Thursday, July 25, 2013

Never gets old

Most people who boat with me for any length of time figure out that regardless of a runs quality, I have an enigmatic resistance to repeating runs I have already done.  One of the few exceptions to this rule is the falls section of the Lewis River.  I have done this section at least once a year for five years and enjoy it immensely every time.

Many people learn how to fall off waterfalls on the East Fork, but the main stem or North Fork as some refer to it as has a section of its own that not only has more clean waterfalls, but is much larger and more scenic.  The run is even slightly adventurous and has water year round.

Here is a video of our latest trip by Taylor Hazen.

A Day on the Lewis from Rogue Specimens on Vimeo.


Flows: I have run this section from 250-500 cfs on the Lewis Gauge.  If it gets much higher the pot-hole at Upper Falls that we rope into becomes covered.

Put in:  Walk down the trail from Quartz Creek until you see an easily accessible gravel bar on the main stem of the Lewis.

Take Out:  Hike out on a trail just below Lower Falls on the right, or continue to the bridge.

For a blow by blow read below, you may be able to get something useful out of it.

Walking a short distance on the trail at Quartz Creek will lead to a convenient rock beach that is only a couple hundred yards above Taitnapum.  Taitnapum can be scouted beforehand from the trail, but we generally choose to scout from the lip on river right.  I have seen two lines run here, one is the center where the most water is, the other is a few feet off the left wall.  Both of these lines go, though each have their pros and cons.

Next is a small slide, then a narrow channel chiseled out of the wide bedrock before we get out on the left to scout the lead in to Upper Falls on the left.  This drop is straight forward, but its not always run according to plan.  Its worth having the probe set safety below this drop as a swim would result in a high probability of gear (and possibly a swimmer) going over the nastiest part of Upper Falls.  Once everyone groups below this drop we run the next ledge far right, catching one of two small eddies to portage the ugly (but has been run) part of Upper Falls.  

To run the very clean, very fun lower tier of Upper Falls we have always roped down to a small pothole ten yards above the lip.  The key here is to seal launch slowly backwards into a small eddy in order to set up for a controlled peal out into the main flow.  The middle line offers a big bone jarring boof, or you can tuck it up down the left side for a softer hit.

There is some really shallow stuff down to Middle Falls, I generally get out of my boat and walk through the middle of the river once I feel my boat has suffered enough.  This leads to a fun slide on the right, or some challenging 30' vertical routes on the left.

If you flip in the innocuous 2' ledge right below middle falls, don't be too embarrassed, you are not the first.

The next mile is shallow class 2.  Below the reminants of an old bridge, the river starts showing bedrock again.  Soon enough you will see wooden stairs on the right which signal Lower Falls.  Safety can and should be set here (a 75' bag reaches from river right), enough people have ended up behind the falls to warrant this.  If you find yourself back there, it is worth noting there is a ledge at the back of the cave people have stood on in the past.

The take out trail for people running Lower Falls is below the pool on the right, or continue to the bridge.

This description is only accurate at low summer flows, high water creates a whole new set of challenges.

Taitnapum during Spring runoff.

Happy hucking!

Nate drops lower falls.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tanner Creek; Above Wahclella Gorge


Stream:   After hiking about 4 miles you reach the powerlines and the put in.  It starts off steep and bouldery, keep an eye out for wood but don't be surprised if there are no portages either.  It's pretty narrow and fast so there might be a couple places you want to scout up here, most of it is boat scoutable though.

The first bedrock appears in the form of a small class II slide, eddy out immediately on the left after the slide to scout Volition Falls.  This is a unique drop, shaped like a quarter pipe before dropping 5' more into a hole.  It looks like an abrupt transition but two of us ran it in an IK and it was smooth, it's yet to be tested by a hardshell though.

Next are some more boulder gardens before Coppertone, the largest non-waterfall rapid on the run.  A big wall on the left marks this fun rapid.

