Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rogue Specimens

I had run the Rogue once before a number of years ago in an IK and was not ultra impressed.  However, I had seen a couple tributaries that I had half a mind to check out.  This last week my friend Aaron Leiberman invited me on a trip to the Illinois which I had also done and felt so so about.  However, the Illinois was projected to spike and common community knowledge says don't do that run if its spiking.  Aarons backup was the Rogue, and while the stream itself didn't appeal to me much, the company along with a couple of interesting specimens in the drainage did.

All photos: Priscilla Macy

Priscilla and I drove down in the morning to meet our OTT friends of old and new, did a quick load and were on the river before 11.  Things went smoothly that first day, with Aaron and Priscilla telling me all the cool stuff about the river they had learned over years of guiding the Rogue. Near the end of the day we dropped off my kayak at the mouth of Mule Creek before lodging just downstream.

We woke early-ish the next morning and I headed upstream to get my boat and start hiking up the creek.  Water levels were reasonable, but low-ish with the Rogue around 10,000 cfs at Agness.  We got to the bridge where the stream forks and we continued up the West Fork, excited by the rapid visible from the bridge.

Neat, whitewater!

 As we hiked upstream it became clear that portaging was not always going to be an option.  Luckily it looked from the trail like everything went.

Eventually we hit out planned time to put in (9am) which corresponded to about 3/4 miles up the West Fork (I suspect there is harder whitewater above where I put in).  Priscilla helped rope me into the gorge, then ran back down the trail with a throw rope keeping an eye/ear on me in case I reached a point where a vertical extraction was needed.  The run was neat with clean, easy rapids in a deep gorge.  The base of the gorge was often just over a boat length wide.  I would call the run classic class III(IV).  There was only one rapid I ran, where had the portage been easier I may have taken it.  This was a class III with a log creating a hazard and tight move.  Later on I was happy with the low flow when I had to portage over a root wad jammed into the heart of the gorge. Aside from those spots, there was only one other portage (easy) and wood was of no further concern and it was just neat drops at the bottom of a tight gorge.  Just downstream of the root wad portage was the rapid at the confluence.  This rapid was fun and I enjoyed the runout to the Rogue.

Jack be Nimble

I paddled down to the lodging location while Priscilla jogged, we met up with the rest of our crew about 10 minutes before our planned departure.  I hopped on the raft as the oarsmen expertly negotiated the rapids between here and our second specimen to be examined for the day (Stair Creek Falls).  Upon arrival the team set to work shuttling people/gear to where they needed to be and giving me valuable information about the issues with the drop.  In the end it was decided I would run the upper 15 foot falls and steer clear of the lower drop.  Some rope work was needed, but we had some good beta on access from Alan Bergman and before long all was set for me to run the drop.  It was a straight forward lead in to a deep water boof, not very difficult but oh so fun!

Straight forward lead in

Fun boof!

After the drop Priscilla helped rope me and my boat out of the canyon and we headed back to the Rogue and downstream to our take out.  With the high water most of the rapids were reduced a class, but the large boils were neat to see and we moved along quickly.  The most challenging part of the day was reining in a bladder at capacity for the last 20 minutes to the take out.  The 3 hour shuttle was unpleasant, but was quickly remedied by a top notch film found at the OTT head quarters titled "Slammin Salmon", which was an hours worth of 90s raft carnage on the Cal-Salmon.

A parting shot looking downstream from the bridge at the Mule/WF Mule confluence.

If I were to repeat this run, I would continue hiking to where the stream forked again at "the ruins" before putting on.  I believe this extra hiking would add more notable rapids.

Naming the rapid Jack be Nimble: A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare).  The line on the rapid was not a point and shoot, it require nimble maneuvering to keep from colliding with the walls.  I don't imagine the breeding of two different species being straight forward either.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gladiator Creek: Middle

  Photo: Emile Elliott

Gladiator Creek: Middle
3 miles (+4 on lower section)

After crossing over the Lower Bridge, there is a steep 1 mile stretch of uphill hiking.  After a left turn towards the waterhole, it's flat to the Middle bridge.  Below the put in bridge for the middle section, the creek starts off bouldery.  If flows are not up, this will feel a bit janky.

