Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oregon's Best Class V

Matt King finishing up the gorge on the West Fork Wallowa River.

It has been said that Oregon lacks true class V kayaking runs and Canyon Creek in the South Santiam drainage is really the only stream in Oregon that earns that rating. I disagree.  Of the streams I have run, here are what I believe to be the top 10 best class V runs in Oregon.




Best Class V Runs:


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(10) Christy (Lower):   Christy rewards the adventurous paddler with hard, steep boulder gardens and some big bedrock rapids.  The presence of wood is worth noting, but not a big issue.  Now that the lower put in has been established, the run is much better than old literature may lead you to believe.    TRIP REPORT
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(9) Canyon: This classic class V run is everything Oregon minus waterfalls.        TRIP REPORT
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(8) Deschutes (Upper): As the summer drags on the levels ramp up here and it just keeps getting better as the streams elsewhere in the state drop out.  If there were not miles of flat water between the rapids, it would see a lot more traffic.                                                                                                             TRIP REPORT
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(7) Salmon (SRG):  Do this one for the place, its one of the more captivating areas around.  The run alternates between difficult waterfalls and class II.  Hard access and challenging river obstacles make this one of the best boating adventures in the PNW.                                                                             TRIP REPORT
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(6) Little North Santiam (Opal Gorge): I think Oregonkayaking sums it up best as "a IV+ run rapids-wise with a class V 'look and feel'".  Even if its hard to call the runnable whitewater in the gorge class V, the presence of an unscoutable/unportageable rapid, a couple of class VI features (recommended portages), high commitment and grade A scenery earns this run a spot on the list.  This is one of my favorite runs anywhere. Combining Battle Axe (or Opal proper) through this section might be the best day of paddling in Oregon.                      
                                                                                                                                                                      TRIP REPORT
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(5) Lostine: This run has the most sustained quality whitewater on the list, 3 miles of clean IV-V boulder rapids and a couple challenging bedrock rapids to end the trip.       500-1000 cfs                              TRIP REPORT
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(4) Gladiator:  If I was judging only the whitewater, this run would be number 1 on the list.  However, it is difficult to access, has sub par water quality and the scenery is mostly clear cuts.  Get this hidden whitewater gem if you can, most paddlers will fall short of overcoming the access hurdles.                             TRIP REPORT
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(3) Imnaha (Top): An anomaly for the state, this run seems like it belongs in California.  Long class V gorges separated by class IV-IV+ sections in an epic location.    500-2000 cfs                            TRIP REPORT                                                   --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(2) Eagle:  This run has a nice hike, beautiful gorges, impressive waterfalls, great water quality and even a few rapids thrown in.  The deepest parts of the gorge always give me a sense of well being. Your non-boating friends can hike along the trail too.                                                                                    TRIP REPORT
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(1) NF Silver (Illinois tributary):  This is an incredible run accessible to the ambitious class IV/V boater.  It is classic State of Jefferson creeking with committing gorges and some manageable must run.  We did it as an overnighter, an approach I would highly recommend as the run is over 20 miles long.                              
                                                                                                                                                                     TRIP REPORT
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Honorable Mentions:
Collawash - The Big Dog rapid is a contender for my favorite rapid in Oregon. TR
Henline - Short, contender for the most exciting 100 yards of kayaking in Oregon. TR
Sweet - See Henline description.  TR
Sardine - I have not run this, but if rumors are true it may deserve a top ten distinction. 
Elkhorn - Quality stream-bed, lots of wood in 2014.   TR
Battle Axe - Super fun, but only one class V rapid.  Clean ledges for days.  TR
Tanner - Access will keep most boaters away.  TR
WF Wallowa (Gorge) - Its short, but stacked and hard.  A reasonable detour on the way to/from Idaho.  TR


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Being based in the Willamette Valley, a bias is apparent in the runs I have done and the choices on this list.  For example, I am aware of a number of runs in southern Oregon that may be top ten quality that I have never done.  I am also sure there are good ones I have never heard of.  The take away message is that there is plenty of class V in Oregon, especially if you are willing to leave the comfort of the Columbia Gorge.  Input welcome, I would love to have a few more runs to add to this list in a couple of years.



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Class V training grounds:
Miracle Mile (NFMF Willamette)
MeadowCamp (Deschutes) - The Lava Island section can be added to the beginning.
Upper East Fork Hood

Other Mentionables:
Cedar
Oak Grove Fork
NF Clackamas
Graves (Upper)
Pistol
SF Coquille
EF Coquille
Jenny

Lucas Glick enters Pure Hate Gorge on Quartzville Creek



     -jacob