Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stebbins Creek


Stream: 2016-ish the area the trail into Stebbins Creek passed through was logged and the trail disappeared.  We went searching for another way in the next fall or Spring and found a way in that was shorter, and added some extra rapids.  Details for this approach are in the info section of this report.  

After reaching the South Fork of Stebbins Creek near a small tributary, I recommend dropping the boats and walking either along the right or left bank to scout out the first drop.  This is a 20-30 foot falls with what appears to be a shallow landing.  On our first go at the falls 2 of us boofed and 2 of us plugged, no one in the group contacted anything but water.

There is some twisty, bouldery class III with some wood for a hundred yards or so below the put in falls (3 of us made one wood portage, Brandon made no portages in this stretch).  If you are catching eddies you will see a pinch and horizon line when the bedrock re-appears downstream.

It is an easy scout on the left, but you can only see the first drop and a horizon line from here.  The horizon line is a double drop described on Oregonkayaking as two ten footers run by Dan Coyle.  The pinch through the double drop (all slides) can all be run far right with right angle (the middle one you can be more middle-right on).  On our trip the first person was able to catch an eddy on the right after the pinch to scout the double drop (his boat also slipped off the bank while he was scouting due to slick, angled walls).

This set finishes off in a pool and there is another log to duck.  Then there is some steep class III that finishes off with a drop that should be scouted shortly after a small creek cascades in on the left (not a big drop, but it has it's issues).

More read and run continues to the only mandatory log portage we encountered in 2016, though if a couple branches disappeared it would probably not be a portage.  We made the easy portage on the left.  After putting back in, there is a short bit of bouldery stuff before reaching the confluence with the North Fork, which was historically the put in location for Stebbins Creek.

Below the North Fork confluence is some splashy class II-III before reaching Jetboat Falls.  Jetboat starts off with a nice 10ish foot ledge, followed by a hundred yards of sliding and splashy class IV before finishing off with another fun ten foot ledge run far right.  I recommend leaning forward as you go over and forcing right angle as you ramp out into the pool, ideally catching the eddy on the right.  We had a couple people get caught by surprise at how fast the water pushed them across the pool into a couple pieces of wood that looked like non-factors from the scout.

At healthy flows it doesn't take long before you reach Get in My Belly, a fun ledge best run far left, and the beginning of the meat of the run.  It's worth at least one person making a quick scout on the right here for wood.

Immediately below here we portaged a log on the right and scouted an unnamed, but signature boulder garden of the run.  We were able to enter middle, and finish right with a boof fading away from the right wall.  

The next rapid is Lethal Injection, which is currently in a runnable form though none of us paddled it on this day.   Unfortunately, portaging Lethal Injection high on the left is probably the best move as of 2017 with the current wood configuration at the next rapid (Tsunami) causing problems for people who run Lethal Injection or portage at river level.

If you run Lethal Injection, you can scout Tsunami from the right, but you cannot portage it over there.  It is also not reasonable to get out on the left to scout or portage Tsunami if you run Lethal Injection with the 2017 wood configuration.  With the current log situation you will likely be forced to run the right line on Tsunami, as Brandon demonstrates here.

If you portage Lethal Injection on the left (Priscilla said it wasn't bad, and that had she chosen the correct route a rope would not be necessary) you have more options at Tsunami.  She helped Adam and I get out on the left, which even with her help was a bit dicey.

I attempted to seal launch onto the first drop of Tsunami, a move that had worked at lower water the last time I was there.  This time I got a weird bounce at the bottom and got stuck in the hole, from which I swam.  I clambered up onto the shelf in the center that was backing up the hole, and Adam roped me back to shore after Brandon had come through.

Priscilla and Adam took the smart route, which was to put in below the first two holes and ferry out to run the last two tiers.

Just around the corner there is a slide along the right wall that routed Adam right into a log.  As he was headed for it he called back to Priscilla to alert her to the hazard, the log hit him square in the chest and just like in the movies a personally significant object he kept in his PFD was caved in instead of a rib.

There wasn't anything more of note until we reached Zoom Tube.  Adam portaged along the boulders at river level while the rest of us went up and around (river-right).  Neither route was strenuous but Adam got to the end a little faster.