Once the bedrock appears, diligent scouting (right bank) is recommended as it is not long to the waterfall, and rapids lead up to it. 

Vesuvius Falls
  Photo: Priscilla Macy

Portaging Vesuvius can be done with a rappel on the right at lower water, or a throw and go appeared possible as well (get as far out into the middle of the pool as possible if you jump).

Adam Edwards repelling around Vesuvius at low water (1.8').

Below Vesuvius the rapids continue.  While they begin to ease in difficulty for awhile, the abundance remains consistent with a mix of small boulder gardens, ledges and surf waves.

The rapids kick back up at Ludi, a long parade of fun class IV rapids.   The Ludi have plenty of variety and is my favorite stretch on the whole creek.  Everything is scout-able from the shore, and aggressive boat scouting can get you through too if that's your style.  You can even put in here if you want to skip Vesuvius.

 The start of the Ludi is marked by a rapid that requires a move to the left and through the small bedrock pinch Joseph is floating through. 

Jacob Flock part way through a multi-part rapid of the Ludi stretch. 
 Photo: Dax Kirkwood

As the Ludi fade away, be on the look out for the creek to be diverted left by a low outcrop of bedrock at the end of a sliding straight away of easy bedrock, and into Venator, a 5 foot drop into a carnivorous hole.  This is one spot in particular where aggressive boat-scouting could backfire.

Taking a look at Venator from the low bedrock outcrop that diverts the creek left.

Spearing to the right.
Photo: Priscilla Macy                                                                                          Paddler: Chris Korbulic

Just downstream from Venator is a straight away leading to the bridge marking the beginning of the lower section of Gladiator Creek.

Emile's Video from our first time down the Middle section in 2014.

Flows:  Refer to the Gladiator gauge page or the main page for flow specifics, Vesuvius is best at or over 2.5' but the rest of the run can still be fun down to 2' and can be run lower (1.5' is too low for most everybody though).  If it's low, it's probably best to skip Vesuvius, and just paddle the Rock Quarry Section.

Access:  As of 2020, walking in is allowed during the rainy season.  When driving up the access road you will quickly cross a bridge over Gladiator Creek, this is where you take out.  To get to the start of the Hall, continue up this Fire road to a gate.  At the end of the day it's an easy 1/4 mile walk up to the gate from the take out bridge so no need to set a vehicle shuttle.  

From the gate the hike is 6 miles, 4.5 miles are relatively flat, 1.5 miles is an uphill slog.  If you are running the middle section, you will be paddling 7 miles.  The wheely-walkers are ideal for this hike, also bring food and water.

- From the gate at the bottom of the road, it's about 3 miles along the mainline to the put in bridge for the lower section, staying right towards the creek if in doubt.  There are mile markers painted on the trees to orient during the walk and you will be on the mainline until the bridge.

- To get to the middle put in, cross this first bridge, and it's a steep mile up to a quarry with no turns.  A few minutes past the quarry veer left at a "Y" (it's not the first turn) onto a road marked "waterhole", this road leads down to the put in bridge in under 1.5 miles. 

If it's your first time, it wouldn't hurt to print this and carry it with you, but a phone with GPS capability and a cached map is better.


Note:  If you don't want to run Vesuvius Falls, you can take the first left after the rock quarry for the Rock Quarry Section onto an overgrown road that will lead to a nose of land you can follow to the creek at the top of Ludi.  This makes for a fantastic day of IV/IV+(V) boating and is the option I most often take when paddling the creek.


Ebbinghaus Horizon


By the time Emile, Ben and I ran the Middle section of Gladiator for the first time, I had been to this creek 5-10 times for scouting and boating and had a number of failed attempts at kayaking the middle stretch.  I had seen Vesuvius at very low water, and had hiked around it to see if a portage with a kayak was reasonable (it wasn't).  This hike dropped me and my hiking partner back to the creek well below the falls so I didn't get another look at it.  Standing at the top of the falls before heading off into the woods, it had looked about 30' tall.

