Thursday, November 19, 2015

Skamania Mines Creek

If you would ever like to add Skamania Mines Creek onto a day at Hagen, you may find the following access information useful.

I would recommend parking here 45.7028, -122.2234.  This location is just barely over two miles past the road that leaves Skamania Mines Rd to access the Hagen put in.

Get into the older trees and follow the ridge line down to the creek.   The distance is the same as the hike into Hagen used to be before the new access was found, except that instead of a clear cut its mostly forest and ferns so the going is easier.

This hike drops you in right above the gorge (used loosely) on Skamania Mines Creek.  This gorge has a long set of bedrock ledges that stack up to create a rapid reminiscent of a longer and more involved Euphoria.

Park at the circle, walk where the line is to get just the good and avoid the wood.

The reason to put in here is the mile above the gorge is mostly wood portaging (walking along the bank is easy though) and blind class III corners, which we didn't feel was worth paddling.
We did not use the put in described above and found that in the mile above the gorge there was quite a few wood issues.

Ross putting in below the previous portage, and Ben getting to shore above the next one.

Nick and Priscilla were not impressed with the quality of the stream this high up and decided to walk out and save their energy for Hagen.

Less than a mile after putting in we reached an island, just below this island the creek turned to bedrock and produced a fun series of features that linked together into a good stretch of whitewater.  The alternate hike in would drop you right at the start of this bedrock.

Ross makes the first move as the bedrock starts up (just below the alternate access point).

Ross runs the next rapid that Ben signaled us through.  After catching an eddy on the right just below this rapid we went for an extended scout on the right.

Ben balancing on a submerged log at the crux of our scout (not necessary if you scout river left or high on the right).

This rapid turned out to be a fun multi-move rapid with some puffy hydraulics and fun boofs, we felt it was like a more involved and longer Euphoria.

It continues around the corner.

Ben nearing the end of the Gorge rapid.

Below this rapid we caught an eddy on the right to scout Mike's Slide, which had a couple more fun moves.

The eddy between the gorge rapid and Mike's Slide.

Ben cruising below Mike's slide.

 Just below Mike's Slide was a river wide tree, then the confluence with the NW Fork Washougal. Below the confluence we had no more wood issues.

Just below the confluence.

 From here to the take out bridge is just over a mile of fun class III-IV similar to other stretches of the NW fork with a hole visible from the take out bridge that is best run center-right.

Once the bridge is reached there is the option to take out, continue down the NW Fork Washougal, or do what we did and head up to Hagen whose put in is less than a half mile away.

Priscilla's first lap on Euphoria.

Ben gets gnarly at The Cracken.

We were there on November 14th and felt the flow was at a nice medium level.

Check out the story of the first descent from Oregon Kayaking.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cedar Creek

I had read the Cedar Creek reports from Oregonkayaking (upper and lower) just like everyone else around here and had been put off by those descriptions.  I have learned through my time kayaking that it is usually best to make up your own mind about streams as things like weather or wood configurations can skew a single trip report.  After a couple scouts and confirmation from Pete Giordano that it really wasn't all that bad I was set on trying it out at some point.

Last weekend we were floating by on Classic Opal and noted that Cedar looked like it was at a good flow.  Once we reached Thor's, it was decided that instead of doing the usual and continuing through the gorge that we would pack up and check out Cedar.

We noticed a log portage a hundred yards above the confluence with a convenient trail up to the road just above so used that as our take out.  Continuing upstream we scouted the eddy situation for Box Drop, The Impaler, Coombs, and Hellevator at about .6, 0.8, 1.7 and 1.9 miles above the bridge near the take out respectively.  Fortunately all of those spots are visible from the road for those with a sharp eye.  

Ben Mckenzie and Brian Ward put in where Oregonkayaking put in, Brian Butcher and I put in at the confluence with Sullivan Creek to avoid the Hellevator portage (which turned out to be an easy portage along the road for the other two. 

Ben Mckenzie and Brian Ward warm up above Hellevator.

Just downstream of Sullivan was a horizon line that turned out to be a fun slide.

