of the cruxes of the entire run.  A long class III rapid leads up to BZ Falls, which has a couple small eddies on the right just upstream of the lip.  If you are not with someone who knows the situation here, it is best to walk down from the pool below The Flume to check it out your first time.

BZ Falls is about 10' tall and very powerful.  The hole at it's base is both capable of extreme beatdowns, yet also of being remarkably forgiving.  Watch some video

Here are some people intentionally getting stuck in BZ.

2011 BZ Huckfest from Sheer Madness Productions on Vimeo.

You can portage BZ along the right side, where there are a couple seal launch options, or you can walk back down to river level in about 100 yards.

Read and run leads you to a set of makeshift steps going up the right wall in a moving pool, or you can catch and eddy on the right part way down Maytag, the next rapid (run right or get a good boof on the left side).  Walk up the set of stairs to the parking lot, and your done!

Some people choose to continue down through the Middle White Salmon for 5 more miles of class II-III+ whitewater.

Flows:  There is a foot gauge in Husum, monitored by a local who reports regularly to This Facebook Page.  Summer flows are between 1.5'-3.5', it starts to get a bit trashy below 2'.  If flows are above 4' the run changes and you want to be a class V boater who is following someone down your first time.  In the summer you can ballpark flows by dividing the White Salmon @ Underwood gauge by 400 to get the level on the stick.

Access:  Get to Hood River, Oregon.  Cross the bridge over the Columbia River (1$ toll in 2016).  Turn left at the stop light, then make a right in 1.5 miles on Hwy 141 (the turn comes up kind of fast, if you cross the White Salmon River you have gone too far).  Continue about 2 miles to a stop sign, then turn left.  In about 4 miles you come to the town of Husum, where you can check the gauge.  If you are paddling down through the Middle White Salmon you can also leave a car here and scout Husum Falls.

To get to the standard take out, continue north along Hwy 141 about 4 miles past Husum to the BZ Corner Launch Site.  Leave as many cars here at the take out as you can, parking is limited at the put in.

The put in is 4.4 miles upstream along Hwy 141.  There is a black mailbox that signals a right turn onto Winegartner Rd, which crosses over the Green Truss Bridge itself.  Adhere to the posted signs.

Original Write-up

My first two times down the Truss

Nick and I finally got to run the Green Truss last Sunday for the first time. Theron Jourdan showed us the lines and was a great leader for the day. We all did pretty well with an IK swim at Little Brother and Upper Zig-zag, and plenty of bracing for me. Theron of course did really well and fired up BZ with a stellar line.
Theron on Double-Drop

This first trip was not as eventful as our second trip the following Thursday, so this report will be on that run. On this trip was Nick and myself, along with Jordan Englert (his first time) and my father (Rob Cruser) who was making his first descent in ten years in an IK. The last time he did this section in his IK he nearly died in lower Zig-zag, he finally felt ready to get back and face his demons. The story of his entrapment can be read here,

 We ran the warm up drop right below the Truss Bridge and headed around the corner and boat scouted the first few drops down to S-turn. On the second drop I had my first flip on the Truss, in a slot at the bottom that was kinda funky. We all made it down S-turn fine with the hardshellers finding a fun boof off the bottom ledge.
Things were looking good until we got to Meatball, when we discovered that Nick had broken his paddle in the drop above. Luckily it was a cheap plastic paddle, that had broken in the same way twice before. All that happened was the blade came apart from the shaft.  Nick didn't want to bail out part way down his first Truss lap, so we found a couple sticks and splinted the paddle back together with some duct tape.

Meatball and Bob's went smooth for all.

We all portaged Big Brother and had upright lines over Little Brother. 
The paddle held until we got to double-drop, where in the rapid above it broke again. Nick borrowed a paddle to run Double-Drop from Jordan who decided to portage, and had his only swim of the day in the bottom ledge.  My dad and I were both able to stay upright this time around. Below here my dad set to work loading up the paddle with sticks and duct tape until we had convinced ourselves it might just hold the rest of the trip

Rob Cruser (my dad)in Double Drop

Myself dropping into Wicked Hole aka Karen's Box, just below Double Drop.
Below here we made decent time to Zig-Zag canyon, with no flips occurring. Cheesegrater and Unavoidable were fun as usual and we got pictures and video for both of them.