When Ben, Emile and I finally got in there with a good amount of water in the creek, we were again standing at the top of the falls thinking it looked about 30' tall.  Ben, the most proficient waterfall runner in our group agreed to go first.  He had a good line, but adamantly signaled we needed to tuck.  After we were all in the pool below we understood why, looking back up at the falls from here our estimation of the height now ranged from 40-60' depending on who you asked.

For a few years the thought of running this drop had kept me from going back.  I just don't have the technique required to safely run waterfalls I need to tuck for so don't like to roll the dice with my back (which has already fractured once) on drops in the 30+ foot category.  However two trips in 2019 have reinvigorated my enthusiasm for paddling this creek.  On one trip we just put in below Vesuvius, and the other we repelled around it (though I'd like to throw-and-go next time).  So now that I know dropping Vesuvius is not mandatory for paddling the creek, I need not fret anymore about going back to what is almost certainly my favorite creek in Oregon.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Broke Back

L1, third from top, crushed into a wedge.
It all started with the world famous Green River Narrows, following the infamous Green Race. The Green Race is the greatest kayak race in the sport. It holds a certain allure that no kayaker can deny.  Personally, I’ve been interested in going over for the race for many years now - not necessarily to race, just to be a part of the event as an observer and get to run the Green River Narrows, one of the most famous stretches of river in the world.  

As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina is a long way to go. The logistics of sourcing a kayak, finding a place to stay, and finding paddling partners present some hurdles. For whatever reason, it all came together for me this year; my friend Conor from Oregon was coming back from Spain and planned to be there, another friend, Eric Adsit, had recently moved from Portland was kind enough to lend me a boat, and some other friends that spent a couple summers working at a wilderness lodge very close to me were back at their house (called Girl Island- that’s another story) in Asheville and offered up their couch.  To top it off, I was on my way to Africa to work and had to fly through Atlanta a few days after the race.  In short, I finally had my chance to go run the Green and witness “the greatest show in sports.”

I arrived the Friday before the race and dove into the Halloween festivities. After some good times dressed up and dancing, we woke up in Asheville to several inches of snow on the ground, which caused quite the delay getting ready.  By the time we made it to the take out, the race was soon to start despite having been delayed an hour by the cold conditions.  We made our way up to the put-in and I ran into a friend from Kentucky that I’d met kayaking in Ecuador.  Kayaking is such a small world!  We got a group together and paddled down through the course to Gorilla, making sure to not get in the way of any racers hauling ass.  The river was like nothing I’d ever boated before, really steep and quite manky, and yet somehow all good to go.  We had a blast spectating, there were good lines and bad, and tons of folks that had made the hike in just to watch, have some beers, and maybe grill some hotdogs on an open fire.  

A solid crowd below Gorilla despite the snowy morning (and this isn't even half the folks)!
After all the racers had passed through, Conor gave Gorilla a go and styled while I carried through the portage, leaving the beast for another day.  After some quality slides, a quick portage at Sunshine, and more smiles, we made our way down to the takeout.  Such a great day!  If you haven’t been to the Green Race, it’s worth a trip just to spectate!

The next day, we planned to paddle the Green in the afternoon, only to find that the water would be cut off and we wouldn’t make it in time.  That left Monday as the last potential release for us to get back on the Green.  

When Monday came around, Conor and I were ready, and we got to the river and ran into some of the best boaters hanging around those parts: Clay Lucas, Robbie Gilson, Chris Harjes, and Tommy Penick.  We rallied our way down, really enjoying the some sunshine on the Green, highlighting the beauty of the canyon.  The water felt great as did the crew, and I was feeling pretty solid in the borrowed boat and gear, so when we got down to Gorilla, I felt ready to go for my personal first descent. 
If you aren’t familiar with Gorilla, there are really 3 drops that make up the rapid, Flying Squirrel, a small broken ledge, the Notch, a tight slot that turns almost 90 degrees, then the main event, Gorilla, a 18 foot or so waterfall that lands on a rock slide and shoots down a narrow flume.  There’s a brief pool after the flume, then another big slide, leaving little time for recovery.

