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' & 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, its worth taking a shore scout if you can't see the bottom of a rapid.  Not all of the lines are intuitive or with the main flow.

This fun stretch of IV-IV+ whitewater ends with Meatball and then Bob's Falls.  Meatball is recognized by 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                                                            Paddler: Priscilla Macy

Below Bob's is a class three rapid (stay away from the left wall by boofing off the left side of the center rock at the bottom) before 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 webbing 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. 

There are other lines available further left along the falls, these are used most commonly (but not limited to) high water.
Photo: Priscilla Macy                                                             Paddler: David Formulo
Immediately downstream of Big Brother is Little Brother.  At Summer flows 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 generally means portaging both along a trail on the left.

A couple short boulder gardens separate the Brothers from Double Drop, a notorious, yet generally forgiving rapids.  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.

Photo: Michael Freeman                                                            Paddler: Anna Herring

  The pool draining the pool below Double Drop is called Karen's Box, the left side is sticky.  If flows are high enough to run right, do so 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, I like to be far right at the main ledge taking a left stroke carrying speed back to the middle of the right channel.  After landing the ledge, try to stay off the right wall.

A center line off the main ledge in Cheese-grader.
Photo: Michael Freeman                                                            Paddler: Anna Herring

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 and 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.  Zigzag can be portaged with some effort along the right bank, rope is usually needed.

Photo: Clinton Begley                                                            Paddler: Robert Delgado/Brendan Currie

A moving pool seperates 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.


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