Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Canyon creek in the South Santiam drainage is often cited as Oregon's only true class five run that does not consist entirely of waterfall (i.e. Eagle creek, Salmon river gorge).  Obviously these claims come from people that stick only to the well known runs.  However, there is a run out there that is known, but people have been turned off by horror stories full of wood portaging and trashy drops.  As we found out recently though, there is another legitimate creek that should be added to the class five list.  This is Christy creek Oregon.

This one is on a mission sort of level and is not for everyone.  However, if you are a class five boater in Oregon and have not run this one, you are seriously missing out.  The hike in is laborious, but well worth the effort.  Not so bad that we had to use ropes, but it was taxing, especially on the knees.  It was a great feeling to get down to the stream and see the perfect water level in a classic Oregon setting.
Teamwork on the hike in.
(photo: Nate Merrill)

This run has a lot more going on than I was expecting.  The first mile started class III-IV and ramped up to a sprinkling of class five boulder gardens.  Some clean, some not.  We did portage a couple drops, but ran many good ones as well.  There was plenty of shore scouting in this section as boat scouting was not the best choice. This character continued this way until we arrived at a large boulder garden.  We had been moving pretty slow so I didn't give this one a thorough scout and started right into the portage when I heard there was a large midstream sieve that was hard to see from our vantage point.  However, Aaron Loft ran the whole thing and made it look totally manageable.  Most of the rest of us did the easy portage through the woods on the left and put in above the last boof, which I thought was the funnest stroke of the day.

100 yards below here was Rhinosex, which does not look good to go at all.  Though it is runnable, the lead in drop is ultra hectic, and being upside down over the second drop has had dire consequences in the past.

To portage, I would recommend following the shelf on the left until it gets sketchy, then lower the boats down.  Jeff easily did the fifteen foot repel with a munter knot to collect our boats, but everyone else traversed farther left, then walked down a log to the shelf Jeff was on.

Below here are a couple of boulder gardens, one of them trashy. Then comes a sharp left bend with an eddy below on the left, just below an overhanging log spanning the river.  The next boulder garden leads into Balls Falls.  Be careful here, it is worth scouting out your eddy on river left before entering the sharp left turn.
I scout while Jeff and Andy help people across the deep current over to the viewing platform.
(photo: Nate Merrill)

Balls falls isn't as sweet as I had anticipated.  The transition is kind of abrupt and wants to shoot you left. Its totally good to go, but not the launch pad I had expected.  The lower tiers are the main concern.  There is a sticky hole leading immediately into a large ledge with two channels.  You will probably end up going right.  If you do this, drive at the midstream boulder getting as close as you can, take a big right stroke and have lots of left angle.  Then prepare to collide with a submerged shelf.  Or you can take the left channel which is harder to get to and has its own issues.  We had 7 people who all ran balls falls. 5 of them had trouble, 4 of them collided with said submerged shelf.  One was backwards and was immediately ejected from their boat.  The one who had the cleanest line still cut his knuckles and took a shot to his right arm.  I had caught the eddy above the final two pitches and decided enough carnage had been had, so Nate Merrill and I took the sloppy portage on the right after running the initial 25 foot drop.

Nate Merrill running Balls Falls

The first drop was entertaining for me, as I had not made up my mind about the line I would take.  Jeff and I were going to catch an eddy on the right to take another look and scout a portage line.  The lead in drop pushed Jeff hard left though, and he couldn't make the eddy and the last thing I saw was a flurry of stroked with him sideways.  I charged down behind and dropped the falls as well to make sure someone was there with him incase things had not gone well.  It turns out he had the best line of all of us, and was able to make the left line.  This put us in a good position to set up safety in different spots and Jeff made his second boat recovery of the day when more trouble ensued.

The next drop had a sticky-ish hole at the end we all made it through, but safety would be prudent.  One more short class III and we were out scouting Snake Bite.  I would suggest scouting initially on the right.  Most of us scouted on the left, but this left the last person to portage in a bad spot as it was slick getting into the boats without a spotter and falling meant a trip into the powerful hole at the bottom of the slide.

Three of us decided to run the drop.  Myself and Aaron took the left line, which was a fun twisty slide with a critical stroke at the bottom to get through the large hole.  Nate Pfiefer ran the right side and hit the seam where the hole flushed at the bottom.  Both sides went, you will have to choose which looks better to you.

Below here were two more class five boulder gardens.  Jeff and Aaron stepped up to the last challenging drop, while the rest of us portaged on the right.  I won't describe this section, as boaters need to look at every drop and scout every eddy themselves.  Below the last big boulder garden was a series of slides that would create large, uniform holes at higher levels.  We stayed generally right, then back to center for the last one.  Though I don't know what the conventional line is.  Below here things cooled down and we had about a mile of runout to the miracle mile.

We blasted the last hundred yards of bigger water and caught eddies on the left at the bridge.  Spent but extatic about the great day of boating.

We had 3.65 on NFMF @westfir.  I don't know the area levels as well as some people, but I would go back if this gauge was between 3.4 and 4.  Though I felt we had ideal flows.

The bridge gauge was just over a foot.

Thanks to Nate Pfiefer for doing the legwork on this one earlier this year and providing the motivation to get myself out of bed and down to Eugene.

Access and more flow beta can be found at this link.     Christy Creek Beta


No comments: