Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boulder Creek: Idanha/Detroit

photo: Nick Hymel


Stream:  This is a short but sweet stream near Detroit.  Nearly all the notable rapids have some bedrock component with an unusual amount (for Oregon) of scoured down bedrock slides and ledges.  Wood is present, but if you pick the right routes there are no portages (as of Spring 2016).

Typical Boulder Creek

After a short 1/4 mile hike along a game trail and a short off-trail descent to the creek (flagged in 2016) the trip begins immediately with a section of fun bedrock rapids.  It's probably best to scout your first time down if no one knows the run.

After the initial barrage of bedrock there is a short manky section before things return to bedrock.  Enjoy these fun slides but tread cautiously as about halfway down and around a blind right turn lies the largest rapid, The Venue.  You need to scout before turning the corner or run center moving right at this short horizon line.  Scouting/portaging/lapping is all convenient on river right.

The Venue

*There is another corner above this one that seems like it could be the lead in to "The Venue", but isn't.

There are only a couple of small rapids between The Venue and Hallpass.    The line at Hallpass is to enter right-ish and run the ledge/hole at the bottom center, keeping your nose up.  The move is not too challenging but that hole is backed up and should be taken seriously even though it's not a visually impressive rapid.  Safety is tricky but can be set.


Below here are more slides with some boulder mank mixed in down to the take out, which can be hard to identify.  I'll try to post a picture here when I get one.  It's just after a long slide that splits around an island where the line is right, finishing off with a ledge.  Turn the corner and there will be a log spanning the channel at the next horizon line, there is plenty of time to make it to the right bank (the earlier the better) before this log and up to the path that leads a short distance down to the vehicle parking on Hwy 22.

If you paddle down to the bridge you will encounter manky class II-III and wood, it's easier to walk the short path on river right.

Flows: Our reconnaissance trips were done with the Blowout Creek gauge (The most relevant I believe) at just over 200 cfs,  North Santiam blw Boulder Creek between 1500-2000 cfs, and the Brietenbush Gauge around 1,000 cfs.  That was a safe level for exploring Boulder Creek's blind corners and long slides with small eddies, but was hard on boats.

We went back on March 11, 2017 with Blowout Creek at 700 cfs and dropping and found that to be a nice healthy side of medium flow.  However, it was fast with fewer eddies, though they were plenty large when they were needed.

My rule of thumb I have settled on is you want 500 cfs in Blowout Creek give or take a couple hundred for a first time trip.

Since those gauges are on different streams there is also a visual check.  For our 2016 trips, water was just barely spilling into the trough on creek left under the Hwy 22 bridge.  For a good medium flow, water was spilling over the rectangular support indicated below. The riverbed is comprised of boulders here, so don't be surprised if the streamed changes and this reference becomes obsolete.

*The creek might look low from the take out, but if you can float your boat here, you will be able to float it over the bedrock upstream.

Below is a visual guide to the visual gauge.

Exploratory flow: No water over rectangular support, but water is splashing into the trough.
March 6, 2016
Blowout Creek Gauge:  220 cfs

A fun, low level:  Water pulsing over the rectangular support.
April 28, 2017

Medium:  Water spilling consistently over rectangular support.
March 11, 2017
Blowout Creek Gauge: 600 cfs

The Gist:
  •  If there is water on the rectangular support, there is enough water for the creek to be fun. 
  •  High flows are undetermined. 
  •  If water is not getting onto the rectangular support, you may still be able to run the creek if water is getting into the trough, but it will be scrapey and not as much fun.

Access:  Take highway 22 east out of Salem up to the town of Detroit.  Within 5 minutes of passing Detroit you will cross the bridge over Boulder Creek (signed) near the town of Idanha.  This serves as a place to leave a take out vehicle and check the water level.  

Photo pulled from google maps street view

To get to the put in return 0.3 miles toward the town of Detroit on highway 22 and turn right onto Boulder Ridge Rd/NF-2231.  Travel 1.3 miles up this paved road to where it makes a sharp 180 degree turn to the left.  Park near a yellow road sign before the turn and locate an overgrown road going off to the right, at the start of the 180 degree turn (50 yards past the sign).
Walk the short distance along the overgrown road and follow the path of least resistance as it drops down from the road grade, then heads upstream quickly reaching an old game or logging trail.  After about 1/6 mile on this trail, it splits at a small ridge.  Take the steeper left trail over this ridge.  For the most part the path has up to this point been close to flat, but about 100 yards after the ridge the trail gets steep, then very steep, at this point veer off the trail to the right and follow the path of least resistance upstream (more or less maintaining elevation) over to another small ridge that is followed down to the creek.  In 2016 this was all thoroughly flagged.