Back to the story, we arrived at Gorilla and decided that Robbie would go first, followed by Conor, then Clay, Tommy, and me.  I had planned to run through Flying Squirrel, catch a small eddy immediately below the Notch, then run the main drop from there.  Following behind Clay, I ran the Squirrel and saw that Clay had caught a small eddy on river left and could see that Conor was in the eddy at the Notch.  Clay signaled for me to stop, and I was able to catch an eddy on river right, out of site of anyone but him.  Tommy came through and ran the Notch directly, and ended up also joining Conor in the eddy after the Notch.  At this point, I wasn’t sure if something had gone wrong, or if everyone was just paused.  Clay tried to get Conor and Tommy to clear out of the eddy, and ended up just running the Notch and Gorilla directly.  I then worked my way into the eddy that Clay had been in on river left, right above the Notch, and was trying to signal Conor to clear out when I realized I was drifting into the current.  I tried to back paddle on a shallow shelf and get back in the eddy so that I wouldn’t run into Tommy or Conor if they peeled out, but wasn’t quite able.  I immediately yelled to Conor as loud as I could “I’m going, I’m going, I’m going,”  and entered the Notch a bit off-line.  I still intended to catch the eddy; the Notch on the other hand had different intentions and pushed me left toward Gorilla, putting me on a hard brace.  I was able to recover from the brace and was pushed a little further right than the ideal line. I had seen several boaters get pushed that way and knew that there was a rock shelf about 4 feet down from the main lip.  Having to make a split second decision, I committed to trying to get on the shelf and bounce off of it into the flume.  As soon as I was airborne, I hit the shelf with the front half of my boat, and barrel rolled, landing in a tucked position.  I took a huge hit to my back, with the kayak basically landing on top of me, and still had to deal with the flume and getting back upright.  I was having trouble rolling in the short pool and Robbie was able to give me a hand and get me fully upright before running the next rapid.  

I was able to eddy out in the next rapid and did a quick self-assessment.  No stars, no head pain, no nausea, just a severe pain the middle of my back.  I wiggled my toes and fingers, no shooting pain or numbness, and quickly the crew caught up with me in the eddy.  They asked if I was alright, and I said something along the lines of “I’m alright, just took a huge hit.”  After I ran the next couple rapids and was clearly in a lot of pain, Tommy did another assessment and had me touch my fingers to my thumbs and checked my back for any protrusions.  Everything checked out, and I made the call to continue down the river.  

The next couple of miles of paddling were the most painful experience of my life.  Being a low volume creek (200 cfs or so), its damn near impossible to not hit rocks, and I sure found a lot of them on the paddle out.  Each and every one reminded me that I’d really crashed hard and made me wonder if things weren’t worse than I’d hoped. 

Getting back to the cars, the boys took care of all my gear for me and I tried to find a position that was comfortable.  After a while, and another check, we looked up the nearest urgent care and decided I should get checked out.  We found the urgent care facility in Hendersonville, FastMed, and they were able to do some x-rays and inject some much appreciated narcotics in my butt, all for a very reasonable fee of $132 (my insurance is catastrophic).  The x-ray tech didn’t notice the fracture at first, and I was discharged, only to get a call from the radiologist an hour later to report the fracture- a mild compression fracture on the anterior side of the L1 vertebrae corresponding to a 25% decrease in vertebral height.    

The whole experience was a physical and emotional roller coaster.  The initial pain and disappointment at having botched a line I know I’m perfectly capably of, the relief that I was still able to paddle and would not need to be hiked out on a backboard. Then the pain setting in and deciding to go to Urgent Care, only to be told that I was clear, at which point I about cried in relief.  Then the call from an unknown North Carolina number with the report that I had a stable compression fracture of my L1 vertebrae and would need to see an orthopedic as soon as possible, at which point I about cried again.   Then the relief after talking to my dad, who happens to be an orthopedic, and hearing that I could anticipate a full recovery, followed by the realization that I wouldn’t be back in a kayak for a couple months, and would be missing a Grand Canyon self support for my 30th birthday.  A total roller coaster.

In the end, injuries always suck.  They set you back, they’re painful (the case of a bone fracture like this one, all the normal pain killers slow bone growth, so I didn't use any).  The recovery process is always longer than you want, no matter how healthy you are and how much physical therapy you do. Injuries are part of the game though, and in the end I’m so thankful for the resilience of the human body.  And I’m so stoked to get back on the river soon!