There is a small exit rapid below there we ran left and some more boogie led to Bongo Furry, which had a nice boof on the left where a brace was handy.  The nasty rock on the right pictured on the Oregon Kayaking report had either moved or was under water.

The very next boulder garden looked trivial from above, but ended up being pretty sketchy.  It had a log at the bottom so Brandon and Adam tried to work their way right, both were rejected hard and got flushed under the log (rolling up safely below).  Priscilla and I corrected and started left, driving back right just above the log which turned out to be the move here.

From there to Mad Dog it was read and run.  At Mad Dog the river bends slightly right and there are a number of options for running the drop.  Brandon went right-right (deep but upright), I went middle-middle (boof to upright), Adam left-left (no wet hair) and Priscilla middle-right (swim).

Hop out on the right at the confluence with the Washougal.  If you are still motivated for more paddling, the Washougal Waterfall run is generally at a good flow if Stebbins is in and the put in drop for that run is visible upstream from the take out of Stebbins.

Flows:  We had the Washougal gauge peak at 6,000 cfs while we were on Stebbins, this was a low but enjoyable flow and I would definitely go back with similar or higher flows.  Word is 10,000 is a better flow, and there are rumors of 15,000 cfs+ being done and enjoyed but don't take my word for that.

Here is what Stebbins looked like from the take out bridge the day we ran the SF for our first time.


Access:  Take Hwy 14 East from I5 into the town of Washougal, turning left at the light (signed for Washougal River Rd).  Take Washougal River rd 19.5 miles past where it crosses the Washougal River in town to a bridge over Stebbins Creek (passing the Mercantile at 9.5, and crossing the Dougan Falls bridge at 17).  This is the take out.

To get to the put in continue the way you were travelling upstream along the Washougal.  You will head uphill for awhile and eventually come to a hilltop at an "intersection"  Head right and downhill.
1.6 miles later you will cross Deer Creek and reach a "T", turn right.  2 miles later make another hard right. 2.7 miles later STOP and unload the boats.  There is an unmarked, decommissioned road going off to the right which you follow to start the hike.

Hike:  Use the following map (I recommend printing it off and bringing with you if you use this put in).  From the vehicles (red circle), follow the decommissioned road for a short bit until it meets up with a fully functioning logging road (it appeared to me that to drive to this point from the take out would take more time than it's worth).  Turn right on the logging road and follow the main road to the line of trees.  There is a game style trail down to the creek, pretty easy going but some competence is necessary (no rope work needed).

 It should go without saying, but these logging roads are not made for public use and are subject to change at the whim of those who created them.

*Remember, once you reach the put in scout downstream as eddies are scarce above the falls*

Original Write-up

I have been trying to get on this creek since my freshman year of high school. This was a creek that Nick and I were always talking about and was at the top of our list. For various reasons, from snow to being dragged to Canyon Cr WA instead, many factors kept us off Stebbins. When Nick left for college, I still tried to get on this run. Then I left for college and still was trying. Finally, my junior year, after a few more attempts including actually hiking the trail, then bailing, I got on the creek.
Ryan and I stoked to finally get on Stebbins, after numerous failed attempts for each of us.
This was with the rafting crew which added some different logistical challenges. Snow on the road is always a concern in accessing the put in. Luckily we were able to locate a couple of sturdy trucks to get the job done. With over a foot of snow on the ground, this was crucial. We made it to the put in, but not without challenges.
Maybe we should just put on the NF. It doesn't look that far away...
Jeff Compton did a good writeup on his blog www.yougonnaraftthat.blogspot.com
so you can read the whole report and watch the video there.
The main things I would like to point out are...
-Lethal Injection is runnable with the current wood configuration
-Tsunami falls has new wood at the lip. I got around this by seal launching from where my boat is perched in the picture below, landing halfway down the first drop. . 

 This was fun and smooth.
- I didn't think we had enough water with the EF Lewis around 1500 cfs. 5,000 in the Washougal would be my guess at a good minimum. You can get down it much lower, it's just not all that good (but it is very good at proper flows)..


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