Thursday, March 27, 2014


One of the best aspects of kayaking is the ability to explore places that are remote and otherwise inaccessible. I always appreciate that I am able to experience a river, stream, or waterfall that only miniscule fraction the rest of humanity will ever see. The ability to explore these areas is part of what makes kayaking so fun, but beyond that, it can also provide kayakers with a unique opportunity to help scientists better understand our world.

That’s where Adventurers and Scientists forConservation (ASC) comes in. ASC is a really cool program that teams up outdoor sports enthusiasts with researchers, allowing scientists to solicit sample collection from very remote areas. I signed up the CCC to be a part of ASC, and they teamed us up with Dr. Loren Bahls, who studies diatoms. Diatoms are unicellular aquatic microbes with cellwalls make of glass- silicon dioxide. Diatoms are ubiquitous in pretty much all water environments, and make up the main bulk of the base of the food pyramid: they are estimated to account for 40% of all plant production worldwide, and as photosynthesizers they play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Diatoms are good water quality indicators and identifying diatoms in various waters tells us a lot about that specific habitat. Currently, it’s estimated that only 12% of the global diatom species have been named and described; of the diatoms identified in the US, most have been found in lower elevation, polluted waters. So, armed with sampling bags and paddles, the CCC headed off to Washington to try to find some new diatom species in some pristine NW kayaking runs.
First up, we headed to the Upper Upper Cispus. After getting warmed up on the put-in waterfall, we took our first sample just below the Adam’s Creek confluence.

Sampling Crew (photo by Joe Kemper)
After that we pretty much concentrated on kayaking. Lucas Glick and Michael both had great lines on Island (I had a great line on the portage around island), and at one point I was laughing out loud after landing a massive boof on one of the bigger boulder garden rapids.
Lucas Reitman blasting through the hole at the bottom of the gorge of no return
But, before we knew it, we were at the lip of Behemoth. Behemoth is definitely one of the most intimidating waterfalls I’ve run, but there’s not really another option (technically the portage is possible, but even experienced and frequent portagers like myself find it intimidating). In the end we all had good lines off the monster, although some were more stylish than others. And, while I was waiting for the boys to make it down, I took some more Diatom samples!!

Diatom Sample, shown with Behemoth for scale

Joe, showing off his EG lean

The final boulder gardens were delightful. And near the end of the run, we hiked up a side canyon and found an extra bonus waterfall (and some more diatoms)!

Michael and I hunting diatoms

Myself, being very excited about diatom collection (photo by Lucas Rietmann)
The next day the adrenal glands were shot, so we went for a mellow BZ Corner to Columbia run. We got another 4 diatom samples along this stretch.
Jacob nailing a sweeet sampling line

Chillin' in the cave, catching diatoms

Collecting samples on these kayaking runs introduced me to a new perspective. Especially in the flat water stretches, I spent more time searching the gorge walls for seeps, side-streams, and small waterfalls coming into the river. I’ve always appreciated the scenery that I get to see when I’m down in these remote gorges and canyons, but focusing on these things made me realize how much I miss when I’m just concentrating on the whitewater. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to do some sampling, especially on some of these exploratory creeks that Jacob has lined up…

I highly recommend that any adventure-type folks check out ASC, they have projects all over the world that are looking for people to do very simple sampling or keeping records of wildlife that they see.

And now back to your regularly scheduled kayaking with a video of the UUCispus by Lucas Rietmann:

Upper Upper Cispus from Lucas Rietmann on Vimeo.

     ~Anna Herring

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Paddler: Scott Baker                                   Photo: Lucas Rietmann
April 11, 2018 @ 1,100 cfs 

Tamolitch is an interesting waterfall along the Mckenzie River.  The river flows through lava fields of vesicular basalt, which creates a very permeable and porous ground.  When the aquifers below are not filled with water, the entire flow of the river runs underground leaving the surface completely dry.  There was a time when the aquifers below the surface filled each Spring, allowing the river to flow for weeks at a time, but those days are gone.