The next small rapid is best run in the shallow channel on the left.  Below here keep a look out for a horizon line that is a long slide as the river bends left, historically it has ended in a dangerous logjam and should be portaged left.  It's not too hard to stop above this, if you are paying attention.

Next up is Caesura Falls, a low stress ten foot boof in the middle or a narrow chute on the right.  If it were easier to lap I'd spend some time here.

Just around the corner is Sundance Falls, a 40 foot falls with a variety of lines.  

Exiting the pool at the base of Sundance is the pinnacle moment of the run.  A class II builds to a class III rapid as the stream bends left, and drops into Wahclella Gorge via a large waterfall.  It is imperative to get out before turning this corner.  While they are far from generous, there are eddy options on the right before the point of no return.

Photo by "northridge"

This is a good spot for a lunch break as if you are not going to run Wahclella Gorge you have your work cut out for you.

Wahclella Gorge is about 1/4 mile long, starting with a large waterfall into a narrow landing and immediately dropping over a small boxed in ledge.  There are a few more chutes and slots before at least one more waterfall, Tanner Creek then exits the gorge over the impressive Wahclella Falls itself.

It may be possible to portage Wahclella Gorge, but we chose to hike out at this point.  From the stream we climbed to the base of a cliff, followed along the base of said cliff upstream a short ways and roped our boats up a break in the cliff.  From there we grunted the next 900 vertical feet up to the road.  The underbrush wasn't so bad, but small alders proved to be a pain in parts.  Once you hit the road, it's just a couple of downhill miles back to the gate.

Flows:  We had just under 1,000 cfs in the Bull Run nr Multnomah Falls.  That's about minimum for the boulder gardens in the upper part, though the waterfalls are runnable much lower.

Access:  Take exit 40 off I84 and turn South (away from the Columbia).  If you are running or portaging Wahclella Gorge (instead of hiking out) take out options will be obvious at this point.

The start of the access road is marked on the following map by a red circle, but is absent from most maps.  It is right next to a water tower.

Follow the road 4-5 miles until you see the powerlines crossing the creek, put in close to those.  I believe we put in right under them but my memory could be wrong.  The powerlines are shown on the following map.

Put in at the powerlines:  45.5976, -121.9452

On the walk/drive up the access road you will cross a number of micro creeks.  Just after the second one is where you return to the road if you hike out (pretty strenuous, if Wahclella Gorge has a portage route that would be preferred).  The hike out is marked below.

Original write-up


Photos by Lucas Reitman unless marked otherwise.

Most people who have spent time hiking in the CRG has been to Wahclella Falls.  The trail ends at the scenic and intimidating waterfall run only by the Honey Badger himself.  That event has become legend.

I am no honey badger, so was more curious about the stream above the waterfall that Boomer ran.  Nick and I tube scouted the creek a few years ago and found some really nice waterfalls followed by a challenging hike out of the gorge.

This year Nick and I met up with the Lucas's from Corvallis to try Eagle Creek.  Paul and Jean came along to take photos and hang out.  I didn't bother to check the gauge as it had been a low water year and Eagle usually stays in late.  The lack of rain in Monmouth led me to believe levels would be fine, but unbeknownst to me (should have at least checked the gauge) rain up in the Portland/Hood River area brought Eagle to a level we thought would leave Skoonichuck too high.  And as Matt would put it "we are lifestyle boaters, not pro boaters" and as such were keen on coming back when the whole run was good to go, not just the iconic Punchbowl and Metlako.  

It was at this point that I remembered about this other creek Nick and I had scouted and had wrote off as I didn't think anyone I knew would be interested in the long hike in, a day of boating, then Oregon's version of the South Branch's infamous hike out.  However the Lucas's are very ambitious and it was surprisingly easy to convince them this was a good idea.

We arrived at the start of the hike and realized that there was going to be a way to drive straight to the put in (if a future explorer is ambitious and lucky they may encounter the same circumstances).  By the time we were half way up the road we were really glad not to be hiking as it took awhile even in the car and light was going to be a concern.

