Monday, February 15, 2010

EF Lewis River

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 3.5,  5.5,  8,  or 11 miles

Stream: The EF Lewis is a fantastic intermediate stream near Battleground, WA.  Don't come here for a constant barrage of whitewater though, for that head to Canyon Creek where you get more bang for your buck.  That said, I like the EF Lewis run better.  It's longer, and if you accept that you will have a lot of easy floating between rapids, you will be rewarded to a lot of good rapids and a great day on the water.   Higher flows makes the boogie go by faster, which can be tedious at low flows, and spices up all the rapids.  

Sunset Falls is easy to lap and has a few different lines, so makes a nice way to start the day. 

Photo: Priscilla Macy

 When you get your fill here just peal off downstream and warm up for some rapids in the class II boogie.  The first notable rapid comes on a right bend with a rip-rapped road visible on the left just above the turn.  This is Hippie John's and is best run to the left of a large mid-stream rock that can be seen from the top of the rapid.

A short class III rapid ends in some fast water above Skypilot, my favorite rapid of the Race Course section, the most common line is down the left.  A quick moment of bouldery class II leads to the gorge.  The gorge starts of with Screaming Left, followed quickly by Dragon's Back.  Both of these can be scouted from the left before entering the gorge.

The red boat is exiting Screaming Left, and the Blue boat is entering Dragon's back.  There are paddlers visible on shore where the scouting happens.  At lower flows there is a pool between these two rapids.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Dragon's Back empties into a class III rapid that ends in a pinch point that often has logs broached between the walls.  Typically these logs are a non-issue for boaters, but occasionally they can be problematic.   The local community will have the latest on the wood configuration.

A nice flat section within the gorge is a great place to take it in before John's Swimming hole.  John's Swimming Hole is the location of the most swims on the river outside of people botching rolls in the pool below Sunset.  While the hole can be punched at lower flows, avoided left or right at any flow, it is sticky.  Some people use this as a place to practice working their way out of holes, since it is a fairly forgiving place to get thrown around and even swim.  Just mind that wall downstream that the flow pushes into.

Chris Leach goes it right.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

Just around the corner Copper Creek enters from the left, at the end of the race course.  When the flows are up the next half mile is fun and splashy class III.  Things do start to taper off for some time, but be sure to keep your eyes downstream for the horizon line at Horseshoe Falls and stay left to scout.  The far right chute would be  a bad place to find yourself drifting into by accident.  Attentive boaters will have no problem getting left to scout.  The middle line is the most common, a beautiful 10 foot autoboof.  I have heard people knock this route because it is "too easy", but I view such an easy line as a real treat.  

While autoboofs are fun, the hit can be notable if you don't land well.
The rafters about to land well.

There are also a couple fun lines on the left if you are looking for more of a challenge, and if that's not enough for you the far right line has been run a number of times.

Phil from Seattle getting creative on the left side of Horseshoe.

Photo: David Riess

Below here the river eases to class II as it passes by a house once owned by Tanya Harding, and before long King Creek enters from the left at the take out used by people looking for an "introduction to creeking" sort of day.  For boaters looking for more of a class IV-V day, this just marks the end of the warm up.

After another easy boogie section is the secret stash.  The two named rapids in here are Double Duece/Double Rainbow, and Pillow-Biter.  To run this section you should be confident figuring out class IV-V whitewater for yourself.  It can be done without trespassing, be courteous, and stay below the high water mark when scouting/portaging.  And don't run anything blind, this section is not conducive to reading-and-running.


The secret stash ends at the Dole Valley Rd bridge.

Continuing on the river boogies along through some easy whitewater again, picking up some flow from Rock Creek on the left.   The doldrums can set in here if the water is low, making for a good place to grab a lunch.  Eventually Naked Falls is reached and the easy floating is forgotten.  Naked is a fun three part rapid that is worth a scout.  The first two tiers can be scouted with ease from the right bank, where there is a nice eddy at the top of the rapid.

              Jake Brown comes clean through the first hydraulic of Naked Falls.

Downstream is the third tier, a ramp that can be boat scouted with some faith, but can also develop a hole at some flows.

Around the corner is a tall bridge spanning a beautiful pool, before the river bends left and over Moulton Falls, which is best scouted left where access from the water is easiest.

Moulton should be scouted and deserves respect, it makes for a great finale.
Photo: Priscilla Macy

It is possible to continue down to Lucia Falls, where more doldrums lead to a gorge section with a powerful class IV rapid, then Lucia.  Lucia should not be run when Salmon are present, and swimming or water contact is actually prohibited.  It is possible to take out legally on the upstream end of the park.

Flows:  People often run the EF Lewis River as an introduction to waterfall running and creek boating.  For these folks 500-1500 is friendliest, and taking out at King Creek is recommended.  If you looking for a class IV/V run, 1,500-2,500 cfs (or higher even) starting at Sunset and taking out at Moulton or Lucia Falls is the ticket.

  • My favorite trip is just a little over 1,000 cfs and paddling from Sunset Falls to Moulton Falls for a IV(V) sort of day.

  • The most bang for your buck is Sunset Falls to the Dole Valley Road Bridge.





Access:  From Battleground, WA take Highway 503 north, 3.6 miles after crossing over the EF Lewis River turn right onto NE Rock Creek Rd.  9.7 miles later you pass by Lucia Falls Park, if you are taking out here then drop a car.  If you are taking out at Moulton Falls, it's another 3 miles on the right.

From Moulton Falls, continue upstream and in 1/4 mile turn right onto Sunset Falls Rd.  In 7.5 miles you will reach Sunset Falls (passing the Dole Valley bridge access at 2.0 mi and the King Creek access point/pullout at 4.1 mi).  If you continue a short distance past Sunset Falls Campground, the road turns to gravel and you don't have to pay a fee to park).