There is now a dam upstream, holding back Carmen Reservoir.  Water is not released from this reservoir at a consistent enough rate to keep those underground aquifers full.  Thus, even when there is a big rainstorm on top of a full pool height of the reservoir it can still take three full days of high flows to fill the aquifers before the river is able to flow above ground all the way down to and over Tamolitch Falls.  Most of the time the entire river bubbles up from the ground into the pool at the base of the bone-dry falls, before emerging and continuing downstream as a conventional above-ground river again.

Because it is so rare for this waterfall to flow, and even more rare for it to flow at levels suitable to kayak over, it does not get paddled often.  In fact, while rumors existed of someone paddling it "back in the day" when Eugene was considered the place to be for professional kayakers, no one I knew of could say who it was or had seen any photos or anything.  I found that intriguing so set about sorting out when the falls might run.

I certainly wasn't the only person interested in this waterfall, some had even tried to go to the falls when flows elsewhere were high only to be skunked by a dry falls.  By 2013-2014 I thought I had sorted out a way of making an educated guess as to when the falls might run.  In 2014, such a day came and while I needed to work (and waterfalls aren't really my thing anyway) Priscilla got a group together to check out the drop.  That story is told from her perspective further down this page.

Nowadays, the information is there for those who want to drop this beautiful and rare 50' treat.  Even if you don't have any intention of running the falls, it's a remarkable place for anyone to check out.  Whether it's dry or flowing, it's a must-see for any Oregonian.  Just be aware it's one of those place that has become overrun in the social-media age.  There might be 100 people walrusing at the falls on any given Summer weekend.  On the other hand, after three days of rain you might just have the place to yourself.

April 12, 2018 @ 1,150 cfs
Paddler:  Ben Mckenzie                                                               Photo: Priscilla Macy

Once you are done at the falls, you can paddle and hike the trail back down to the trailhead.  Some people will choose to just hike the trail the whole way.  For those that want to try and paddle some, there is a class IV section not far downstream of the falls with plenty of wood hazards, before it tapers to class II-III.  Eventually it becomes so woody that paddling isn't very justifiable.  Fortunately the trail is close to the river (river-right) the whole way, so it's reasonable to bail off the river at any point that the right wall is not prohibitive.

Flow Information:  According to the USDA, the falls typically starts spilling when the Clear Lake Outlet Gauge has been flowing over 900 cfs for three days in a row.  That is for predictory use only. 

Use the following gauge to determine if the falls is currently in, people typically shoot for at least 1,000 cfs. 


 It takes very large, sustained storms to bring this falls in.  Check the gauge when everything else is flooded, or when they are doing maintenance on Carmen Reservoir dam upstream.

Access:   Tamolitch Falls is a waterfall on the Mckenzie River, a little over an hour East of Eugene.  To get there take Hwy 126 to the turn off for "Blue Pool" onto NF-730 and follow that to the Blue Pool trailhead, which is the take out.  The NF-730/Hwy 126 junction is about 13.5 miles NE of the bridge over the Mckenzie within the town of Mckenzie Bridge, and 5.5 miles south of the Sahalie Falls turnout.

To get to the falls from the Blue Pool trailhead:

Option 1 is to hike upstream 2 miles on the trail to Tamolitch/Blue Pool.

Option 2 is to return to Hwy 126 and head upstream 2.3 miles to a spur road heading towards the river.  If you go that route, have imagery downloaded on your phone so you don't get lost.  At the end of the 1 mile road, a steep trail leads down to the falls.  This road is often gated.

Option 3 if the gate is closed to the spur road involves either hiking the road, or bushwhacking down from just passed the gate to the river and across to the Mckenzie River trail and following it half a mile downstream to the falls (I don't recommend boating the river down to the falls). 