We put on and while there was water, the rocky upper section could have used a bit more.  This all changed when we got to the waterfalls though!  Just when I could tell the Lucas's were starting to doubt my memory of the run, we slid down a small class II bedrock slide and eddied out on the left to scout our first waterfall.  This turned out to be Volition Falls, the most unique drop on the section we ran.

This waterfall goes vertical for ten feet before reconnecting with a flat shelf which flumes up and over a large wave before dropping another 4 feet into a hole.  This transition looked questionable and there was a log that was very in play penetrating the pool, waiting to entrap a swimmer.  We looked and discussed for awhile before Lucas Glick decided that he would take my IK over the drop (in theory the extra padding would soften the transition).  It was his first time in an IK in many years but he made the drop look smooth as silk.  After seeing that I couldn't walk away so using teamwork got the IK back to the top and I dittoed his line.

Lucas doesn't regret his volition.

It was too good just to watch.

Below here I recall more boulder gardens with one standout drop that started with a smooth sliding ledge with a big wall on the left below.  The second part of the rapid was steep, ending where the wall outcropped into the stream.This was to be the most distinct rapid of the day (Coppertone).  Below Coppertone were a couple more rapids (the one just below was a bit sketch due to wood, a line all the way to the left was the way).

Even without the sun, I felt like I was getting a little tanner in Coppertone rapid.

Not too long below here was Caesura Falls.  This falls is proceeded by a long bedrock slide on a left turn that ended in a pile of wood.  Caesura Falls is a low stress ten foot boof in the middle.  Or a fun/unique looking slot/slide on the right.  We saw Nick and Paul on the shore who informed us the hike out wasn't going to be too bad and the next falls was just around the corner.

Glick goes first.

Almost as much fun as it was in a tube the previous summer!
(Paul Thomson photo)

As Nick and Paul had told us, a short distance below here we were out again scouting Sundance Falls, a beatiful 40 foot waterfall into a nice pool.  I thought I saw a reconnect opportunity right of center so sailed off over there for a clean, but jolting landing.

IK's for days

 The Lucas's took the tuck line on the left and while both their lines looked heavenly, they also reported taking hits.

 Lucas is one of the few people who has written academically about the Oregon tuck, it appears that extra effort paid off.

Exiting this pool is the crux of the run, as there are not really any full eddies between here and Swaawa Falls, a 60+ foot falls that would commit you to a class V+ gorge with waterfalls.  Nick had hiked in with Paul to this point (thanks so much guys, that made a world of difference) and pulled us onto shore here.

The initial pitch of the hike out was tricky, the thing to do was hike straight up to the base of the cliff-band, traverse back upstream until an egress point presented itself.  We chose to rope boats up this cliff-band.  After this it was time to lower our heads and grunt over a thousand vertical feet up the 30+ degree slope.  I would be inclined to repeat this trek were it not for the willows.  Small and sturdy, they were constantly in the way, getting worse before getting better.  Soon enough we were at the road and ready to head out after a memorable day of boating.

Happy exploration.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thoughts on the North Fork Payette articulated by Lucas Glick
Jacob's Ladder and Golf Course Rapids form almost a mile of pure whitewater.