Thanks to Robbie for putting together this video.  He did a great job of portraying how it felt like a normal day on the river until it didn't anymore...

Broken Back - Gorilla - Green River Narrows from Robbie Gilson on Vimeo.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Eagle Creek; Columbia River Gorge


Stream:  From the Pool below Twister Falls there is a short section of class III-IV warm up before a scout at the EF of Eagle Creek confluence.  Both the main channel and the EF channel can be run.  Just downstream is Grand Union Falls, a 50-ish foot ramp into freefall ending in a big pool.

Photo: Paul Thomson

2 miles of read and run boulder gardens lead to Skoonichuck Falls (you are getting close when you cross under a foot bridge).  Scout from either side, but left is more common.  This 50-ish foot double is usually run with a delayed boof in the middle for the first their, then wherever the current sends you for the second one.  The top drop can also be run left.  At least one person has ended up behind the veil but this is uncommon.

The pool exiting Skoonichuck is class III-ish but it is imperative that boaters get to the left bank after it ASAP.  The current gets shallow here and funnels into a narrow chute on the right that has a log wedged in it.  Boaters need to get left and go over a shallow slide.

Between here and the High Bridge gorge are three rapids, the first can be scouted from the right.  The second is run off the point just on the left side of the current (45 degree angle to absorb the shelf it lands on), and the third is run along the left bank.

A short and beautiful float through the narrow High Bridge gorge brings you to a tiered rapid best finished on the far right to avoid a hole.  The top tier is odd so take a look from river left.

A mile of read and run brings you to a 10 foot ledge, easily scouted on the right.  Just below here is the entrance to Punchbowl Falls.  There is a shallow class II entry slide, the eddies are small and soft so go one at a time.  

Scout Punchbowl from the left, I like to run the lead-in ledge on the right with a left stroke.  Then for the main drop most people like to drive up onto the boil and hold a right stroke going off.  People used to take a right side meltdown sometimes, but that's not very common anymore.

It's a tricky lip so analyze it thoroughly.  The hit can be hard, but good lines usually result in reasonable impacts.

It's worth spending some time in this punchbowl.  Float around the corner and take out above the next horizon.  If you want to portage Metlako without doing a throw and go, take the spur trail found here back up to the main one and head downstream.  Immediately after passing the second narrow cliff section there will be a way back down to the creek via a scree slope.  There is usually an animal style path helping the cause on the downstream end of this scree slope.  Below here it is class II-III to the take out at the low head dam.

If you are not portaging, scout Lower Punchbowl and run off the center-right flake.

There are two rapids between here and Punchbowl, the first one is run center and is III-IV depending on flows.  The second is a small riverwide ledge.  Run this ledge as far left as you can (even if you have to scrape).  There is a hundred feet of flatwater between here and Metlako.  Scout from the platform on the left.  It is possible to attain back upstream from here at lower flows, but it take some effort.

Here are a variety of Metlako lines, high water means a softer landing but a more hazardous pool (0:55).  The throw and go is intimidating but fine.  Try to land in the boil.  

The pool here is another special place, enjoy it if you have the time.  Easy floating leads to another horizon, it's an easy portage on the left.  Not sure if this ugly drop has been run, probably I'd guess.

Just downstream the creek leaves the gorge and meets up with the portage route.  There is one class III rapid and the rest is class II down to the take out at the low had dam. 

Flows:   Use the Bull Run Nr Multnomah Falls gauge.  400-700 is SOP, but 1,000 cfs is doable.

Access:   Take exit 41 off Hwy 84 East (no access heading West).  Turn right and follow the road to it's end in about 1/2 mile.  Find a parking spot and pay the $5 fee.  Hike up the trail until you reach your put in.   

Hiking distance to put-ins
      Full Run (Base of Twister Falls):          5 1/4 miles
         Standard  (Skoonichuck Falls):          3 1/2 miles
Hike and Huck (Puncbowl Falls):          2 miles 

Original Write-up

After running different section of Eagle Creek for years, Matt finally got the ball rolling and convinced us to hike past the conventional Skoonichuck put in, tracing the footsteps of the Preistly brothers, Ryan Scott and their friends to tackle the upper waterfalls.  The link below is to a Canoe & Kayak article about that trip.