Resurrecting Tamolitch, by Priscilla Macy

Tamolitch Falls, also known as Blue Pool is a unique waterfall on the McKenzie River.  This area is where the McKenzie River comes back up after being underground just after Carmen Reservoir. It's known as a dry falls, only coming into existence after long periods of rain when the river will flood over the lava bed.

Tamolitch from Below. You can see some of the water coming from under the lava beds on the right.

We could not confirm or deny if anyone had run the falls yet, due to the rarity that it comes in at a runnable flow.

Making the first run down

There was not a huge boil with the minimum flow, so there were a couple hard hits.  All around, good lines and an excellent time at a beautiful and unique spot.

 Brian, with the best line of the day

Dalton's Turn

Lucas' line

We used the McKenzie River@Trail Bridge Gauge on Pat Welch’s site.  When we left in the afternoon it was about 2600 cfs, this correlated to about 200 cfs at the falls.  We all agreed that at twice this flow, the falls would be ideal; definitely worth the trip if you are lucky enough to get it when it’s running.

If you have time after the falls, the McKenzie has some great play waves with eddy service when flows are high.
Brian playing in a fun set of waves on the McKenzie

Tamolitch from PMacy on Vimeo.


A group returned a few days later with more water and felt the falls cleaned up nicely with the additional flow.

Tamolitch Falls - A Church Story from on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

North Umpqua: The Gorge Electric

photo: Priscilla Macy

This run starts out in the pool below Toketee Falls.  Either walk the short trail to the viewing platform and lower boats down the steep hillside, or drop over the falls (a V+ endeavor that I am not going to describe here).  The pool at the base of Toketee is a beautiful start to the run, take a moment to paddle around in it and enjoy where you are, being in a kayak it is easy to paddle to river left and walk around over there for a unique view of the falls.

photo: Priscilla Macy

The rapids begin immediately out of the pool below Toketee, starting out then maintaining a nice class IV grade.  The first horizon line after some read and run is reminiscent of Sidewinder on the White Salmon River.  Look at the landing and the walls closely, or sneak the left side channel.

Ben Mckenzie does it right.

Each notable drop seems to be slightly more challenging than the last until a final rapid that channelizes the river against the right wall feels more like IV+ than IV.  

A fun one in the middle of the run

Though a clean, intuitive line is always present, if it's your first time down it is worth scouting the rapids to find the hazards.

photos: Priscilla Macy

Downstream of the IV+ rapid a short way is a fun bedrock rapid that can produce interesting lines and is easy to carry back up for on the right.

 Lucas Rietmann
photo: Priscilla Macy

Brian Butcher
photo: Priscilla Macy

Sam Swanson
photo: Priscilla Macy

Ben Mckenzie
photo: Priscilla Macy

photo: Lucas Rietmann 

Not far downstream is a bridge, powerhouse, then a short pool.  If the powerhouse is releasing a lot of water, the next obstacle needs to be portaged along an easy path on the left.  If levels are low, it is sometimes possible to run that drop.  Make a good decision here.

Below here you enter the Electric Avenue, and if levels are up the rest of the run is fast and splashy down to the take out bridge at Slide Creek, if it is low the scenery helps pass the time until Fish Creek enters and adds some pad.  It's a special place.  On our second trip down, there was a lot of water in the system and an aqueduct was backed up and overflowing just above the take out.  It made for a captivating scene.

   -   If Toketee (at the put in) is at a good flow, the gorge below is too.  However the gorge could feasibly be run higher.  We had ~375 cfs on our first trip, and 450 on our second trip.  Both were good flows and I'd go back higher (or a little lower).  This section is heavily dam controlled and rarely runs at a good flow, so when its in it is worth heading down there.

February 11, 2017 was a good flow

Video from our first trip down.

CCC and the Gorge Electric from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

There are a number of take out options, the most straight forward is at the NF -4775 bridge near Slide Creek: 43.2961, -122.4782  It is possible to continue to the highway and get one more large rapid, but to avoid dealing I recommend taking out at Slide creek.

Click to enlarge