The road is steep. I strain my fully loaded car just to keep at the recommended speed. I’m having trouble focusing on the road as I hear out my window the constant roar from the river. It hasn’t stopped. Jesus! Im on mile 6 and Ive already gotten out of my car 5 times to scout some of the longest and largest rapids I’ve ever seen. They all have lines, straight forward and manageable…But the holes and the waves are massive and each rapid last longer than some entire runs in Oregon. Simply memorizing the lines in each rapid is impossible.
The road  straightens for what looks like about a ½ mile and immediately I know Im looking at the base of golf course. Completely white. There are too many holes to count. Piercing rocks stick out forming massive hydraulics. There are no eddies on the side. Only rapids and river banks. My eyes widen as I move up the rapid towards the top of the bend where the river crashes out of sight. The top of the rapids is pure chaos. Jacob’s Ladder. The angry beast looks like its breathing as it sends surges of water through the tight drops and boulders obstructing its path down. There are four main drops in jakes and each move alone look like a commenting move. Stacked together jakes creates a beautiful manifestation of a long single cascade. Each drop is separated by the waves that look big from 20 feet above on the road.
As I scramble down from the bank to get close to edge of the first drop in jake’s, rodeo hole, and cut my hand on the sharp granite. Fear floods through my body as I imagine all the sharp rocks that were thrown into the river bed as the road and railroad carved there way up the canyon. The unnaturally sharp rocks lay hidden underneath the waters surface. Abnormal rocks poke out of the water’s surface throughout the rapid like razors forming roster tails of magnificent size. At eye level jakes is even more impressive. Three words: fast, steep, and big. The transition to golf course from jakes is immediate providing no breaks to paddlers. All together it forms close to a mile of whitewater that is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck the whole way down.
The NF lower 5 miles is considered the easiest, due to the time in-between rapids. The Upper 5 mile has rapids that are no harder moves than the lower 5 moves but are longer and have less time between rapids. The middle 5 miles is a step up from both the lower and the upper. Rapids are longer and the time between each seems non-existent. Jakes is a step up from the middle 5. I ran the lower first, then middle and finally the upper.
Being- no surviving on the water is crazy. Everything feels bigger than what I could imagine. I found myself in a state of constantly reacting to my surroundings. Rarely there is a dull moment. The feeling of cresting out on waves that are around 5-10 feet tall is something I never really experienced and is very fun! Sometimes you don’t even have to try to get air off the waves. Although its hard to explain the difficultly of the entire river, every move felt no harder than anything on the LW. But it’s a completely different style of rapids. Its hard to fight the current, so you really have to focus on letting the water do the work for you.
Looking below Rodeo Hole in Jake's and the lead into the golf course.
Jakes is a different beast. The top I feel is the crux though I never made it down the entire rapids. The move comes fast, and even after getting the feel of the river I was still surprise with the little time there is to make the needed right stroke boof. I took my stroke a tad late and ended going deep into the penalty box. The hit from the hole was horrendous, harder than koosah in my mind. It knocked my breath out in an instant. The hydraulics were worse than the hit. I understand the reason why it’s called rodeo hole. I was instantly in a session of cartwheels. When it rolled me I snap a roll very quickly and surf my way into an eddy on river right full of sharp granite rocks. Not the ideal spot to be in but at least out of the hole. I was extremely fortunate not to hit any rocks hidden below the surface. In the eddy contemplating continuing on with jakes, beginning the second move on the wrong side of the river sounded less than ideal. I ended bailing out of the river in the eddy and seeking safety on the road above. This was my only attempt at jakes.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Salmon River Gorge; SRG


Stream:   This is one of the better adventures in Oregon.  Oregon Kayaking has a good history of the run that makes for interesting reading.

Exploring the Salmon River Canyon prior to the first descent

Salmon Canyon, fourth known descent

Salmon Canyon; First no portage descent

Salmon Canyon; Complete Guide

It is well described there, so I'll keep my info concise.

Either hike up from the bottom six miles or run shuttle and hike two miles.  The two times I ran SRG I did the shuttle.  The ideal situation is the shuttle with a shuttler driver.

Either way, hike to the meadow at this location and traverse the bottom of a small cliff to pick up a faint trail down the ridge-line to the stream.  The first drop is Split Falls and is the most straight forward drop on the run.  It's a fun and stress-free drop.

Portage the next small boulder garden on the left (though it has been run), then catch the next available eddy on the right for a seal launch portage.  Below the seal launch there is a fair bit of class II until you arrive at Little Niagara.  Scout on the right, run center finishing left with a strong boof to avoid a shelf in the center and a cave behind the drop on the left.

Just downstream is Vanishing Falls, which gets portaged more often than ran.  Usually via a throw and go on the right, make sure you jump past the shelf into the deep water in the middle of the channel.  Be organized here as just downstream is a sticky ledge you don't want gear or people floating into.

