Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clear Creek and the art of speed portaging

After a weekend of guiding I set off on my way back to Monmouth.  It had been raining and I had my boat so i decided to check out a creek that I always crossed over on my way to and from Estacada.  I stopped at the take out bridge and took a look at levels, low, but definitely enough to float.  The one log I saw upstream didn't discourage me much, I was sure there would be a couple more just like it to negotiate before the day was out.  I dropped my gear off at the start of the hike and drove back down near the take out to start the shuttle.

The gate where I was to start my hike.

I changed and started the 3 mile hike/jog to the logging road where my gear was.  I figured I would arrive by six.  It was a nice day for the most part and the rain had shut off for my shuttle aside from one brief hail flurry.

Arriving at the logging road I set up my carry system to test it out and started the 1+ mile hike into a place I believed was going to deliver me just below the confluence of two forks.  After the logging road section, I took my pack off and started the schwack through the woods.  It started out steep and I used the rope once.  At one point my boat took off without my consent and yanked me straight down the side of the hill!  A stick jammed into my thigh, bringing me to an abrupt halt and my boat stalled on a tree.  Below it wasn't too long until the angle of the slope cooled off, allowing for a pleasant hike through the woods.  I used rope again for the last 50 feet to the creek.  I saw some logs but was pleased with my good fortune to have put in just below a log jam I would have needed to portage.  Little did I know at the time, I could have put in anywhere along this 1.5 mile section and I would have been just below a logjam I needed to portage.

The last pitch I used a rope for.

I took 3 strokes, dodged a log, turned the corner and came to another logjam without eddies.  I grabbed some grass on the side of the creek and walked the creekbed till it was easy to get out, then off into the woods.

My first 3 strokes.

Three more consecutive jams and I began to worry about light.  From here out I put my "dealing" skills to use and was making reasonable time for what I was doing.  The creek required perpetual decision making about which channel to take, or whether or not a log could be boofed or needed to be walked around.

Typical scene on upper Clear Creek.

There was one rapid that could be considered almost fun, a bedrock conveyer-belt class two that was 20 yards long with a class two slide lead in.  Aside from that it was just dealing with logs. For those driving by who take a peak or are running the lower section, the small class two above the bridge was the most challenging rapid of the day not produced by a logjam :(

I made it to the end before dark, then jogged the mile to retrieve my car.  Rest assured, I will never be back, but at least I know what is there!

Not too dark when I got out of there...

But this was the scene when I returned after getting my car. 

An aside:  I suspect the logjams were 75% anthropogenic, the logs were often cut and most of them had pink tape next to them, leading me to believe they were placed there.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Wiki Creek #1

It might be awhile before the majority of the pictures come in, so I'll just put this report up now and add pictures when they come.


Matt was in town and the water was up.

The creek we decided to run had some serious potential given its geology and proximity to other high quality runs.  We camped at the take out anticipating a big day to come.  We found reasonable access and did a short 1/2 mile bush whack down to the creek.  It was a bit taxing without a trail, but nothing to keep either of us from returning.

We reached the creek and liked what we saw.  Bedrock and plenty of water.  We said good bye to the ground support team and paddled off into the unknown.  Right away we could tell this run had the potential to be very good.  It cruised along through a nice gorge with high quality class four rapids.  We scouted a couple times for wood before getting into the swing of things.  The creek would exit a gorge and go through a short gravel section, before returning to another gorge.  There was one log jam where Matt sneaked through on the left, but it was awfully sketchy.  I took the easy portage on the right and was happy with that decision.  Below here the creek entered another quality gorge section.

We were floating though an easier gravel section when we encountered the tallest drop yet as the creek appeared to enter another gorge section downstream via a hard right blind turn.  The drop below us was a nice 7 foot slide into a diagonal hole.  Matt went first, and caught a low eddy, but signaled me that it was important to catch the upper eddy on the right.  I did so and we scouted the next gorge.  Immediately after the right hand turn the creek roared over an impressive section of whitewater containing two V+ rapids that had wood in them.  The first one was the only one we spent time scouting and decided it would definitely go.  The wood in that one is also bound to flush.  If you repeat this, scout from the left and right, and on the logs before committing to the drop as it was very hard to see the wood in the landing.  We set out on an extended portage of the entire gorge on the right, but the return to the river was the only tricky part.  We didn't need any ropes, but a "non-experienced portager" might have trouble picking the path of least resistance.  There is a good looking rapid below here, but be sure to scout it thoroughly.  There is a severe undercut on the left that once we saw up close both decided it would be prudent to put back in below this obstacle.  There is a waterfall coming in on the left that makes for a really stellar scene.  Below here was a move that looked kind of tricky around a log, but was actually a
really fun move, driving hard left.
Runout on waterfall rapid.

More gorges and classy class four rapids followed.  The next drop I remember was a five foot pour-over into a big hole.  We both came through upright and stoked on the sweet drop.  The next major landmark is the most important to remember for a repeat run.  There is a huge rock wall on the left that comes straight to the river.  The right side of the river is a small, active erosional zone with mud and debris taking up the 30 foot high river right bank.  There was a log parallel to the current that was in a horrible spot and caused Matt to drop into a scary looking place backwards.  Fortunately he had the composure and presence of mind to catch a last minute eddy at the lip of the biggest rapid of the run.  I knew the log was coming so was able to claw into the eddy, but be very careful here as the first drop in the next series had wood in it.

Matt hiked back upstream from this eddy and ferried across where I helped him to shore just above a sieve.  Prudent boaters can come up next to the initial log, get out, and hike downstream from there.  More aggressive boaters can catch the difficult eddy on river right just before the stream drops through some large boulders.   The rapid then roared through the most complex rapid Matt or I could remember ever having run.  It consists of a lead in, then a class five boulder garden with three crux moves all on top of each other.  We scouted it for about half an hour.  By the time we were at the bottom it was looking good.  However, the farther upstream we hiked on the way back the more difficult it looks.  In the end Matt stepped up with a picture (or in this case video) perfect line and I followed after with a quick brace, but a line I was very happy with.

Matt cleans up on "Smokin' Aces".

After this came a series of continuous class five rapids reminiscent of the hardest boulder gardens on the Little White.  I thought they were a step up from the drops found on that run, though they were cleaner, while also being steeper, and with some juicy holes at our level.  

The last drop above the bridge was every bit of class five the day we were there, so don't be fooled when scouting from the bridge.
Matt on the right side of the final rapid, a center to left move is recommended here. 


Things to know

-The eddy above the portage gorge should not be missed.  If you roll, it may be a better option to catch the large eddy on river left, though you will be committed to a harder portage at that point.

-The last boulder garden is hard and continuous.

-Gauge reference is over 2000 cfs on the EF Lewis at Heissen.  Making this an alternative to Hagen for people interested in a (much) more difficult run if you tackle the last boulder garden.  

-There is a trail along the creek.  If you hike it until you are close enough to the river to scramble to it, you will put in below the portage gorge, and still get the hardest rapids.  

The roads in the area are gated, but all the gates were open when we were there in April.  Snow is not a big issue, especially if you hike the mile or so to the put in on the trail.

-For additional information  -


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wiki Creek #2

We set out into the Columbia gorge searching for some new stuff.  We got foiled by access to one, so settled on one I had scouted last summer.

Getting ready for the hike in.
 It involves a 1,000 ft descent (I'm not making this up) descent to the creek.  This took a lot of work and involved lowering the boats off a sixty foot waterfall at one point.
It was a pretty cool spot...

