My opinion of the North Santiam used to be one of lackluster. It was something we did in the summer when nothing else was running. I viewed it as having one rapid and some easy floating and a disproportionally long portage around a dam at the end was a buzzkill. It was better than not boating, but my admiration ended there.
This summer a couple things changed that made it more enjoyable for me. First, I started bringing my playboat. This made each rapid fun as there are always eddy lines and what not to play around in. Next, we started taking a lunch break at Niagara where we cliff jumped or checked out the short gorge on Sevenmile Creek. The final thing we did was start running the dam. Last year there was a log in it that made the move tough, and with a hellacious hole in the middle it was a risk I only took once. Now that the log is gone, low summer flows allow for an easy slide on the far left, negating the need for the obnoxious portage on the right.
Nick made a video of our most recent trip this summer, where his brother Alex tried out hard shelling for his 3rd time (yellow Nomad in the video). He hit two combat rolls, surfed his way out of a hole that had stopped him, and learned to boof. Needless to say we were all very impressed!
North Santiam-Low Stress Summer Playground from IKNick on Vimeo.
DISCLAIMER: Do not run the dam if you are not able to analyze its hazards and/or have the ability to see and execute the line down the far left side of the structure. The hydraulic in the middle is capable of lethal consequences. One story amongst the community is of a raft that recycled in the hydraulic for over two weeks before it was shot full of holes so that it would flush.