Rob Cruser exits Cheese-grader.
We were all excited about Upper Zig-Zag for many reasons. My dad hadn't kayaked this drop in a long time, and had swam it the last time. Nick had swam it the last time. I had barely kept myself from flipping last time and wanted a clean run this time. Jordan hadn't ever run it and was pretty nervous/excited about it. I wasn't feeling too bad about it so went first and made it down without needing to brace this time. Jordan came next with an ideal line and gave a "Whoop", the first verbal expression of excitement I had heard from him on the river.   My dad followed with an exciting line, he got pushed left in the entrance and almost flipped, but pulled it together, then he got pushed sideways into the wall at the first ledge, he flipped here and kicked hard to get away from the sieve. Nick decided that he didn't want to run the rapid with his duct-taped paddle so portaged along the right wall. The portage took about 25 min. but could be done in about 10. I had read that the portage was brutal, but it really didn't seem that bad, and really might have been easier than the lower Zig-zag portage. We all portaged Lower Zig-zag even though it is starting to get run again now that the wood is shifting. Below here is the Orletta, which we attempted to get down quickly, but IK's don't really move very quickly, so we took out about 8 O'clock. The Orletta was fun as usual and went well, except that my dad hit his elbow pretty hard on a wall. We all cleaned the rest of the drops and arrived at the take-out after a good day.

Myself on Triple drop

Nick with his duct-taped paddle

Below is some helmet cam footage from before the days of GoPro, a couple years after my first trip down, and in the worst boat I have ever paddled. 

Truss POV from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gold Creek

1 mile

Stream: This is a pretty cool little creek in the Little North Santiam drainage.  It never reaches class V below the WF/EF confluence, it's also never boring.  The run is made up of fun bedrock chutes and ledges up to 10' tall.  The first two times I did the creek, it was messed up pretty good by wood.  Lately though, it has cleaned up considerably.

Most people doing Gold Creek will continue down through the Classic Opal section.  Gold Creek enters that run near the beginning, so nothing is missed on the Opal run.  

The hike starts out the same as the hike into Classic Opal, but just before reaching the bridge over Gold Creek a faint trail goes off to the left, marked by the old metal post circled in the photo below.

I typically drop my boat at this post, walk the last 100' on the road to the bridge over Gold Creek to check flows, and make a plan for the log pile below the bridge.  It used to be possible to go over the log pile, but recently it collapsed and now paddlers need to go under.  Since it changes, take a look and make a plan before putting on.  The confluence with Opal is just out of sight downstream of the bridge.

The log situation below the bridge in 2019.

Once you leave the road and start hiking up the trail there will be a short climb before the trail levels out.  Once it levels out, it is a short walk to a point where a short scramble leads down to the creek.  The beginning of the scramble was signed in 2019.  When there is enough water, I consider this a better put in option than the mine on the Little North Santiam for a classic Opal day, giving boaters a  few fun, creeky rapids start to the day.

Sign marking the scramble down to the lower put in on Gold Creek.

If you are feeling more adventurous and would like to do the full run on Gold Creek, continue past the sign and follow the trail to the WF/EF confluence, about 1 mile after leaving the road.   It is possible to cross the creek and climb up the nose of land between the two forks for some extra whitewater on either the WF or EF.  The EF has a couple tall drops currently blocked by wood.  The WF also has drops, but they are not as tall.

Putting in at the WF/EF confluence, everything can be scouted and portaged without much difficulty, though always proceed cautiously as the wood situation is ever changing.  The character of the run is friendly 5-10' ledges.  

In 2019 all the wood could be snuck or ducked, and didn't deter from the run except in two places that were both above the lower put in.  The first place is at the largest drop on the run, a 10' ledge that resembles a cleaner version of Boulder Sluice on the Little White Salmon.  Then not far downstream was a log jam that required a straight forward portage on the right.

 The 10' ledge
The log jam located a couple corners below the 10' ledge marks the divide between the upper and lower sections.  Downstream of the log jam the fun continues with a short barrage of class IV chutes and ledges down to the confluence with the Little North Santiam.


