Monday, October 24, 2016

Thomas Creek: Standard Stretch

Photo: Lucas Rietmann


Stream: A fantastic intermediate trip in the mid-Willamette Valley that is only accessible during hunting season unless you are navigationally savvy and willing to put in a long day.  Keep an eye out for wood the whole day, but in Fall 2016 there were no portages.

There is some easy floating through boulder bars to warm up in before the first rapid where the current is forced against the right wall creating a rapid that ends in a short plunge into a powerful hydraulic.  Run this final plunge on the left side of the right channel with a strong right stroke, staying away from the right wall.  I have heard you can scout/portage this rapid on the left.

                                                              Photo: Lucas Rietmann

More easy floating is below here before this section of Thomas really reaches its prime as bedrock begins to line the stream and the green walls are in stark contrast to what is turbid water if the flows are not low.

Sustained and highly enjoyable pool and drop class III continues for miles.  As flows rise past 1,000 cfs the difficulty creeps up, never reaching class V (even at 8,300 cfs) but as flows approach 2,000 cfs the eddy situation gets loose and people have reported floating downstream alongside flotsam in a class IV environment.

The last three rapids are the most exciting, the first is rowdy at flows upwards of 1,000 cfs.  Start right, working back to center and hold steady through a violent but forgiving bottom hydraulic that empties into a large pool.  At some flows you can sneak more center/left.

                                                            Photo: Lucas Rietmann

The next one pushes into the left wall if you run left.  After another pool the creek enters the final set of ledges which make for a terrific finale and can be run right down the tongue, just keep that nose up.

If you are looking for more action, put in a little higher to tack on the Pumkpin Patch, which has some IV (V) and a beautiful 30-40' runnable waterfall.
Flows:  This stretch can be run as low as 400 cfs, but ideally look for 800-1,500 cfs for a class III-IV trip.   USGS Gauge Thomas Creek @ Scio.

Access:  Directions from Anthony Boesen.  

If it is Cascade Deer or Elk hunting season, the gate has historically been open (call this number to be sure 888-741-5403).  If not, it will be closed and your only option is to find access through the Santiam State Forest via the Rock Creek drainage out of Mill City or hike a long way.

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