Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Elk Creek

(all photos by Matt King unless labelled otherwise)
Elk Creek turned out to be a neat run with a multitude of fun bedrock rapids, kind of Hagen Creek esque. 

Pete sent out the call to do some exploring in the Kalama drainage. I had a feeling as to what we might be up to as my dad had sent me these two enticing pics the year before on a trip to the Kalama.

taken from 200 ft above

My dad had said it looked like some good drops, tiny creek, probably bad access, the usual recipe for an exploratory run. So anyway, I tell Pete I am in, Matt says he is in. We leave Portland around 830 and drive north. Everything goes smoothly. We locate a takeout and head to the bridge where my dad took those pictures. The bridge is about 200 feet up from the creek and there are no guardrails. We decide there is enough water and the creek looks enticing. After driving around on some logging roads we find a good access point right at the confluence of a few streams that create a runnable channel right off the bat. Its not often on these kind of runs you can drive right to put in and take out. 

The walk to a better put in shown below, we took out at the first bridge across the Kalama downstream of the confluence. We put in at upstream at the confluence with the NF Elk Creek.
We put on and bash down some bouldery stuff for a couple hundred yards, with some promising signs of bedrock. The creek builds into class three and then we rounded a corner to find a boxed in horizon line just below. Everyone makes their way down to where they can get a peek at the drop (scouting is much less stressful when you can walk right down the middle of the creek). The drop is a little under ten feet tall, with a log in the main line on the right. The log looks slideable, with the left side dropping into a friendly (at this level) pocket with a picket fence of wood blocking the exit, and the right leading to an unobstructed path downstream, with the majority of the water sliding off the log to the left. We moved some wood around and made the drop runnable. Matt and Pete go first and get pushed left, but are able to pull themselves over the guard logs at end. I used what I had gleaned from their runs and am able to get right after a fun slide down the log.
Pete drops into the penalty box at "Rail Jam"
The put in shown on the map is below this rapid.
The run came into its own below here, where many clean bedrock drops started to stack up. There were plenty of class III-IV bedrock rapids with maybe a IV+ or two. The next notable horizon had the entrance blocked with wood. Despite our best efforts the rapid remained un-runnable (was clean enough to run on a return trip the next year). Just below our only wood portage was another good drop. We seal launched in and utilized the nice auto boof on the right.
Pete drops a good one
Shortly after this fun drop another horizon presented itself. This one was a bit odd, but also fun. The line was to stay right and attempt to land in the green water, though much of the current folded left into the wall.

Much of the stream was lined with bedrock like this.
Eventually we came to a drop that is easy to tell from above is more significant than the rest. At this level, this drop was the only one to present a class five challenge. Caution should be taken around this drop as the canyon becomes formidable and while it is easy to scout and move about on the right, the seal launch (only reasonable portage option) is on the left and would be difficult to access with more water. We scouted for a bit and Pete decided to seal launch while Matt wanted to give it a go. I was still on the fence so decided to watch Matt's line as he had plenty of conviction. He ended up drifting to the right off the lip, but did a good job of keeping his body off the wall and only dragging his paddle.
Matt's Line through "King's Corner"

(Pete G. photo)
I decided that I didn't want to deal with the wall, so from where I am standing in the picture above (just above Matt on river right), I got into my boat and pushed off hard to the left. The momentum put me right where I wanted to be and I came away upright as well.
The exit to this pool lead into a boulder pile, we bumbled through moving left but with more water right would be more desirable. On trips like this, there is often a feature (or many) that keeps the run from being something that I want to return to often. We were waiting for a logjam, or nasty rapid that would create an unfavorable work/reward ratio, but were pleasantly surprised by the continued enjoyable whitewater. The run moved along at a solid class IV pace. One drop that stood out was a six-foot ledge with a cross-current boof on far left, or delayed boof into the hole in the middle. This drop was the beginning of the home stretch and lead into more entertaining bedrock drops.
Shortly into the home stretch we encountered a tricky ledge with a backed up hole on the left which flushed right and required missing a bit of a log hazard. This one was not straight forward to scout, though Matt and Pete had trouble getting out of their boats they ended up being successful scampering down on the right. Getting as far right as the current would take you worked for us.
Next up was a deceptive double drop with an undercut in the first part on the left that is not visible while scouting. Below here was a final series of fun bedrock ledges and chutes continuing to the bridge, then a final boulder pile as the creek enters the Kalama River.

Pete and I in the Kalama looking back at the Elk creek bridge
and the final boulder jumble. If you look really close you can see two hunters standing on the bridge. Its really tall!
All in all, we had a good trip. It's one I had planned to repeat often, however years later it has only been repeated once due to increased Weyerhaeuser restrictions to access. I feel fortunate to have explored this little creek while I could.
EF Lewis was at 800-ish the day these photos were taken, and the SF Toutle was around 3,000 cfs.
Thanks for making it happen Pete!

Click here to view interactive map.

1 comment:

Thorn said...

just awesome guys. like that map action, and especially the rapid name history....of course I assumed another origin for Bunce.

Your blog just gets better and better JC...