Notes:  There is a section upstream of Sunset Falls, starting about 5 miles above Sunset Campground at the Green Fork confluence [45.824241, -122.166415].  This section has one great rapid (Double Drop), one weird rapid (Tombstone) and some other class III-IV ledges and loads of easy floating.  It's worth doing on occasion, a minimum flow is 1,000 cfs but more is better.

 The best rapid upstream of Sunset.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Willamina Creek

Rick Cooley and I were unfortunate enough to put onto Willamina Creek earlier this winter.  It has changed a lot since the Oregonkayaking crew first discovered it.  It is now full of wood and will not be clean for a long time.
    We portaged the first drop, followed by the rest of the creek... If you don't want to read the story, that is all you need to know about this creek.
  It wasn't quit to that extent, but after the first couple hundred yards, we did portage the next four hundred yards of creek due to a couple thousand alders in the creek.  I don't think Rick took many pictures, and I have no video so I'll just compare to the pictures on
-first picture-  It's big and the landing is shallow, we did not consider running it.
-second picture- There was already a riverwide log by the bottom of the picture.  I was able to wade out and pull it out though so we actually made it to the first horizon without having to get out of the creek(less than 50 yards).  Nate also took one look at this section and decided to hike right back out.
-third picture- This first drop looks like a boat beater, and I still don't know how they got under the log.  We walked.
-fourth picture-  This is where the logs started to seem like a normal exploratory run.  We were dodging some sketchy logs at this point, and I bet if you took the same picture now, there would be at least twelve logs in the creek.  I don't recall if we had to portage in this section(two hundred yards), but we were starting to worry. This part would have been fun with no wood though.
-between fourth and fifth picture- We basically portaged the entire section between the two pictures.  This probably took an hour and a half to two hours.  It was all on nasty muddy slopes.  We were portaging during the portages as we had to climb over sketchy logs on muddy/vegetative slopes, for a long time, eventually we came to a place where we decided we had another hundred yards then we would hike out.  At this point we made it to the next picture.
-fifth picture- This is when we determined the creek truly destroyed.  You could theoretically run the drop, but you would have had to drop over and landed just between two criss-crossed logs.  We decided to portage, which involved going over about fifteen thick logs on the shelf, starting just to the left of Pete in the picture.  Once again if you were to take the same picture now, you wouldn't be able to see Pete because of how much wood was in the way. This was also the only drop over 3 or so feet.
-my mistake-  We walked part of it then decided to seal launch, then immediately ferry to the opposite side of the creek.  To do this you had to hit the deck as you dropped between two logs or get your head taken off...  I was concentrating so hard on keeping my head low enough and not to slide to the right which would also have involved a dive into some wood, that I forgot about what to do with my paddle.  It got wedged between ground and wood and it stayed there. I let go and luckily stayed upright, since I can't handroll this boat, that would have been a big problem as there was a riverwide log just downstream and a small slot on the right.  I was about to try to handpaddle through the slot (not likely), when I heard Rick yell my name, I turned just as his paddle hit me square in the hands with a perfect toss.  With the paddle I was able to make it where I needed to be and avoid the slot.  I can't express how appreciative I am that Rick was so heads up in this situation and clutch enough to dispense a perfect throw.  Rick then retrieved my paddle and made the move with no mishaps.
-next- The wood actually started to get better, then we were actually starting to go long enough without portages it started to seem like kayaking.  By the time we got to the boulder garden section we were starting to believe we might get out before dark.  This part seemed kind of fun, but did involve a couple sketchy log ducks in the middle of the drops. It only lasted a couple hundred yards.
-sixth picture- This was the funnest, cleanest drop on the run.  The final drop in the picture was for us the only real boof of the day.  Below here the creek resumed its class 1-2 nature and before we knew it we saw the take out bridge.  
-We didn't do the lower section.


Saturday, February 6, 2010


Ran the Farmlands with Josh Grabel, Eric Foster-Moore, Jeff Hartley, and a ton of rafters last weekend.  
Log above Lava is still there. I was floating by the log trying to estimate if there was enough room for a raft right here, and flipped!  I rolled up very quickly and paddled to the eddy on the right, but that was a reminder to always be paying attention.  There are two log portages between put-in and Lava.  
-One is very obvious and in slow moving water, looks like portage is on the right, but the left is faster, less muddy, and you have an easier place to get back into the water.
- Second is after a couple log ducks in the gorge shortly above Lava.  The river pools
 up and you can see some debris on the left after the river takes a bend to the left.  Not many boaters would be foolish enough to drop over this horizon without at least boat scouting so you should be fine.  There is a line far right, but it is solid class five and you miss, you go under the wood.  Portage is on the left.  Not too hard.  There is a big eddy on the left above this one, be careful here though.
The run is definitely worth doing right now, just take it slow.
Eric, Josh and I decided to continue down past the take out to the Brothers with the intention of getting boof practice on the Little one.  We figured we had time to do this since it would take the rafts awhile to take out at the Truss bridge, but not enough time to try to do the whole run.  The section between the Truss bridge and the  pool above Big Brother is one of my favorite sections of water because of how high quality it is and its one on top of the other with relatively low consequences.  We don't get out of boats, just fly down.  Big Brother was on the high side, we portaged and got our boofs on at Little Brother.  We wanted to try again so climbed up on river right, which at this level was way tougher and sketchier than running the falls, but we got up there and did round two.  After this we took the river left portage trail back up to the top of Big Brother, ferried across and took the trail out to the road.  After only a couple minutes Jeff showed up with the car, then the rafters another five or so minutes later.
Here is a video, this will answer questions as to what the wood looks like.  And provide a little entertainment.