The Slide

Almost immediately downstream was Coombs, Brian Butcher portaged left above a ledge while Ben, Brian Ward and I portaged the ledge on the right, then ferried across where Priscilla (who was providing ground support along with Sam Box) pulled us onto shore. This is the trickiest eddy situation on the run. If there is no one to grab your boat, I would suggest portaging left as soon as possible after the fun slide. Ben looked at Coombs seriously, but in the end decided to join the rest of us in the portage on the left.

Looking back up at Coombs.

Below here things got pretty fun with many straight forward, but stacked and steep class IV rapids that ran one into another. Eddies were there when we needed them from here down, and we had a great time. One person typically hopped out and sent the rest through on beta. 

Fun with a clear line.

Eventually we were in the straight away above The Impaler, where Priscilla and Sam helped us spot the eddy, from which we portaged on the left.

The Impaler

Seal launching in below The Impaler.

More good whitewater led to Box Drop, where the ground team again helped us spot the eddy on the left. Both sides of Box Drop were run, though right looked smoother. There was also an easy portage option on the left.  

Brian Ward finishes up Box Drop.

Ben running right at Box Drop.

From Box Drop down to the take out we went back to the one person scouts and had a grand old time cruising a few more steep boulder gardens with a couple bedrock rapids mixed in. 

Brain Ward lifting off at the campground ledge.
This ledge can be used to gauge flows, how to do so is described further down the page.

We skirted one log on the left and took out on the left just above a sign reading "One Lane Bridge".  

A good run, one I will certainly be back to.


It's a 3 mile run from the NF 2207 bridge, which is what I would use if I did the run again. If you are short on time you can put in above the ten footer visible from the road a short ways above Hellevator like us (and OregonKayaking) did. If you are running Opal Creek, it is the stream coming in on the left just above the only bridge on the run (green and about a mile above Thor's). 

Maybe it is from all this global warming business, but snow hasn't been much of an issue on the access road as of late. The entire run is very roadside, so scouting the eddies above the big drops before putting on is a good idea, maybe even mark them with flagging. We had no wood portages on the run.

I think it is probably difficult to use the Little North Santiam Gauge as anything more than a ballpark estimate. If flows are dropping 1,500-2,000 cfs is probably a reasonable range. We had flows peak at 1,200 cfs on that gauge while we were on Cedar (Nov 8, 2015) and thought we had a good level.

A visual level check is really what is needed, it should look floatable but there should still be rocks visible about the surface. There is a campground with a ledge 1/4 mile above the confluence with the Little North Santiam that can be used as a visual gauge. 

The campground was marked by this sign in 2016.

Walk down to river level here and check out the ledge. This will be a good indicator of the run. If the ledge looks shallow then the run will be shallow, if there is a big hole the rest of the run will be scary and the eddy situation dire. If it looks fun and straight forward, the run is probably at a good flow. Make good decisions.

If I went back I would look for the rock with the blue circle to be covered and the one with the orange circle sticking well out of the water. But that's just me, use your own judgement. 

Here is Brian running this ledge the day we did Cedar Creek. If you run this creek at a different flow, please account for the change in difficulty that often goes along with a change in water level. I personally would not want to run it much higher than the flow we had. At all flows, scout out your eddies above the hard rapids before putting on.

High water would be fun, but stressful. Previous knowledge of the run would be highly recommended if flows were padded out. Make good decisions. 

Just upstream of the confluence with the Little North Santiam the day we ran it.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Of rumors confirmed

 I was looking over some maps a couple of years ago as I often do, and came across a steep section in the headwaters of Crabtree Creek.  This upper portion of the creek looked pretty small, but like it maybe had enough water to be a boatable stream.  Anna Herring and I went up there to scout out access last year and while access looked reasonable the stretch we paddled in our playboats (between the section I was interested in and the guidebook stretch) was low, of so so quality with an intriguing bedrock rapid right at the take out under the bridge that is used as a put in for the regular stretch.  Not long after I got in touch with Pete Giordano about the area as he tends to have run, scouted, or knows of people who have the streams of the Willamette Valley.  He said that he heard that there used to be a run in that drainage that was once a favorite among the Eric Brown/Dan Coyle crew out of Corvallis many years ago.  After further recon I began to believe that this section I was looking at could possibly be that run.