The final obstacles are just above, and just below the bridge over Gold Creek.  Just above is the fun double ledge anyone who has ever run Opal Creek has stopped to look at from the bridge, and just below is the log you should have scouted beforehand.  Once below the bridge and log, it's just a minute or so to the confluence with the Little North Santiam. 

While it is possible to run Gold Creek on it's own, by taking out at the bridge and hiking back out to the car at the trailhead, it requires a bit of creativity to get the boats up to the road and makes it a novelty trip.  Gold Creek is better used as a bonus addition to a Classic Opal trip.   In fact if you use the lower Gold Creek put in, the hike in is the same distance as it would have been to hike to the regular mine put in on Opal (albeit with more up and down), giving paddlers more rapids for the same amount of hiking .

The full Gold Creek run is worth checking out if you have the time and are willing to hike the mile up there to the top.  Just know that while you will add some fun ledges, you will be adding a portage or two as well, so get an early start.

Flows:  2,000+ cfs in the LNF @ Mehama gauge is best, but it has been done lower.  I wouldn't shy away from 5,000 and dropping on that same gauge either, just note that is higher than most people paddle Classic Opal.


Use the same vehicle access points as Classic OpalMost trips will continue down through Classic Opal, or if you like you can hike back out to the trailhead at the end of the day.  

While hiking in on the gated road, just before crossing the bridge over Gold Creek you will reach an overgrown mining road with an old post as marked in the photo below.

Take the faint trail off to the left marked by the arrow in the above photo.  After a short uphill, the trail will flatten out and it's an easy 1/4 mile to the point where the scramble down to the lower put in leaves the trail, it was signed in 2019.

To get to the upper put in continue up the main trail another 3/4 mile until it crosses the creek at the put in, at the confluence of the EF and WF of Gold Creek. 

*Shortly after passing the scramble for the lower put in, a massive tree blocks the trail, and after that is a washout with a cliff and spring on the left.  The trail gets better after that, but small obstacles still remain. 

Original Write-up

 Photos by Jeff Hartley and Jacob Cruser

Each time Opal creek is paddled, a creek is crossed during the hike in.  Someone often comments how it looks runnable, and there seems to be enough water in it to boat. Then people shift to the other side of the bridge and look in that direction. They see the logjam and someone says its probably woody and not worth it, everyone agrees and continues on to run whatever section of Opal they are running that day. The last time I was there with Jean, we did the same thing but when we looked downstream, the logjam looked a smaller than on previous trips, and possibly runnable if the level was high enough. The conversation then shifted to "maybe it would be worth checking this out".

            After running Opal Jean and I hiked back in with his dog to scout more of the creek. We hiked up about a hundred yards and saw some clean class III-IV drops and I decided it was worth hitting the maps and finding a way in there. The gradient didn't look unreasonable and the geology was good, so last Monday Jeff Hartley and I, a week after our Little Luckiamute adventure, were trying to decide where to go. The water was up and we decided Gold creek would be a good way to spend his day off, and serve as an after class run for me (it's only a mile long).
              I left Monmouth at 12:15, met Jeff in Salem, and we were at the gate by 2. We got geared up in the rain and started hiking in. At the bridge, we looked for a way out at the end, saw the level looked good, then continued on up the road looking for the spur accessing Gold creek I had seen on maps. We found it shortly and began our 1 mile hike up the abandoned road.  It gained significant elevation and wore me out. Having no food or water between us may have contributed to this. Eventually the road did a switch back and we ended up bush-wacking downhill for a bit. We dropped about a hundred feet until we hit another more abandoned road, almost non-existant.  We followed this for awhile and somewhere along this path I heard a large roar and was a bit nervous we would run into a huge set of drops. Eventually the going got a bit tougher and I decided if much more of the creek was going to be making a noise like the one I heard, it would be wise to put-in now and make sure we had plenty of time so we didn't have another paddle out in the dark. We bush-wacked down and my boat got away from me at one point but by chance got stuck right before launching off a large cliff! We got down shortly after this and I was pleased with the water level and the steep boulder garden visible upstream.
                We put-on and ran a couple class III's, then eddied out right above a log jam. Below I could see...tree tops!  Jeff came down and we climbed onto the jam to see what was downstream.