We arrived at a tributary, and put on.  We pulled ourselves downstream to a confluence and bashed down some more till we got to the first drop.  It was a nice 12 foot slide.
Dropping the first 12' slide
(photo Pete Giordano)
 Not far downstream the creek entered another tight gorge that had a long slide with some ledges in the slide.
Pete about to drop in.
 Around the corner was a tricky 6 foot drop that hit the right wall before going over another small ledge.  Nate and I both ran this one.  Downstream shortly was the best drop of the run.  It had a sweet sloping boof into a narrow crack before going over a 4 foot ledge.  Pete fired off a line I was a bit skeptical of until I saw him absolutely grease it.  Nate and I followed and it was a total blast.
Pete puts a little Spring in his step and flies into "Son of Steve"
(Photo: Nate Merrill)

  Below here the quality dropped off, but had some small slides and ledges with painfully water depleted boulder gardens separating them.  There is a 30' rock wall on the left at one point on a sharp right turn.  Just below here was another fun slide that went better than it looked. Below here were a couple more ledge drops, but mostly boulder gardens that did not have the water they needed.

Soon we entered the home stretch in the final gorge like section.  There were two separate short double drops through bedrock formations.  The second one signals the upcoming sketchy point.  The creek turns left and there is a small eddy on the right (not sure what this will look like at high flows).  Do not miss as the logs downstream are a death trap.  A quick portage puts you above Swimming Horse Falls, the final drop on the run.  A fantastic 15' drop that would have been better with more water and a soft landing.  Still fun.

I get on board with the final boof at Swimming Horse Falls.
(Photo: Nate Merrill)

  Below Swimming Horse we did a not so hard portage around a log jam before the last hundred feet of class two before the confluence with a much larger creek.  From here, it is a two mile I-II float down to a bridge and the take out.

We had painfully low water (EF Lewis at 1200), but this might be a nice creek to return to when all other runs have too much water. This would also make the flat section after the confluence go very quickly.  Watch out for wood though.


Monday, May 9, 2011


We headed up to Nohorn creek yesterday.  It was low but still a good time.

Clackamas at Three Lynx was ~3,000
5,000 cfs is considered medium flows.

 We used the upper put in that Pete Giordano found last year.  The snow situation meant the last mile of the road was not drivable, but also that we could drag our boats.  This upper put in added a small slide into a nice ten foot boof.  Followed by a short log jam portage and some other splashy rapids.  I would choose this upper put in for any trip to Nohorn.

The rest of the run is well documented over at

Once Hugh creek come in on the right the creek enters a fun mini gorge section with good quality III-IV rapids.  There are some in-between sections that were a bit dull at this level, but at normal levels these would move right along and the classic Oregon scenery helps pass the time as usual.

This ledge was a fun surprise.  

 We kept thinking every horizon was Cookie Monster.  But it was pretty obvious when we got there.  We snuck into an eddy at the lip on the left.  Though catching an eddy higher up might be a good idea if there is more water in the stream.

 Nate and Luke point out the issues with the rapid.

The low water meant the big hole that usually dominates the left side of Cookie Monster wasn't in play.  A couple of us ran it, but it had enough going on that most took the portage route on the left.
 The six foot ledge has a log in it now.  Luke went for the rail slide which was pretty sweet, with more water I would suggest running middle or right.

Be sure to take a look at the ledge visible from the bridge on the drive up.  It should be run center, but the shallow lead in makes it difficult to fall into the deep part in the center.

 Pegleg is the preferred take out and everyone who went left tucked up and went deep!!  Anna takes the plunge.

 Luke scouts out his line for lap number two.

And gets the boof off the ramp in the middle.

Our trip in fast forward.


To get to the upper put in.  Go towards these coordinate points (can copy paste these into google maps).  44.931235489969055,-122.2170639038086

If you are looking at the creek (should be the first good view you get since crossing Hugh Creek) and see a short bedrock slide with a tree spanning the creek right over the slide.  
Put in there, just above the slide to save yourself some mank upstream.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Via Jeff Compton

Christy Creek has now been rafted.

It was epic.  I rafted in the puma with josh.  Dan and I fired up Rhinosex.  Josh and I flipped in Balls. 1.75 feet on the gauge.

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