After doing this trip, I now consider the true Eagle Creek run to begin at the base of Twister Falls.  Putting in lower is cutting out some good stuff, putting in higher lowers the fun:dealing ratio below the threshold of classic.  That said, all sections are enjoyable days in a kayak, tube, or swimming.  If you want to get vertical, this stream will leave you satisfied.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

13th annual PDXkayaker Film Festival

The 13th annual PDXkayaker Film Festival is tonight (November 19th).  There have been a lot of submissions this year, details on getting there are below along with a few teasers from our friends.

Emile Elliot
Great editing, Emile's many abilities are reflected in this video.  Including playboating, creeking, surfing, and squirt boating.

Priscilla Macy/Anna Herring
Two Girls, one boat.  Watch these gals learning a new way to get down the river.

Taylor Hazen
Good editing, you may have seen all the rapids in videos before, but you probably were not aware of just how many swims occurred in the northwest last year!  He has two videos, while both are good, the carnage reel is pure gold.

Dan Mccain, Jeff Compton, Johnny Watson, Josh Sheldon, and the rest of the rafting crew
The combination of Jeff Compton and Dan Mccain is likely the most accomplished R2 team in the world.  However, the video they are putting out this year shows what is really important to these guys.

Their video from 2 years ago.

See the full length features this evening on the big screen.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beatery: It can strike anywhere

Things had just started cooling off on an exploratory run near Mt St Helens last weekend.  I let my guard down and got tripped up by an innocuous obstacle.

Beater1 from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Opal Proper


Stream: The put in is a little over 1 mile upstream of Jawbone Flats.  The standout rapids on this run are all bedrock.  Most of them are runnable, while some of them are not, while nearly all are unique.  There are some short waterfalls, slides, ramps, chutes and pockets.  Scout each rapid carefully, fortunately it is usually obvious straight away whether you are looking at a fun rapid or a portage.

Part of the fun of this run is figuring it out like a puzzle.  There are a few portages (all easiest on the left) mixed in with fun and unique bedrock rapids that are sure to leave you smiling.  Scout everything your first time down, and don't go around any corners without knowing where your next eddy is.

The competency crux of the run is the final portage.  There is a ten foot falls that splits around an island with most of the current going left and a semi-scenic tributary coming in on river right.

                                                       The aforementioned Flume Creek Falls

If you have made it this far, I am sure you will recognize this as an unsafe drop as the landing zone appears to be exploding.  Head up to the trail on river left and instead of returning to the creek as early as possible, continue walking down to a foot bridge (don't drop back to the creek earlier that that bridge).  Put back in wherever you feel comfortable finding your way down below this bridge.

Shortly below here you will reach the confluence with Battle Axe and your trip down Opal Proper will be over.

If you did not get an early start, hiked slow, had carnage or fiddled around you will be noticing that the light is starting to fade.  If that is the case, start looking for the road on river right to hike out on.  You can continue all the way to Cascadios De Los Ninos before being committed to running the entirety of the Upper Opal section of the Little North Santiam.  

If you were efficient with your time, you can look forward to more boating.  The most obvious choice is to continue down through Upper Opal to the Mine at the Classic Opal put in, where a short uphill hike along the road will return you to the gate where you began your hike that morning.   Though if you were moving really quickly you may have time to go further if you set shuttle beforehand. 

Flows:  1,000 cfs is bare bones on the Little North Santiam @ Mehama gauge, 1500 cfs is the level shown in the video below and was a friendly, enjoyable level.  No idea what the upper limit would be, I wouldn't hesitate to head up there with 3,000 cfs and dropping though.

Access:  Take I5 to Salem and head East on Hwy 22.  In about 22 miles turn left at a flashing yellow light onto N Fork Rd.  In about 15 miles the road turns to gravel, and at 21 miles you will reach a gate where you leave the vehicles, a location that has a $5 fee to park.  