    You can tell a logjam has been there for a long time when it has its own sediment deposit built up.                   This is what we saw.
The chasm would be runnable without the wood, but wood there was so we started looking for a way to portage.  The pinnacles of rock gating off the way downstream reminded me of Thors' Hammer if you were to make it just a little less vertical.   I climbed up the river right pinnable about 60 ft, then lowered a rope down to Jeff and pulled them up after. The climb up was scary for me.  I scrambled up to about the point where the chances of serious injury outweighed the chances of things being ok if I lost grip before I was stupid enough to look down.  That was a mistake.  I looked up at the next section of climbing I had to do and I started thinking of what was going to happen if I didn't make that climb and who else I was going to effect if things didn't go well.  Somewhere during this thought process I decided it wasn't worth it and decided to head down and find another way.  The last move had been pretty committing and I didn't see a safe way to do it in reverse.   So going down was as bad of an idea as going up.  I really started to wish I was somewhere else, but eventually was able to do a sideways move and then climb to the top.  [looking back 8 years later, I now see this climb as a watershed moment for me.  I have been afraid of exposure ever since].   Once I was at the top I tossed my rope to Jeff and standing on a 4 foot wide piece of relatively stable ground atop a sixty foot drop one way, and a hundred foot drop behind me roped the boats up one at a time.

The run has been repeated since, and a longer but safer portage route was found up a hillside on river right. Some wood has shifted in the drop as well, and it is indeed runnable.  Currently there is wood blocking the exit below the pool though.
                On my way up the wall.  The place we roped our boats up from is as high as you can see.
Jeff repeated the climb with much less trauma.  We roped up one more section, then walked a short distance and lowered our boats back down to creek level.

                                       Jeff at the top of the pinnacle, with the creek in the background.   
   The slide that we put in below would have been fun if yet another couple of logs had not been there.  The big drop we portaged is in the background.        We put in below, happy to be on the water.  From the portage route we had seen a tributary coming in from the right and realized we had put-in on the East fork and that was why this huge loss of gradient had occurred on a run that was supposed to be less than 200 fpm.  We were relieved to know the whole run would not be like this.  Just below here was a short horizon line around a corner.  Jeff hopped out to scout and he was looking for awhile so I hopped out too and saw a cool 8 foot drop with a bad log on the left side.  The move was only class IV, but a miss meant impalement, so we portaged to a weird seal launch and kept moving.  *We ran this drop on a subsequent trip, after a wood shift*

        Jeff below the first big portage.   The West fork came in just around the corner.

Below here was another short log portage, then a fun slide.  Then a drop that went around the corner.  I got out to scout and was at first excited about the lip of this sweet 12 footer, until I noticed the 3 logs in the landing :(  Portage number 4. ( In 2019, it's portage number 1, and marginally runnable).

Below the large ledge the logs really started stacking up.  It seemed every drop worth running had wood.  We made at least one sketchy ferry above a log in the middle of a class IV series of ledges, and there were a few good class IV slides and rapids, but just a lot of log portages.  Probably 8-12 in the mile long section. *down to 1-2 portages in 2019*

                           The bottom of the series of ledges with the hairy ferry.
The last couple hundred yards were the best.  Class IV ledges and slides that were just fun as could be.
Soon we were at the last double drop and I got out to look and take a picture.  We both entered right and Jeff snaked to the left while I boofed the right of the second drop.    

After this Jeff climbed up the left wall and I clipped the boats to a rope as he roped his up from the bridge then I came up and assisted with my boat.

It's a bummer about the wood on this run, I'd run it regularly if it was clean.    The drops are all of high quality with plenty of bedrock, and class fun.  We have had some big storms between 2009 and now, maybe the run has cleaned up?  But maybe not.  Regardless, next time I hike over Gold Creek on my way to Opal I will know the answer to "I wonder what is upstream?"
*2019, this run is as clean as it has ever been and is worth doing, especially if using the lower put in as an alternate start to a day on Classic Opal*

  The Little North Santiam gage when we ran it on April 13th, 2009.