  Put In   44.71, -122.0697

Original write-up


It took three trips, but we finally got the logistics figured out for this run.  My first trip up there I didn't expect the creek to have any water and was just going to scout, but John Harmon sent me a couple photos from the take out bridge after he got off the nearby Bruno Mountain run on the North Santiam the day before.  Looking at those photos I thought that maybe it might just barely be runnable so brought my boat just in case and planned on meeting Steve Tegtmeyer to run the Breitenbush if it the new creek wasn't runnable.  I scouted around a bit and saw a couple fun looking sections so when Steve Tegtmeyer showed up, we talked it over and we decided to give it a go.  He and I had a nice trip, but flows were at exploratory levels and we put in below some of the good stuff.  We had a couple portages near the end, so i decided to take out a little earlier the next time.  

The second time there was a much larger group of Ross George, Brandon Lake, Nick Hymel, Pete Giordano, Ben Mckenzie, Jesse Shapiro and myself.  That time we decided to put in as high as we could float a boat in order to suss out the entire stream.  We did that, with the upper section leap frogging between fun bedrock rapids and wood portages.  It was a trying day, and the fatigue eventually caught up to us in the form of a dislocated shoulder in Hallpass, a rapid located in the final mile.  The information we gleaned from this trip provided the knowledge needed to get logistics dialed for return trips to the place we call Detroit's Bedrock City or The Bedrock City.

Hiking in on the information gleaning mission.

I made a mistake about which spur road to hike in on despite having the correct information relayed to me.  This meant we carried our boats further than necessary, dropping in on a tributary, meaning we began our trip with a couple extra portages.

There was some fun stuff in the upper reaches, but there were about as many portages as good rapids.

If this looks like fun, the upper section might just be your cup of tea.  
Jesse does some paddling between portages
photo: Nick Hymel

Eventually we made our final portage and had over a mile of fun bedrock rapids, some of which are visible on google imagery, which is what got us excited about the creek in the first place.

Halfway down the lower stretch we arrived at The Venue.  Here there is a nice platform on the right where you can watch the show, from which you can then decide if you want to be a part of the show.  

*The Venue comes around a blind right corner that looks like the rest of the creek.  If you turn the corner, you will be running the drop blind.  Look for a couple small eddies on the right just before the turn.

A short distance below The Venue lies Hallpass, where fatigue combined with a rocky lead-in to a backed up hole led to a swim and dislocated shoulder on our reconnaissance mission.  Impressively the boater with the dislocated shoulder, who is no stranger to pain, paddled the rest of the run after popping the shoulder back in himself.


Downstream were a few more fun rapids before the take out we have been using.  It is at the end of a long bedrock sliding rapid that splits at an island where the right channel has more water and ends in a ledge (there are a number of spots on the run that fit this description).  Just below here the creek bends right with a couple eddies on the left along a wall.  From one of these eddies ferry over to river right where there is a convenient take out.  Downstream of here is a small log spanning the creek as the stream transitions to boulders for the duration of its course.  From the take out eddy you can walk downstream and away from the creek to a flat area which can be followed a short ways downstream to the take out.  Or you can paddle/portage the final 100 yards of the creek to the bridge.

Nick took some helmet cam footage during the reconnaissance mission that I put together.

For round three, I was able to locate an ideal put in that provides the most bang for your buck; with no portages and many bedrock slides and rapids including both of the named rapids.    If you are looking for a longer day, you can walk from the take out described above on creek right down to the North Santiam River and get about a mile of splashy class III down to the Blowout Creek Rd bridge.  There is a nice wave just above the bridge on river left that is fun at the levels required to run Boulder Creek.   The turn off to this bridge is about 1 mile back towards Detroit from the highway 22 bridge over Boulder Creek.

Trip two (photos from this report) was on March 6th, 2016

I think the Blowout Creek gauge will reflect flows the best in Boulder Creek.

I would recommend a slow first lap to figure things out, then a second, faster lap.  Or combine this run with Sardine Creek, French, Brietenbush, Secret Stash, Cedar, Bruno Mt, Opal stuff, etc.


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