**If you know you are an efficient boater and think you will have time to do both Upper and Classic Opal after Opal Proper you can leave a vehicle at Three Pools to rid yourself of any hiking at the end of the day**

From the gate, get your gear carrying devices out and head past the locked gate up the gravel road about 3 miles to Jawbone Flat along a nice gravel road.  This is a perfect use of the kayak wheels. After reaching Jawbone, head to the back of town and over Battle Axe Creek.  Veer right just after the Pelton Shed, passing through an open area with a gravel pit.  Just passed this open area will be a sign for "Opal Pool", if you like drop your boats here for a moment and hike down to scout the nasty rapid that lands in Opal Pool.  It is worth checking out the situation above this drop so you don't accidentally get blown into it.

Return to your boats and continue along the path, shortly the path will make a sharp bend to the left and a small trail will head off to the right; take this trail to the right.  Follow the trail for a little over 1 mile, at about this point you will see nothing but bouldery class II above you and it is time to put in.  

               Looking upstream, then downstream from the put in.  On the downstream end of Cedar Flats.

 Map of the area
click to enlarge

Original Write-up

I realized a funny thing a couple years ago.  This being that I had many times planned, joined and executed kayak trips to "Opal Creek" in the North Santiam drainage without having ever run Opal Creek itself.  This was not due to debacles, in fact, those trips were all fun and usually smooth.  This is because I had never intended to put on to the actual Opal Creek in the first place.  From the confluence of Battle Axe Creek and Opal Creek near Jawbone, the stream the boating community usually refer to as Opal Creek is actually called the Little North Santiam.  I had read the Oregonkayaking trip report and decided I would one day try to head up and boat the actual Opal Creek.


I went up to check out Opal Creek proper (above Jawbone Flat) fall 2014 armed with beta collected from the report on Oregonkayaking.  I was hoping that making my trip early in the year before the snow hit would give me a more positive outlook on the stream.

Video from the trip.

There have been a few changes since the OK trip occurred, here are the changes I noted

  • There is a new trail up creek right (OK travelled on creek left) that was not difficult.  I would not be excited about trying it in the snow though. To find this trail, locate the signs in Jawbone Flats to Opal Pool.  Once you scout the Narrows, return to the old road/Kopetski trail and follow until a sign for the Kopetski trail takes off to the right.  Follow this to wherever you decide to put in. 

  • The log bridge mentioned in the OK TR is gone now

  • The logs at the lip of Log Leap Falls are gone.  It is still a dubious drop that I did not run, but with safety and the right group it may go.

  • Because I had read the OK TR I knew what to expect on the run, this allowed me to not have to hike out from Cascadios Los Ninos at the end of the day.  Even with a late start I had plenty of time to paddle down to the Mine.  If I were to repeat this run and had a shuttle, I would try to get an early start with the idea to take out at Salmon Falls for a nice long day of boating.


Other notes

  • I had 1500 cfs, same as oregonkayaking, but without the snow I ended up having a little more water.   This was a good level and I would think 1500 would be the ideal level to do Opal through Salmon Falls.

  • The Narrows into Opal Pool addressed in the OK TR is just as menacing as they claim, it appears that it would be very easy to boat scout past the last eddy here.  If you portage Log Leap on the river left trail, keep walking until past this section.  If you run Log Leap, take out as soon as you can egress up the left bank through the brush.  Or better yet, make a plan as you hike upstream at the beginning of the day.

  • The rapid described as just below the log bridge is just as fun as noted!  Great rapid.  Quote from Jason “This is one of the most entertaining drops I have run in a long time; if we hadn't been so concerned with time I would have hiked up to run it again and again!“

  • There were a handful of portages, I did all of these on the left.  If you are creative, none of them are strenuous (without snow).

  • I used a wheel system to get my boat to Jawbone, this helped a lot.

  • It took me 5 hours car to car.

  • The scenery is classic upper LNF drainage and there are enough unique, fun rapids to make this trip worth doing.  I won't be hiking all the way up there every time I am in the area, but I wouldn't say no to a return trip in the future, near or far.

  • I agree with OK that Battle Axe has more runnable whitewater, but the best/most unique rapids are on Opal.  If I were to have a rule of thumb about the area above Jawbone, I would say one Opal trip to two Battle Axe trips sounds about right.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys this type of run, that should be more than enough info.  Go when there is no snow and enjoy!