Monday, April 13, 2009

copper creek

Nate, Matt and I ran Copper the day of the EF Lewis race in the morning.  The run went very well, we put in at the upper put-in which is definitely the way to go if it isn't snowed in.  Matt and I both ran the weir slide.  Matt did a cool, slide, boof, rail slide, back to slide, to punch the hole combo, while I snuck to the right of the log.   The point is the drop is runnable and I have heard it wasn't because of the log, so don't be talked out of going up there.  The upper run has a lot better "in between" stuff than the lower section, nothing all that hard but it moves along and keeps you busy.  I remember only one problem log besides the one in the weir and it is an easy one to see, just bounce down as far left as you can get or portage on that side.  everyone cleaned Triple delight, always a fun one.  Final five was cool, Nate got his first run of this drop.  Matt had a rodeo session in the fifth drop while Nate and I waited unaware above, luckily Matt held on and rode his way out of that one.   
                 I normally wouldn't have done a report on this one but Nate pointed out later that we only had 900 cfs at Heisson, yet we had more water than the Oregon Kayaking crew, which had 1100 and felt that was too low.  I have heard elswhere that this one is hard to gauge, I am guessing there must be a lake or marsh at the top that buffers the flow and brings it up slow, but also drops slow, given that we ran it at 900 dropping to 800 and had a flow that was bearable.  To gauge how much water we had, the Oregon kayaking site has a picture of the punchbowl drop in final five, the day we were there Nate slid  down the creek left side of the drop that is completely dry in the photo.  We had considered it more of a sneak route given the amount of water in it than a seal launch if that makes sense.
          Anyway, a bit of info on flows couldn't hurt.  I don't know if this will help, but it is something to consider.  And even though people don't like to run copper for some reason, it is a good one and worth while.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Little Luckiamute: Upper Access


Stream:  This part of the Little Luckiamute has too much wood for me to recommend paddling and the whitewater isn't very good in the upper parts so the beta will be sparse.  If you are looking for worthwhile trips on the Little Luckiamute check out The Gorge section or the Into Town section.

It's possible this upper section will clean up some day and who knows, maybe with more water it would be enjoyable to connect with The Gorge.  I'll let you read the original write-up below and decide that for yourself.

Access: The take out is the same as The Gorge.

To get to the put in return to Falls City and from the bridge in town head up Valsetz rd 9.3 miles to the pass at the intersection with Fanno Peak rd (yellow gate on the right).  Hike in on Fanno Peak rd for awhile, choosing your own route for where to descend to the creek.  Obviously you will need to do some map work of your own, the roads and bushwhacking scenario are constantly changing.

The map below shows two put in options, the one further downstream has been used as an alternate access to the gorge and only has 1/4 mile or so of janky rapids before the good stuff.  If it's hunting season you can come in on Black Rock rd, but if you are doing that I would suggest you just run The Gorge.  I'd recommend you do some of your own map recon before heading out there.

Flows:  I am not sure, we had 200 on the estimate which was too low.  

Original Write-up

     The Little Luckiamute flows through the small town of falls city about twenty minutes from Western Oregon University. I was interested in checking it out mainly for this reason.  I ran the lower sections of the creek and began doing research on google Earth and waterfall sites to get an idea for what might be in the upper section and how to access it. After this I decided it was time to head over there and check out the access scenario. I soon found out this run, along with every other run I have looked at of this nature in the coast range is gated far away from any put-in locations for sections of substantial gradient. It was back to the map searching, which I spent plenty of time doing. I eventually decided that the best option would be to drive up Valsetz road and hike in 4 miles along Fanno Peak rd along logging roads to a bridge over the creek. On April 3rd Nate Merrill and I decided to give this approach a shot.     
           I had left my GPS back in Gresham for the weekend and unfortunately for myself and Nate I decided I could use a map to get in to the put-in since I had driven around there before and figured I could find the put-in road again. Due to a semi-stressful/late start we were dropped off and started hiking around 1:30 (way too late) on the wrong road. We spent the next four hours hiking with boats on our backs trying to find our way to the river.  At this point we decided even if we got to the river there was no way we were making through 3 miles of 200+ fpm river with a 2 mile class 2 paddle out, so we ditched the boats and decided to come back two days later. We hiked back out and luckily caught a ride once back to Valsetz, saving a trip in the dark 5 miles back to our car.         
           We came back Sunday April 5th with the addition of Jeff Hartley to get our boats, and if we were up to it, run the river.  Due to some unusual circumstances we were able to drive to within 2 miles of the put-in before we hit a patch of snow, had we gotten an earlier start we may have been  able to backtrack to another road and drive very close to, if not all the way to the put-in. Thank you to Gary Merrill for being so willing to help out with this mission even though he would not be boating. It was here that Nate made the wise choice not to risk being late to work at 8 and decided not to join us on this mission.  Jeff and I geared up and started our 2 mile trek to the river.                                                       -all pictures taken by Jeff Hartley  (except this one which was taken by Gary Merrill)