This year the rains finally arrived during hunting season and the gates that usually block access to the drainage were open.  I was surprised when 10 people showed up to gamble that these whisperings of a forgotten gem might be true. 

Boaters: Ben Mckenzie, Brian Ward, Emile Elliott, Susan Hollingsworth, Adam Elliott, Jesse Shapiro, Pete Giordano, Ross George, Priscilla Macy and myself (Jacob Cruser). 

Well I take that back, 6 people were there for that reason.  Two more were there to run the guidebook stretch downstream and two more thought they were there to run the guidebook stretch. 

After figuring out logistics the full crew drove to the put in, 8 of us geared up, said goodbye to Priscilla and Susan (who were doing the guidebook stretch) and did the short walk down the decommissioned road to the put in.  Pete took the correct route on the walk in while the rest of us spent a few extra minutes portaging down a tributary.

Once consolidated, we set up parameters for doing a a trip of this nature at healthy flows and set off downstream.

I think at this point Brian had caught on, but Ross still thinks we have put on to the class III guidebook stretch.

Fast and fun splashy rapids quickly built into class IV and we found ourselves running some good whitewater.  My suspicion that my creeking ability had degraded after months without rain was confirmed as I missed a pretty straight forward eddy and subsequently ran a rapid I had been told to scout without doing so.  We talked later on about how this was a fun intro to the season, though many of us wished we had been more dialed in!

More fun whitewater led to a horizon line with some wood visible.  Here the right wall was sliding into the river and a straight away with some challenging whitewater lead to a right hand turn.  A long scout from part of the team and it was decided that most of the us would make the portage on the right. 

The straight away.

The scout had revealed that at the end of the straight away the river turned right and entered a class V set of boulder gardens.  The rapids were big and there were no eddies in sight.  Ben and Adam decided they were confident they would find a way to stop before they found wood.  I watched them turn the corner into the rapid we later named Browntown for Eric Brown, who was the first to run so many of the creeks around here, including this one. I then helped catch the rest of the team along the bank one by one for the portage.

Brian in the straight away just before things get serious, planning to crash into the shore where this photo was taken so we can grab him for the portage.


 Ben arrives in Browntown.

Us portagers attained the treeline where the going was easier and returned to the river near the end of the 1/4 mile long set of rapids.  After reading and running some serious whitewater, Ben and Adam had indeed found a way to stop when they needed to in order to scout the final rapid in the set.  We had not seen them run the middle portion, but they described it in this way.

    Ben:  It is the hardest thing I have run in Oregon
    Adam:  It's similar to the stuff on the Upper Little White, but harder.

 Adam enters the last part of Browntown.

Staring down the final boulder jumble before things ease off.

Waiting while the team regroups a rapid or two downstream.

Ben and Adam linked every piece of whitewater aside from 20 yards that was mistakenly portaged, so gnar dudes could feasibly do the whole run without any portages if the take out just below Birgus is used.

More class fun waited below downstream.

 Par for the course.

Emile and Pete head downstream.

At the end of the challenging whitewater is the finale, a fun ramp into a right turn and over another small ledge.  Just above this drop, it appeared that an attempt had been made to divert the creek.  You can see where the diversion returns in the picture below.  Maybe in a number of years that will be the main channel?

Birgus - Named for the only crab known to climb trees.
Adam drops in on the unique ramp.  

Jesse is all smiles below Birgus.


 Things tapered down pretty quick after this, now the creek was a series of splashy III+ rapids.  There was one log portage that we easily walked on the left, the road is also close here so this location could be used as a take out. 

The mandatory log portage, it looks like it was cut down to make a bridge.

We bee-bopped downstream some more and came to a place where the stream had diverted into the woods where a unique portage ended up being our last.

After that it was splashy paddling to the take out. 

Jesse's smile had grown even more by the time we made it to the end.

Ross' emotions were less discernable.

Looking upstream from the take out bridge.

Flows from Pat Welches site, we were there on November 1st, 2015.  

2.3 miles long
1/2 mile drops 200 feet.