Matt King has a good line off Vanishing Falls

Scout the exit ledge on the right, it's a sticky hole and the safety situation isn't perfect.  However if you are right and keep your nose up it's pretty easy to clear the hole.  I haven't heard of anyone having issues here even though it's scary looking.

A short bit of easy floating and a couple small ledges lead you to a narrow and beautiful hallway leading up to Frustration Falls.  What an incredible place.

Scout the first tier of Frustration in the middle if the log bridge is still there, it falls off to the left harder than it might appear.  If flows are good its a great boof.  The channel on the left just below the landing zone exits via a nasty sieve, don't go over there.

Scout the second and third tier's from the right side, usually done before running the first tier but not always.  The second tier has a reputation of being weird and hard to run well, so some people seal launch in right above the final 30-40' drop.   The wall downstream is undercut, but no one has run into trouble there yet.

Looking over the lip of the final drop in Frustration.

Exiting this pool is the limiting flow factor on the run.  The far left channel lands in the narrow exit to the pool.  It can be a challenging fight at normal flows, and impossible at high flows.

It is possible to portage Frustration Falls on the right.

Next up is a twenty footer usually run leftish.  Then catch an eddy on the right to deal with Final Falls.  There is a tiny tree some people repel off of, or you can jump.  People jumping from the repel point have hit bottom before, so I like to walk down to a small perch closer to the falls and jump into the boil at its base.

Matt takes the jump from the small perch.  

Final Falls has been run a few times, here is a video showing  lines.

Flows:  Flows are tricky on this one, they are visual but people who haven't done the run don't really know what they are looking for.  From the take out bridge, it should look barely floatable. There used to be a rock that people looked at, but the streambed changes yearly so that is now outdated.  If it looks like healthy flows you won't be able to escape the pool below Frustration and the Vanishing Falls portage would get sketchy.  Hopefully someone figures out a better visual metric in the future.

To decide if it's even worth taking a look, you can use the Sandy River @ Marmot gauge.  If there is a visible diurnal, look for between 500-1,000 cfs.  800 is good, 500 is really low.

If there is no visible diurnal, look for between 1,000-1,500 cfs.

July 4th, 2009 was a pretty standard flow for the run.

Access:   Take Hwy 26 towards Mt. Hood, just passed the town of Welches turn right onto E Salmon River Rd next to a Subway.  Follow this 6.7 miles until it crosses the Salmon River.  This is the take out and where you assess the water level.  To hike up, follow the trail up on river right for 6 miles to this  45.2302, -121.8725  meadow.  Enter the meadow, veer right and traverse around a small cliff band.  Then follow a faint trail down the ridge line to the stream.

To do the vehicle shuttle return to Hwy 26 and head towards Government Camp.  Just shy of 23 miles turn right onto NF-42/Oregon Skyline Road.  1.1 miles later turn right on to NF 4290.  2.5 miles later turn left onto NF-2660. In 0.9 miles, this becomes NF-58/Abbott Rd as you stay right. Stay right again in 0.6 miles onto NF-240. At a split 2.1 miles later stay right on 240. In a half-mile stay left at another split in the road (this road is small and is becoming overgrown), follow this road to it's terminus near Linney Creek Campground.  There is a trail taking off from the end of the road, it quickly crosses the Salmon, then about 2 miles into the hike (you will be able to hear Stien Falls when you are getting close) is this 45.2302, -121.8725  meadow on your left.  Enter the meadow, veer right and traverse around a small cliff band.  Then follow a faint trail down the ridge line to the stream.

The trail into Split Falls.
The Linney Creek road is on the bottom right of the map.

It should be noted that in 2015 the road down to Linney Creek campground was blocked by down logs, it is possible this road is in the process of being decommissioned.  

Notes:  Recently Andrew Morrissey opened up a new center line (4:05) on Frustration.  The landing is shallow here, but he found a way to get it done.

Some other trips into the Salmon River Canyon from the Into the Outside team.

From Matt

A raft descent

Canoe and Kayak article

Oregon Field Guide