   We hiked to a point where we decided to bush wack down to the river.  It was here where once again Gary showed his great value to the trip by scouting out routes through the woods for us.  With the help of the two Merrills we eventually reached another logging road where they decided to head back home and Jeff and I committed to running the river.  We spent another 45 minutes reaching the "river" by way of crashing through a regrowth forest with lots of underbrush down a steep slope.  The "river" turned out to more resemble a low volume creek.  The last hundred yards to the creek were through a forest of Devils club (pride of the Northwest), before we waded across the creek, drank some water, and got ready to give this thing a shot.

                                                      Almost through the Devils Club                                                            View from the put-in
The first mile was more of a battle than a kayaking trip.  Jeff showed a fearless boat scouting technique that kept us moving along.  I was happy that he was there because I would have been out scouting a lot of the first mile, but he was confident crashing down some very steep boulder mank.  Most of the larger drops fell 10 feet through a pile of beach ball sized boulders.  There was one scary moment within the first five minutes where Jeff thought there was a route that wasn't there and got pinned sideways on a rock with all the water funneling behind him under a root wad.  It was not a good moment, and I was pretty concerned as I exited my boat and ran down to him.  It was not looking like he was going to be able to hold his position for long.  I ended up being able to get to him before the current decided his fate and all we ended up loosing from the ordeal was small piece of outfitting (from my boat oddly enough).
           He shaked it off like a champ and we returned our attention to downstream progress.  The most difficult part of these upper rapids was the water was low enough that each line had rocks throwing our bow off-line, which made them challenging when otherwise they may have been more straight forward.  I feel like I learned a lot about boat control on this trip.

