Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wiki #12: South Fork Grays

The scouting trip for this run was a lot more eventful than kayaking the stream, and just as fun!  My dad has been to a few Opera's over the last few years and convinced me to join him for one. We drove up to Seattle for the weekend and while I appreciated the talent of the performers in the Cinderella performance, decided Opera is probably not for me.  On the way back we decided to take a detour and check out access to a creek I had been looking at on the maps just before we crossed back into Oregon.

Finding the put in bridge was easy enough, but we tried for the shorter shuttle route on the way out which weaves through a maze of logging roads.  There were still drifts of snow on the roads and while the Honda Element is a great car, its AWD system is terrible!!  It was designed such that when a wheel starts slipping, all the power goes to that wheel and stops sending power to the other wheels.  This was ridiculous in the snow as whenever a wheel lost traction we stopped moving while the wheel without traction spun endlessly and the ones with traction sat idle.  We spent more than an hour digging ourselves out of a couple different location, but it was a sunny day so quit enjoyable.  The crux maneuver was a washed out section of road near the end where a high speed wall ride was required to avoid falling into the washout.

We were happy to get the vehicle out that day and I at least look back fondly on that trip (you would have to ask my dad his opinion).

This year I had a number of opportunities to get on this creek, but it wasn't until the last significant rains of the year where it all came together.

The paddlers on this trip were Aaron Leiberman, Ben Mckenzie, Emile Elliot, Willy Dinsdale and myself.  However, the rafters who were willing to change plans to help out with shuttle were an integral part of this smooth trip.  Thanks Dan, Scott, Alec and Robert!


The trip went smooth and is certainly one I will return to.  It offers a couple of incentives that make it appealing.

   1- The run it flows into is a good run (Grays), but people often pass up that run because it is short and a little out of the way/on the outskirts of people's radar.  Because the guidebook run is short, the two runs can be merged easily.

   2- It tends to flow when other creeks are dropping out.  So if I was a day late to Hagen or Copper, I could then head to this stream.

   3- The put in is at a bridge and the take out is roadside, a plus for most boaters.


Below the bridge were a few minutes of class two to warm up on before a rock outcropping creates the first rapid.   Most of the water from this drop falls 9' into the wall on the left side creating a hazard.  We all boofed right, landing close to the wall.

The boof is beautiful, but a mistake could result in a wicked beating.
(or a cracked boat as we found out on the second descent).
 "Step Mother"
About to scrub the wall.

The next rapid comes up shortly and goes better than it may look.  Only a couple rapids downstream is a boulder garden that has had a tricky log in it thus far.  These are the "Step Sisters".

The "First Step Sister"
Willy sweeps up top.

The "Second Step Sister"

Things start rolling along after the Step Sisters.  The presence of wood and other hazards along with the blindness of some of the rapids necessitated prudent scouting the first time down, though everything was run.

I nearly face planted a rock in this rapid, apparently my fairy godmother was watching out for me.
 "Fairy Godmother"
Ben reminisces on his good line through Fairy Godmother while Aaron sets safety.

This triple drop was unexpected and one of the stand out rapids of the run.
Emile dancing his way through the Ballroom.

This ten foot drop is a blast and the second to last rapid.
"Stroke to Midnight."
Willy strokes to midnight

The last rapid is just around the corner.  There is a thin line to the right, if you slip through you can paddle happily ever after to the take out on the class II runout. However, if you miss the line you will be testing out the proportions of the slot on the left.  It is yet to be determined if a kayak is sized to fit.

Glass Slipper

Emile's edit of our first time down.

After Glass slipper, there is a 2 mile, class II runout. Keep your guard up until you pass a small, but Malevolent rapid where wood has been present on our trips.  As you near the end, Blaney creek comes in from the right at the same time as the South Fork consolidates one last time into an easy gorge a couple hundred yards above the confluence with the Grays. Either paddle across the Grays to take out or continue downstream on the Grays for some quality river running.


My ballpark guess for flows at this point is 800-2000 cfs on the Naselle gauge.

The first time we had 950 cfs, most of us felt this was a good flow.  We returned the next year at about 1500 cfs on the Naselle gauge and flows were similar, but a touch lower.

The shuttle is not too bad, but map work needs to be done beforehand.  Here is some info to get you started.  The shortest shuttle route is only 11 miles, but plan on taking between 30-60 minutes depending on your path and driving style.  The following road names have been garnered from Google maps.  

Option 1: If snow is not an issue and you are comfortable navigating arterial logging roads, you can reach the put-in via the Pack Trail road.  The roads on this route have north facing slopes, holding snow into the early summer in some years.

Option 2:  If snow is an issue, or you want a more straight forward (but longer) approach, take Middle Valley road out of Skamokawa to the Algers truck Trail and ignore the dead end signs.

The put-in is the bridge just upstream of these coordinates:  46.362093,-123.427792

The take out is either the take out for the Grays on Fossil Creek road, or at the confluence of the SF Grays and the Grays.


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