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.
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!
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.