                                                     One of the earlier rapids               There were a number of note-worthy rapids and had there been water and no wood, probably fun ones.  A telling scene occurred as I came down the far right side of a steep boulder jumble to avoid wood on the left, but got my paddle pinned between a tree branch and the bottom as I ducked said branch.  I let go because I felt the tension in my paddle and I still don't have confidence that my seven2 paddle is able to deal with much stress.  To keep from getting flushed downstream I reached up and grabbed a branch hanging down to stop myself mid-current, then spun around and pulled myself branch to branch to get back to my paddle.  Right around the corner was an ugly rapid that almost pinned Jeff that I portaged, then this mess.                        This was one of a number of times we looked downstream and saw this view.  There is heavy logging in the area and a lot of those downed logs had found there way into the creek.
It was shortly below here that we came to a series of large boulder jumbles in a row, along with some tributaries that signaled the upcoming waterfall of the run.  We started seeing bedrock poke up around the walls over the next 1/4 mile and every time I was sure the falls must be coming.  Eventually it did.  We scouted a sliding 15 footer that had a log across the top, which meant a portage for us.  Next was a 6 foot ledge, wondering if this would be the only real clean drop of the run, we lowered down a wall and ran it.
                                                                      The six foot ledge.  I got out on the right just below this ledge to take a look around the corner.  Jeff wanted to keep boat scouting as it was clear we were running out of light.  I insisted on taking a look, the long sliding rapid just below was blocked by a log halfway down.  After that it turned right into a narrow alleyway and exited via a 30' falls (a falls later ran and dubbed Osmosis Falls).  We just didn't have the time to contemplate the drop today so began a portage on the right where before too long we found a place to rope ourselves down after some bushwacking and ended up at the base of a towering cliff wall. 
                                                    It was here that we encountered our next clean rapid.  It was a small class two, but it was so nice to have a drop that held its water instead of bashing down a boxing match of water and rock.    Below here were some fun rapids and it started feeling like a real river.  There actually were a couple good quality class four drops in here.  A few hundred yards later we came around a corner in a close to vertical gorge and were confronted with a large horizon line.  I voiced my opinion that this better be runnable or we are screwed... It wasn't.  This drop fell 40 feet onto a rock shelf, then launched itself the next fifteen feet into an undercut wall and inescapable eddy on the left... uh oh.   Luckily the low water we had been bashing down for the last few hours allowed us to work our way down the river right face of the falls then jump 15 feet into a shallow, narrow eddy right next to the falls.  I went first since I had a drysuit so I could wait and collect the boats.  As I was climbing down I realized there was yet another horizon line downstream followed by a drop with a logjam in it.  The jump was a technical one and I brought my feet up as soon as I landed so I didn't go deep like I have done jumping into my pool off my roof before, then swam to a shallow shelf and waited.  Jeff threw his off which luckily landed upright and didn't get pulled into the undercut, I collected it and he was kind enough to lower mine on a rope.  He jumped in next and he mentioned afterwards that is one of the eeriest jumps he had ever done, I couldn't have agreed more.  We have both jumped off 50+ foot cliffs but the location of that fifteen foot jump and what it meant was just a little unnatural.                                     Jeff mugging for the camera at the top of the 40 footer As he was getting ready I cruised down to the next horizon line, which I dubbed little Lucky, because we were very lucky this was a small and runnable 20 footer(and the name I had nicknamed the river on all my google earth maps, short for Luckiamute), because at this point I knew we were going to run out of light, it was just a matter of how far downstream we could make it before that happened...                                                            Myself dropping Little Lucky.  Both of us had successful lines, we then had a quick river level portage below here, and then it was game time.  Jeff probed a small slide, and we began our race against time.  The first 1/4 mile was fun class 4 stuff, then it dropped to class 2 and I knew we had about two miles to go and the sun was going away fast.  Very quickly the sun disappeared and it was luckily a full moon or we probably would have been staying the night in there.  With the tiny bit of sun that remains at 8 oclock this time of year, and help from the moon, we raced downstream.  We were making really good time but we couldn't see anything but the white from the waves, so we had to guess where the rocks were based off what the water was doing.  This got scary when the logs started piling up, but we wanted to stay in our boats as much as possible to preserve what little light was left. There was one class 3 drop lit by the moon, then shortly below here we lost anything resembling real light.  
            Have you ever been told you can see stars better if you don't look right at them? And you can't see them sometimes if you look right at them?  I modified this technique to get downstream, treating the white-caps like the stars.  The log concern only grew as we went downstream, no longer obstructing every other rapid but still present.   We knew we must be getting close, but we determined hiking out was not going to be our choice given how many people get lost in the Oregon Coast Range.  I remember one moment I was bashing my way through some invisible rocks, when all of a sudden I started flying downstream, I had come to a class two slide and not realized it.  That was interesting to say the least, big time reverse vertigo.
           We eventually came to a large log pile, and kind of rolled the dice.  When we made it passed that one we pulled over to have a short discussion.  We drank some water and discussed staying the night.  We both felt the take out was going to be right around the corner, but if the wood continued to get worse we would not be able to justify paddling.  We decided to not camp right there and paddle just a few more corners.  This was the right choice as within the next two bends we paddled under the bridge marking the take out.  It was an exceptional feeling to be done with the run after all we had gone through.  From boulder bashing to big portages around gorges, to paddling just under an hour in the dark, we had survived what for me was the greatest kayaking adventure I have been on.  I don't know if the feeling is fleeting, but as of today I felt like it was an experience that will change who I am to some degree.

                                 The level when we ran the Little Luckiamute on April fifth  

OK level from a return trip was 280 online.


After returning a number of times, 500 cfs is the level to look for.