All shots extracted from Nate's helmet cam footage.
I first scouted this creek a few summers ago with my dad at summer flows. We found a very cool gorge housing a number of class III-IV drops in a locked in mini-gorge with a class five exit drop (soon to be dubbed Freeman Falls) complicated by a log.
I never had the motivation to go back, but recently Pete Giordano (who had also been interested enough to scout the creek) mentioned the creek to Nate and it came back onto the collective radar. After the 2013 Wind race a group of rafters joined me on a bushwhack scout of the exit drop which I felt was runnable in a kayak even with the wood. The rafters decided to hold off, but Nate and I decided that if nothing else was in the next day we would paddle the gorge if for no other reason than to see something new.
We met up with a partial contingent of Team Corvallis in Carson and took one last scout of Freeman Falls. Most of the team had committed to helping inspire a new member of the kayak community on the Clackamas, but Michael Freeman was game to scrape some plastic from his boat so we headed up to the put-in and geared up for some adventure.
The gorge started as soon as we were below the bridge, and was doing a good job of committing us downstream. We had exploratory levels, but still only one portage. We scraped down some small slides and before long were in the eddy above Freeman Falls. At higher flows scrambling up a large tree on river left would be necessary to take a peak, but at this level it was possible to walk through the creek to the lip.
Nate, fully committed.
The drop itself was a unique reconnect. Nate went first and came through, avoiding the right wall. I followed his advice to let my bow drop as I tried to keep my nose pointed left away from the wall, which I made slight contact with. Michael came next and the reconnect directed his bow straight into the wall where a vicious spinning piton occurred. He kept it upright, but certainly felt the effects.
Nate, seconds from leaving the gorge behind.
A view of the pit.
We dealt with a couple hundred yards of mank before the tri-confluence with Panther Creek and the Wind. Floating out on a couple-few thousand cfs was a nice contrast to the 150 cfs we had come from. The run out was fun, the Flume was wild and we portaged Beyond Limits and Shipperds. During the throw and go at Shippereds I realized my relief zipper was undone and I took on a lot of water into my drysuit, foolish mistake! We had one more moment of interest chasing down a rogue paddle before the class two float to the end.
I think a certain type of boater would be into running this short stretch. It's a neat gorge and Freeman Falls ups the pucker factor. If Panther Creek is runnable, so then should Bear Creek be.
Freeman Falls from below
* Freeman Falls: A tilt to Michael's piton and the sense of freedom that comes from exiting the gorge.